Writing

Violence As Comedy

I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a big fan of the absurd.  I love it when comedy gets so stupid, it’s hilarious, like Teen Titans Go! or that Little Big video, Skibidi.

Comedy also includes a lot of violence, dating back to the early days of Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner.  Combine the two and it’s obvious that I’d love something as smart, funny and violently stupid as I Hate Fairyland.  Skottie Young is already one of my favourite artists, with his unique style and sense of humour, and I Hate Fairyland is him at his best, in all its green-haired, bloody glory.

Violence works in comedy because it is absurdly over the top, though violence for the sake of violence is never cool.  It has to mean something.  In Gertrude’s case, it’s her inability to deal with anything in a rational or intelligent manner, taken to absurdity.  It’s this tendency that she has to get beyond in order to find redemption, but the more she tries, the more ridiculous it gets.

I’m a pacifist, so it’s a lot for me to say I enjoyed any violence at all.  Violence in fiction is different, however, than violence in reality.  Violence in reality is repugnant, always, save in immediate self-defense, and even then, given any other means of avoidance, it’s only just tolerable.  Violence in fiction can range from nauseating to horrifying to exciting to laugh-out-loud-roll-on-the-floor-in-tears ludicrous.

Indeed, I have this idea for a cartoon that I can’t shake that uses a similar approach to Hate Fairyland.  There’s a long history of using violence as a comedy device, which to me is fine, so long as we’re aware of the impact.  Art creates reality creates art.  Is there any doubt that America’s obsession with guns has at least something to do with all those Dirty Harry, Lethal Weapon bulletfests?

Awareness is key.  We laugh because things defy the norm.  That’s the reason for the laugh.  Whether it’s to absurdity or just unexpected, the essence of comedy is shattering, twisting or just breaking the expectations of the audience.  Even when they know it’s coming.

It’s why comedy and tragedy always seem two sides of the same coin; they both use the unexpected as a plot device to further their purpose – to make you cry or make you laugh.  Horror does much the same, as does any literary piece worth its salt.  The only thing that I’d say doesn’t is straight romance.  It’s why rom-coms are so often portrayed as unoriginal.  They’re formulaic.  There’s nothing unexpected.  It’s all fairly linear and the outcome is never in doubt.

That’s why something like 500 Days of Summer works so well – the expectation that they would end up together is shattered.  That they don’t end up together is in the title.  It’s also why a movie like My Girl became such a classic, or why The Notebook is such a great story.

They don’t end with expectations.

Wait.  What were we talking about again?

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