While the outrage culture regarding politically incorrect behavior on college campuses is generally targeted at students, faculty and visiting lecturers, several comedians have seen similar pushback by university activists. Unwilling to sanitize their material to spare the feelings of sensitive students, comics from across the political spectrum have given up performing in such hostile venues entirely.
As actress and former Saturday Night Live writer Tina Fey has learned, however, social justice warriors do not leave their racial indignation at the dorm.
Earlier this year, Fey’s latest project, the Neftlix sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, began its freshman season to wide critical praise. Early into the program, however, a plot point sparked allegations among some viewers that the Mean Girls screenwriter is racist.
Announcing that white actress Jane Krakowski’s character in the show is actually Native-American, critics contended, is insensitive toward the race.
“They’ve been closed off from the vast majority of us,” Vulture’s Libby Hill said of Native-Americans, “reduced to friendly stereotypes on television. What’s most disheartening about this [subplot] isn’t that it exists, it’s that apparently, nobody thought it would raise alarms at all.”
Called on during a recent Net-a-Porter interview to address the controversy, Fey opted to ignore the naysayers in an effort to protect her craft.
“[M]y new goal is not to explain jokes,” she asserted. “I feel like we put so much effort into writing and crafting everything, they need to speak for themselves.”
She went on to decry – and “opt out of” – the “real culture of demanding apologies” that currently exists in America.
“Steer clear of the Internet,” she cautioned, “and you’ll live forever.”
Her refusal to apologize for choosing a comedic trait for a fictional character to possess, in the eyes of critics like Vox’s Caroline Framke, “is disappointing.”
In making the case for online activists looking for any sign of political incorrectness, Framke urged readers to consider how a similar scenario might play out prior to the advent of the Internet.
If people were annoyed about a racist or sexist joke even 15 years ago,” she posited, “it probably would’ve taken hundreds of letters to the editor before anyone notice [sic] – not least because said editor would likely have been a white man who might not prioritize the same issues as women and minorities.”