Daniel’s Journal #41 – When is It OK to be Offensive?
What’s your outlook on life? How was your upbringing? Can you give me a comprehensive list of your moral standards by noon? I want to read through them on my lunch break.
What’s offensive? A million comedians and wannabe Twitter “personalities” have been pondering this aloud since time began. OK… Maybe it only feels that way. Opinions are like assholes: Everyone has one, most of them stink, and some are shitty.
But how do we go about not offending?
Better yet: Why should we collectively care?
People are more sensitive than ever. I know this has been said time after time after time, but it’s true. It’s gotten to the point where the rough and tough man’s man comedian has taken offense more than the “snowflakes” they continually harass for not wanting to be marginalized or belittled.
On the other side of that coin, we have those to parade around social media and otherwise looking to be offended. I get a lot of shit for this viewpoint, and I’m not saying it’s everyone who has been offended by something. There is a certain breed of human who needs to poke the sleeping bear when they know it’s going to upset them. Maybe they want the attention. I don’t know. Are they as bad as the sociopaths who seek out someone just to call them racist or homophobic slurs just to drag others down to their pits? Maybe not as bad, but they’re still pretty bad.
What can we, as offensive human beings, do to combat this epidemic? Silence. Shut off your phone, delete all your profiles, curl up in a ball, and watch nothing but Sesame Street, though Big Bird is offensive to birds who lack the capability of flight.
I write. You know this. I write offensively. What’s my secret, you ask? I don’t care. I’m not intentionally trying to hurt people with my written word. My characters can sometimes be brash and vivid with their language. I’m a realist. I know there’s scumbags out there, mixing with those who want to hug their teddy bears and hide in a corner when the bad man starts saying bad words.
Let me go back a second. Saying “I don’t care” doesn’t mean I don’t care about people. I do care. Those who know me well know how I am in real life. I respect people’s race, sexuality, religion, etcetera. What I mean to say is I don’t care to lead a bland existence or put out colorless work to save someone’s fragile sensibilities. I can show respect and still use words and phrases that some would find offensive.
We’re dumbing ourselves down. I don’t appreciate slurs, and some do offend me. I’m not going to pretend they don’t exist, though. I’m not going to pretend the world is this wonderful place where everyone respects each other and follows the golden rule. Sure, that would be spectacular. I’d love to see the day where gay, bi, and trans people can be treated like humans across the board. Will it happen? I hope so. Maybe not in my lifetime, but I can dream.
I’m off course. This whole thing came to mind when I was told I need to hire what’s called a “sensitivity reader”. Not because of something they read of mine that was offensive to them, no. I was told this because “everyone everywhere who writes needs to make sure nothing in their books can offend.”
I get it. I really do. But I don’t. So I won’t.
I’m not looking to hurt anyone, but I’m going to continue being who I am, always. We should be able to be offensive, as long as you’re respectful. That shit where you go out of your way to call people names based on sexuality or race? That shit can go to hell. Using bad words in a book by an unsavory character one may call a scumbag? That’s the kind of offense I can get behind. Should a villain not offend?
And before you flood me with misinterpreting what a sensitivity reader is, I know it wasn’t explained to me right in the first place. They’re more for those writing LGBTQ characters who don’t know how they live or exist. If you’re going to hire one for any reason, do it so you can accurately portray your LGBTQ characters if you can’t do it on your own. Otherwise, be as offensive as you want, but be respectful.
Don’t be an asshole.
Want to read something that may or may not offend you? Check out my latest book full of vampires, werewolves, and gun-toting priests.