True Colors

Climate Change Nutjobs,

Can any of you explain in what world the following is funny (warning gruesome):

The kind of worldview this video represents is so repulsive I can’t even being to understand it.

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34 thoughts on “True Colors

  1. Apollo

    I read a couple of posts about this video during the day but couldn’t watch it. Now that I see it, I think it’s much worse than I anticipated. There really is no humor to it whatsoever. It just expresses the wish that there was a button that killed people who disagreed with whoever has the button. I think I can summarize the video as such: “We’d like an environmentalist Mao.”

  2. Hubbard

    Jamie—

    I’ve been traveling and utterly missed this. This post was the first time I saw it, I thought it had to be a right wing satire of the environmental movement? It looked like something Mark Steyn would write and Tim Burton would direct. On those grounds, I thought it was kind of funny. I was all set to buy a used Hummer just to put no pressure on the environment.

    Then I realized that it was done to promote cutting carbon emissions. Yikes!

  3. Geoff

    That video fails at every level, but most especially at the level of comedy. It’s rather shocking that a man who wrote episodes of Black Adder can have missed the target so completely.

    Because it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, and such things interest me, I’m going to do a post-mortem on how this was supposed to be funny and why it failed. Since there is nothing less amusing than writing about comedy, you may want to stop reading here.

    There are any number of reasons why this isn’t funny. Just to start, there’s pacing, length, delivery, and the heavy reliance on a single unsuccessful gag. Someone, however, intended it to be funny. Where was the humor supposed to come from? I believe they were relying on three reliable comedic elements: Incompetent and capricious authority figures, absurdity, and shock.

    Authority figures are comedy gold. They are mockable in themselves and create uncomfortable situations for other characters. In this case, we have the old reliable miscommunication of expectations scenario (the mandatory “volunteers only” duty). For a successful version of this scenario, see the “Pieces of Flair” conversation in Office Space.

    As I said, this is comedy gold. It only works, though, if the authority is supposed to be the bad guy, or at least an utter prat. This is why it looks like a right-wing parody: the No Pressure/Your Head Asplode contradiction makes the teacher look like a jerk for murdering her students.

    Additionally she looks like a jerk because she’s murdering her students. And here we come to the second failed comedic element: absurdity. “No Pressure” posits a world where teachers, coaches, and bosses casually explode their underlings with no repercussions or second thoughts.

    This sort of absurdity works best when most of the characters take it as the natural order of things and there is one straight man who reacts as a normal person would. Think of Alice, reacting to the Queen of Hearts. In “No Pressure,” everyone is surprised and disturbed by the exploding except for the exploder. It changes situation from “normal person in world gone mad” to “aberrant and dangerous person running around an otherwise normal world.”

    Because, of course, blowing people up is aberrant and dangerous. And if played correctly, even that could get a laugh from the shock value. But you have to walk a very thin line. A useful guide here is the Benign Violation Theory. Shocks like explosions and violence can be hilarious. If you follow those last two links, you’ll notice I used puppets and cartoons as examples. That’s because funny violence has to be free of consequences. It can be over-the-top — you can even explode people — but it can’t be too realistic. Having schoolchildren screaming and covered in gore is not funny.

    I’ll stop here, because this has already gone on way too long. If only the makers of “No Pressure” had come to the same realization 45 seconds in.

  4. Jamie

    Really Geoff? You’re objection to this rests on bad comedy? Not the pernicious world view it seems to represent?

  5. Apollo

    This sort of absurdity works best when most of the characters take it as the natural order of things and there is one straight man who reacts as a normal person would. Think of Alice, reacting to the Queen of Hearts. In “No Pressure,” everyone is surprised and disturbed by the exploding except for the exploder. It changes situation from “normal person in world gone mad” to “aberrant and dangerous person running around an otherwise normal world.”

    You understate the perversion here. The exploders aren’t dangerous and aberrant people, they’re tyrants who kill those who disagree with them, and who get no opposition from those who witness the crime. These are the PLA thugs that Mao sent out during the Great Leap, or Nazi camp guards–they’re totalitarian nightmares. Nothing – not even writing about comedy – is less funny than watching a gross injustice and seeing those who witness it helpless to punish the wrongdoer.

  6. Geoff

    Jamie: I object to everything about this video. The “what were they thinking” factor exceeds even that of Demon Sheep. I tend to ascribe it more to utter tone-deafness than to “Wouldn’t it be great if we were Nazis” thinking, but I’m a fan of Hanlon’s Razor and have always been somewhat suspicious of the Stalinvironmentalist caricature.

    However, that’s the image they seem to be doing their damnedest to perpetuate, and the British obsequiousness toward government power over the last few decades has been pretty disgusting, so who knows?

    Anyway, there are plenty of people talking about how much this proves the inherent evil of the carbon reduction squad. I, perhaps perversely, was more interested in your question: In what world is this funny? The answer is, nowhere. But professional funny-makers thought it was funny, and others not only agreed but believed it was funny enough to make people join their cause.

    Because this wasn’t in-house wankery. This wasn’t a Power Point that was intended to cheer up the volunteers with some “if we ruled the world” daydreaming. This was PR. And the only way I can make sense of that is to try to figure out why they might have thought this counted as comedy.

  7. Jamie

    I too share your appreciation for Hanlon’s Razor, however, the environmentalist movement has shown itself over the years, to be decidedly anti-human. I honestly don’t think this is even controversial anymore. Between the population crowd that wants to see world population at “sustainable levels” to the anti-DDT crowd (who in my view are responsible for more deaths world wide than anything short of Communism,) the environmental movement has always put the lives of humans as a lower priority to the well being of the planet. At least as they see it.

    If you want an answer to the question I posed – the world in which this is funny is the world in which one truly believes that human life is less valuable than some nebulous “planetary well being” concept.

  8. Mary Stack

    “I believe they were relying on three reliable comedic elements: Incompetent and capricious authority figures, absurdity, and shock.”

    And they succeeded. These ads reflect a long tradition of English absurdity in fairy tales, and literature. Reading your simplistic interpretations made me realize that that culturally Americans are too enamored with the “happy ever after” endings reflected in movies, and literature. Those quaint fairy tales we all hear in nursery school reflected the sad reality of the time. Ring Around the Rosie is a reference to the Black Plague. These ads are not an attempt to control nor desensitize the intended audience, and to suggest other wise based your cultural bias.

  9. Geoff

    Mary: You couldn’t be more wrong. I’m a lifelong lover of British absurdity, and a big fan of dark comedy. Fear, violence, death, confusion — they’re all good for laughs. But the execution has to be right. This was a clunky mess. It was repetitive, it was preachy, and it hit every note at the wrong pitch.

    The problem isn’t that it was British or absurd or violent. The problem is that it was rubbish.

  10. mary stack

    Well Jamie, I am not interested in debating the merits of 10:10.org. The fact that the ads have have gone viral, and are a hot topic in the UK is indicative of their success. The commercials may be demographically out of your comfort zone, but I have experienced that “no pressure” mentality from my in-laws. I doubt their is a button to explode school children, soccer players, or office workers, and ergo the premise is absurd.

  11. Jamie

    I’ll take that to mean that you can’t.

    That kind of response is the refuge of the intellectually incapable.

  12. mary stack

    Hmm, you use those words so casually. Perhaps that is how you end many of your arguments? It reminds me of that noscible childhood taunt “I know you are, but what Am I?”, and co-indecently just as amusing. I do think lack of creativity is the mark of a foppotee.

  13. Jamie

    I notice you still haven’t taken up my challenge.

    And calling me a simpleton with a nice big word doesn’t make you smart. It just makes you look like a fool.

  14. mary stack

    Jamie, You are a card. I think I will knight you Sir Jamie the Googler. It occurs to me you could be female, but your austerulous remarks suggest you are a member of the easily
    roblet sex.

  15. Tom

    Reading your simplistic interpretations made me realize that that culturally Americans are too enamored with the “happy ever after” endings reflected in movies, and literature.

    Mary,

    1) Jamie is entirely correct: asserting that we’re just a bunch of cultureless yanks is hardly an argument.

    2) By sheer bad chance, you’ve walked into a group blog filled with Anglophiles. Want to trade Fawlty Towers quotes? Python? Coupling? Doctor Who? Blackadder? A bit of Fry & Laurie? Jamie, Geoff, Hubbard and I would each be happy to meet you there.

    3) Though I usually avoid arguments from authority, I’m going to make an exception in this case. I once made John Cleese laugh. What do you know about British comedy?

  16. mary stack

    I don’t devalue American culture, but it isn’t the center of the earth.

    My point is that comedy varies from culture to culture. Hell, it varies from state to state.

    Wow, you are an expertise in UK television, and you played the fool for John Cleese.

    I’ll be sending you your honorary EU passport.

  17. Geoff

    In the spirit of the conversation, I think it only right to point out that Mary is taking the piss.

  18. mary stack

    I thought the video was slightly humorous. Tom, you still don’t get it. Separate the video from the message.

    The amount of public debate has ensured the maximum publicity for their organization.
    Whether they have a successful campaign depends on the reception of their message.

    Secondarily, I find the controversy interesting from a free speech point of view.

    I presume your site conservative, but I have noticed even libertarians find this ad objectionable.

    Shit disturber? I use my pen name for that endeavor.;-)

  19. Jamie

    Of course, Geoff. She’s just doing a piss poor job of it. She should try knowing a bit about her targets and conjugating her obscure English verbs first.

  20. Jamie

    This is in no way a free speech issue. The right to free speech is a right to be free from government oppression. Private citizens and organizations have every right to shun, protest and boycott anyone they please if they find their speech offensive.

    You don’t have a right not to be punished by your peers for being an asshole.

  21. mary stack

    “This is in no way a free speech issue.”
    Really? The court is considering the rights of free speech involving anti-gay protests at funerals. AKA Snyder v. Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church.

    Jamie, you fail to realize that the action was brought about by an individual complaint.

  22. Jamie

    Yes and if I’m right the court is still deciding “Whether the prohibition of awarding damages to public figures to compensate for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, under the Supreme Court’s First Amendment precedents, applies to a case involving two private persons regarding a private matter;”

    Its ok. Facts are hard.

  23. mary stack

    “The right to free speech is a right to be free from government oppression. Private citizens and organizations have every right to shun, protest and boycott anyone they please if they find their speech offensive” The defense is arguing that Mr. Snyder is a public figure and therefore has no expectation of privacy. You are quoting their argument and it is only half the story.

    The complainants are arguing free speech does not allow for the harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional damage.

    Facts are hard but complete facts are harder.

  24. Jamie

    Actually I just quoted what the issue is – ask any lawyer, issue is not a judgement either way, its a statement of what needs to be determined.

    Understanding is hardest.

  25. mary stack

    Sir Jamie the Googler,

    “At 10 a.m. today, the Supreme Court will hear whether a protest at the military funeral of a York County man’s son was free speech or invasion of privacy…That ruling could affect free speech, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and how and where protests can be staged.”

    I just quoted what the issue is. You quoted the defense. Ask any butcher, baker, or candle stick maker.

  26. Jamie

    Lady Mary the Obtuse,

    No, you quite obviously just quoted a news article.

    Hardly a legal document, wouldn’t you say.

  27. mary stack

    Sir Jamie the Googler,
    You dissapoint me in your failure to google.

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/qp/09-00751qp.pdf

    580 F.3d 206

    CERT. GRANTED 3/8/2010

    QUESTION PRESENTED:

    The Fourth Circuit reversed a jury determination in favor of Albert Snyder (“Snyder”)

    for the intentional harm perpetrated against him by Fred W. Phelps, Sr., Westboro

    Baptist Church, Incorporated, Rebekah A. Phelps-Davis and Shirley L. Phelps-Roper

    (collectively, “Phelps”). Snyder’s claim arose out of Phelps’ intentional acts at Snyder’s

    son’s funeral. Specifically the claims were: (1) intentional infliction of emotional

    distress, (2) invasion of privacy and (3) civil conspiracy. These claims were dismissed

    by the Fourth Circuit notwithstanding that (a) Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell does not

    apply to private versus private individuals; (b) Snyder was a “captive” audience; (c)

    Phelps specifically targeted Snyder and his family; (d) Snyder proved that he was

    intentionally harmed by clear and convincing evidence;1 and (e) Phelps disrupted

    Snyder’s mourning process. The Fourth Circuit’s decision gives no credence to Snyder’s

    personal stake in honoring and mourning his son and ignores Snyder’s right to bury his

    son with dignity and respect. Three questions are presented: 1. Does Hustler Magazine,

    Inc. v. Falwell apply to a private person versus another private person concerning a

    private matter? 2. Does the First Amendment’s freedom of speech tenet trump the First

    Amendment’s freedom of religion and peaceful assembly? 3. Does an individual

    attending a family member’s funeral constitute a captive audience who is entitled to

    state protection from unwanted communication? 1 Because Snyder sought punitive

    damages, he was required to prove his case by clear and convincing evidence.

    Furthermore, Snyder was required to prove actual malice. Snyder carried his burden on

    both issues.

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