I watched Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? for a film class I’m taking this semester. My reaction to the movie was the classic love/hate divide. We write a film journal outlining our reactions, and this was part of my thoughts on comedy and its political(ly conservative) potential.
I have had numerous conversations with others where I expressed my concern toward the film. The general responses were: “but it’s comedy! It’s supposed to be offensive! Allen is making fun of everyone.” This got me wondering about the agenda and effect of comedy as a genre. I confess, I did laugh at many of the scenes, though feeling mildly uncomfortable and downright troubled at the end, with the recurring thought “am I being too sensitive when it’s just comedy?” But I am reminded of a quote I have read from Jason Mittel on genre: “Genres are not neutral categories but are situated within larger systems of power and thus come ‘fully loaded’ with political implications.” (178) Though he is talking about the televisual genre, I think the statement also applies to filmic ones. Under the insidious guise of communal laughter, comedy can be the most powerful tool for perpetuating racism and other problematic ideologies by making the viewer feel guilty for not sharing the laughter with others. (this presents the fatal choice of either holding onto your critical filter or joining in on the laughter) Thus, comedy can act as an ideological tool for promoting uniform conservatism by indicating a public display of unified laughter as a requirement for the viewing community, instead of encouraging instead of diverse and nuanced reactions.