A series of X-Factor rarely passes without its controversies, but I didn’t quite expect this series to cause a debate amongst my friends on the ‘comedy value’ of HIV and AIDS.
To explain; a friend of mine on twitter ( @Squibby_ ) made a comment during the programme which went as follows; “Diva fever is why god created AIDS for the gays. To wipe out vulgar freaks like this,”.
I found this massively offensive. Together with some of my friends who were equally offended, I have tried to point out to Squibby why this is particularly disturbing to hear – especially from a member of our own community who, frankly, should know better.
For what it’s worth, he’s mostly a decent guy, but I can’t help but feel he’s just seriously misguided on this one.
You can read his response on his blog here (which is worth a read) and, in turn, you can read my reply below.
Hi there Squibby
Interesting blog. The debate around what makes comedy funny is an interesting one; as you say, should anything be off limits? Ultimately the decision about whether something is funny (or not) is a very personal choice. One person may find a particular subject hysterical, the other not.
But as any comedian will tell you, the art to great comedy is timing and presentation (tone, language etc)… and also of course presenting the right joke to the right audience. For example an ‘inappropriate’ or dark-humour joke re an earthquake or child abuse may be funny to one group of people, but it probably wouldn’t go down well to someone who’s been a victim of either. That would just be rather insensitive and likely to cause offence.
In this case, the suggestion that some gays deserve to get AIDS (to quote “Oh. My. God. Diva fever is why god created AIDS for the gays. To wipe out vulgar freaks like this”) to your twitter followers which -I guess- is a relatively high % of gay men, there’s a high chance that it could cause offence and be interpreted as highly insensitive and callous (even to those you know you well, understand your sense of humour and consider themselves your friend, such as myself).
In this case, I took offence. Like a lot of gay men, some of my friends are HIV+ and seeing the impact this has on their lives means it’s a subject I see little humour in. And yet some of my friends with HIV do joke about it, and we have shared a laugh. But those jokes are usually witty, informed and intelligent – not course, vulgar, badly thought through and largely insensitive.
However I’m not going to tell you what you can and can’t say – that’s totally your decision. It’s a (relatively) free world after all, and one of the things I love about Twitter is that it allows people to freely express their thoughts and opinions. But equally it allows me to choose who I do and don’t want to hear from. And, to be blunt, there’s enough saddening homophobic rubbish flying around in the world without my friends throwing it my way as well.
You may also want to consider the fact that with Twitter’s ability to trend topics and retweet, there’s an awful lot of potential for a comment like that to be picked up by people who want to twist it and use it to spread hatred, no matter the original intention.
Yes, we may all want to groan en masse at Dive Fever reinforcing the gay stereotype, but there’s enough ignorance about HIV as it is, (you probably know that most new infections are straight people aged 18-24 years old) without you in turn reinforcing the belief that it’s a gay disease with statements like that.
Regarding your donation to the Terrance Higgins Trust, as well intentioned as it is and should be applauded, it seems awfully arbitrary in the light of a comment like that. Maybe speak to them and ask them how they feel about such a comment.
It’s prob also worth pointing out that the decision to unfollow you on twitter isn’t just based on this example. To be honest, whilst I appreciate some people may find your constant flow of rude and largely not-very-clever-or-original tweeting funny; to me it got boring a long time ago.
It also does you a dis-service. Knowing you as I do, I know you’re an intelligent, funny and witty bloke and I find it a shame you focus on churning out this un-intelligent rubbish when you could be saying something more interesting. But it’s a free world.
Fortunately the Squibby I know in the real world seems to be a very different person to the Squibby I see on Twitter so I’ll still look forward to seeing you around town and talking person-to-person where we can have a proper laugh.