On Representation Within Comedy

Recently I’ve been preoccupied with how emotion is often discredited when it resides within comedy. Characters often have their feelings and identities dismissed and laughed at like they’re part of the punchline even when this isn’t the case at all.

I want to focus on LGBTQIA+ representation within comedies and how easy it is to make people like myself targets and jokes rather than an actual inclusive part of whatever the content may be, and mostly how we are dismissed as simply reading too much into something. I’m absolutely not saying that we can’t be funny, but there is a difference between us being laughed with and laughed at.

When a character comes along in a TV show/film/book/etc who falls under the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and is a source of happiness, comfort, familiarity, acceptance, inclusion, amongst their audience, it is incredibly easy for that validation and representation to be swept under the rug by other people with comments like, “It’s not that deep!” or “It’s just comedy, you take things way too seriously.” and this is so harmful. Representation is important and valid no matter what form it’s presented in. Nobody bats an eyelid when humour is found within serious dramas, for example, and it should be the case when it’s the other way around. It. Still. Matters.

Just because it’s a comedy, doesn’t mean everything in it is there to be laughed at.

In this day and age, comedies should be able to exist and have their diversity celebrated and taken just as seriously as any other piece of media. In some cases, this is achieved quite well, but there is still a long way to go with it being more widely accepted as common knowledge. Pride (2014) is a brilliant example of comedy and drama colliding on a very serious topic and important part of history, But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) also delivers satire alongside a very non-satirical theme of conversion camp, providing touching scenes of hope and romance and self-discovery. Those are only two examples but there are more that demonstrate how wonderfully tasteful comedy and representation can be together.

Even within comedy, humanity can flourish. We can be touched by characters and their stories, find common ground with them and their struggles no matter how ridiculous or fantastical the fiction happens to be. If you’re about to cry, “If you want representation, make it a drama so we can take it seriously!” let me just tell you that it is a beautiful thing to be gifted laughter alongside inclusion, to be told that we can occupy spaces outside of tragedy, misfortune, heartbreak. That’s a really important message that should be spread a whole lot more. We don’t just belong in dramas about how our identities doom and depress us. We deserve to have stories that include, for example, a transgender actress and ex-assassin who redeems herself, saves the day, and is a hero with a happy ending. (That actually exists, by the way – watch Bill (2015) and enjoy its magnificence.)

Every time you tell us that it’s not that deep or that we’re taking a piece of comedy and its characters too seriously, you’re condemning us to only having our stories told and our identities portrayed in the same, often miserable, ways.

We have a right to exist in every form of media, not just the bits you can take seriously.

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