It Wasn’t Funny Then, So Why is it Funny Now?

A lot of historical events are portrayed in a comic light by us modern people. A good way to remember certain events is to use humor since we tend to remember funny jokes and situations. Even serious and tragic events throughout history are taught using humor! Admit it; everyone gets in a good laugh watching Monty Python do a skit about the Black Death with a guy saying, “Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!…”  or, the numerous parody videos out there illustrating various wars and tragedies. A lot of commercials make light out of raids from neighboring groups such as the Vikings and the Huns.

However, why do we make such light out of those situations? I guess it could fall under dark humor, but we wouldn’t be so jocular about many more recent tragedies.
I think the obvious reason is that more recent tragedies hit us close to home. We could have lost family, friends, even our own people in them. We don’t dare make light of events like the Holocaust or 9/11 most likely because we’ve lost people or know people who have lost people in them, as well as their general abhorrence. It makes sense, how can one make light of something so tragic, and yet other events are open to ridicule. I wonder what Medieval people would make of a “Holla Back Girl” parody (Yes, there is one on YouTube) about the Black Death, or Monty Python’s “Bring out your dead” sketch? I don’t think they’d approve if they lost their friends and family to the Plague… I also wonder what ancient people would think of a commercial making light out of another tribe raiding their village, burning it to the ground, and killing or raping their family members? A commercial by Pepsi does by showing a raid and ending in a funny soccer game!

Overall, the most likely response to such things would be akin to our own about belittling tragedies. The more close to home something is, the more poignant the impact. I get that now, there are no more Medieval people we have to steer clear of offending, or Viking raid victims, or people whose relatives were burned at the stake for heresy, but still, is it really any less tragic now than it was then? There were people who I would argue suffered just as much if not more than some of us through recent events. Does the hurt of loosing a friend or family member to a tragedy, a disease, natural, or man-made, really ever fade with time? What about people whose lives were uprooted? Just ask many modern refugees what they feel… While no one is really that offended anymore over viking raid jokes, or humorous videos about the Black Death, what does it say about us to be making such light out of those things? I think it sends a clear message that if it didn’t happen to us, we don’t care.

I call it selective outrage. Not being angry about one thing, yet decrying another. A modern example of it would be the Soviet gulags. Stalin killed off people who disagreed with the USSR, political prisoners, and even for things like being late to work! About 20 million people died in the Gulags over many decades, and yet people don’t think to mention it. On the other hand, the Nazi holocaust is painfully remembered. About 11 million people were killed in total. Both were morally aberrant, and yet only one gets the remembrance due to such tragedies. The one that lasted longer and killed double is about forgotten.  People from all eras of history shared the same emotions as us, let’s “Never Forget” their tragedies and the emotional devastation it brought them. Honestly, go ahead, keep on laughing, no one today will be offended, just keep in mind, people centuries from now may be making silly songs explaining our tragedies!

If this isn’t okay,

Why should this be?


About History Is Interesting

I like ancient and medieval history!
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