As you may be aware, we at the 99% campaign are currently running a feature on teen domestic violence. It’s already been the subject of a fantastic blog by Holly Whittaker. As part of the feature, I was asked to do a bit of research. As part of this, I looked up the videos that the Home Office have uploaded to YouTube to try to raise awareness of the issue.
This blog isn’t about the video. It’s about a comment on it by a user called IamAston. Now, IamAston is a gifted young man. He speaks on the complex, sociological, cultural and economic factors that underpin the issues of teenage domestic violence with great clarity of thought. Specifically, his views on the subject were; “what a fucking lad”.
This blog isn’t about censorship. IamAston is well within his rights to be an idiot, and it’s unfortunate that the internet has given him the opportunity to broadcast his idiocy to a wider audience. Although the judgement of the uploader of this particular video (nb: not the official This is Abuse campaign) in opening comments is highly questionable, when it comes to internet censorship, I’ve always been of the view that UniLad and Sickapedia were a price worth paying for when we have Wikipedia, FreeRice and the 99% Campaign alongside it.
This blog is about the role this sort of humour has in undermining the political power of young people. I’ll explain. The specific problem with this sort of humour is that it is always about siding with the strong against the weak. If a generation of young people grow up only exposed to this sort of humour, they grow up not knowing that the best, most powerful, comedy, always comes from the weak standing up to the strong.
This is an important lesson for those who wish to assert the political power of young people, because the struggle to make young people’s voices heard will almost always be about the weak standing up to the strong. (If you need convincing that young people are a weak, marginalised demographic, consider that two of the first cuts made by the coalition government were to university subsidies and the EMA).
Take the issue that we’re focussing on at the 99% campaign at the moment. This might sound distasteful, but there is a lot of humour to be had debating teenage domestic violence. For one, comedy has a big role to play in undermining the hyper aggressive (but rooted in insecurity) brand of teenage masculinity that seems to be a root cause of a lot of the problem. Likewise, it’s impossible to deny the inherent ridiculousness in any attempt by the government, however well intentioned, to involve itself in the sex lives of our nation’s teenagers.
My point is that no issue is above or beneath comedy. We can and should make jokes about all issues that affect young people in 21st century Britain. But, when we think about teenage domestic violence, we must remember that in the ballad of Liam and Beth, all the best gags are on Beth’s side.