GayMU

14 Apr

It’s GayMU at JMU! Hosted by Madison Equality, GayMU is a week of events advocating rights and promoting the LGBT community around campus, including musical performances, panel discussions, drag shows, and theatrical monologues.

Being that this Wednesday was declared ‘Gay Day’, t-shirts were handed out on campus which read, “Gay? Fine by me.” Students are encouraged to show their support for equality by wearing their t-shirts on Friday.

I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to attend an open-minded, liberal arts college such as James Madison University. To many, the prospect of an active and vocal LGBT campus life may be a fantasy. The accepting and safe environment on campus has been a source of encouragement and comfort to me, and it makes me proud to see so many step up and voice their support.

Last night, unrelated to GayMU but nonetheless raising charity for autism awareness, Queen of Mean Lisa Lampanelli appeared before a packed auditorium of students for a night of comedy. Lisa’s trademark brand of comedy is endlessly rude, vulgar, and if spoken in any other situation, undoubtedly offensive.

JMU Pride!

Her racist, homophobic, and across-the-board offenses never fail to draw hysterical laughter, but they also beg a very different question: is there a space in our discourse that allows words like “faggot” to be excusable?

Having gathered a dedicated gay following, words like “faggot” — among others — are a focal point of her stand-up vocabulary, oftentimes being hurled at an audience member. And like any other minority group that Lampanelli lampoons, she thanks her audience at the end of her show for being good sports and is careful to remind them that these words come not from a place of hate, but from a place of love.

If meaning lies in people and not words, is it your approach rather than the word itself? If you give others permission to laugh, does that take away the sting and power we grant certain words?

Lampanelli told us last night that in her twenty one years of stand-up, she has never encountered a gay fan who was offended by her routine.

Should we be so quick to give comedians a free pass? Or should we be more skeptical?

Lampanelli has made a career of holding a mirror to the American public, magnifying and bringing attention to prejudices while inducing laughter and still drawing attention to the absurdities and horror of what true bigotry looks like.

I believe Lampanelli is keenly aware of what she is doing, and I believe her comedy is more than what meets the eye. You may disagree, and if so I wouldn’t argue.

Sometimes, it’s okay to laugh.


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