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The Dark Comedy

There are many different subgenres when it comes to comedy. One that has had many criticisms over the years is the dark comedy. In general, the dark comedy uses satire to appeal to audiences. “At its best it was a genre that could produce a satirical comment on our society-at its worst it could create sophomoric burlesques on the fads and manners of the time which sometimes walled in humor of questionable taste” (McCaffrey, 1983). In many dark, or black, comedies the actual dialogue may be humorous to some viewers but the message behind the dialogue or what the film is portraying is often offensive to many viewers.

One example of a modern day dark comedy is the movie Bad Santa starring Billy Bob Thornton. While much of the dialogue is humorous, with his drinking and swearing, it can also be very offensive. Some people view Santa as a very sacred symbol to their beliefs and rituals, and this portrayal of Santa may be more horrifying than humorous to many viewers. For example, many wholesome families and children see Santa as an innocent and caring human being. By Thornton’s character being horrible to children, drinking all the time, and being an all-around rude person, this contradicts people’s views of Santa. Furthermore, many families still view the sanctity of marriage as something very important in their lives. According to the tale, Santa has and always will be married to Mrs. Claus. Thornton’s character as Santa is always sleeping around with random women and treating women badly. To go even further, the main female character first sleeps with him because she actually has a fantasy about sleeping with Santa. Now, everybody knows that this film is obviously fiction, but if children were to come across this film their beliefs could be obstructed and may cause controversies with many families.

Many critics also view the movie Dogtooth as a dark comedy. “There is humor in some exchanges, but it is not of the kind that will provoke laughter. Dogtooth’s funny moments-and there are many of them-instead induce a queasy discomfort that bears some resemblance to the humor analyzed by Adam Kotsko in his book, Awkwardness (Zero Books, 2010)” (Fisher, 2011). This movie is about a Greek husband and wife who have isolated their children from the outside the world. Their children have never left their barricaded land and do not know anything of what is real; they do not even know what a cat is. The parents have brainwashed these children and even force them to behave in sexual acts with one another. When the children talk, they think words mean different things than they actually do. To the audience, their dialogue might be funny because it makes absolutely no sense to the average individual, but the idea that the children actually think that this is normal makes it completely offensive.

A similar film to Dogtooth is the film The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey. This is a film where Carrey’s character thinks that he is living his normal life because he does not know anything different. However, little does he know his whole entire life is purely for entertainment for the actual world. His best friend, his wife, even his work is all a set up for a reality television show that has been following him his whole life. While there are many funny parts throughout the film, the idea behind it is very offensive to some people. To the older generation today, reality television alone is offensive. The idea that someone is place on reality television for their whole entire life, making all their experiences a set-up and a lie, can be very disturbing. Not only is his whole life a lie, but the producer of the reality television series prevents him from actually finding his true love. For the audience member, it is heartbreaking and disturbing to watch Truman go through these struggles to finding out the truth about his life. For me, it is almost like his whole life he has been in prison without knowing it. He does not know what it is like to go outside of his bubble. This film really puts the audience in his shoes and could offend a lot of people.

So, the subgenre of comedic films, dark comedies, uses satire throughout their whole film. While some parts of the movie might be humorous, many people tend to be offended by these comedies. These films use problems and fears going on in the world to make money and make people laugh, and many critics believe this is the wrong way to make a film.

McCaffrey, D. W. (1983). The Loved One-An Irreverant Invective, Dark Film Comedy. Literature Film Quarterly, 11(2), 83.

FIisher, M. (2011). DOGTOOTH: THE FAMILY SYNDROME. Film Quarterly, 64(4), 22-27.


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