A Brief Digression: How Income Inequality Has Invaded Comedy

GameStop, Inc.

class-4

There’s been something that has been irking me for a while now. Within the past few days, though, this irritant has swelled within my consciousness. The source of the irritant is rather simple – comedies have shifted towards being dominated by stories of the upper class, an inversion of classic comedy tropes. Recently on Twitter, the great artist Christopher Cooper mentioned how Hollywood films are seemingly dominated by stories of the well-to-do. I mentioned that comedy has been the worst offender, and Cooper succinctly stated how the “Margaret Dumont-type is the funny person and not the butt of the joke.”

Throughout comedy history there are countless instances where a clash of classes leads to hilarity. The aforementioned Dumont being tormented by the Marx Brothers; Charlie Chaplin’s entire body of work seems dedicated to comedy about class structure; Harold Lloyd climbed the building in Safety Last! to raise money to propose his love; in Hoi Polloi, The Three Stooges are taken from the poorhouse to a mansion; Billy Wilder’s The Apartment is about a man sacrificing his principles to advance his career, and on and on. In other words, there are countless jokes that one could mine from people desperate to raise their social status or characters lifted to a higher class that seems almost alien.

class-1

This is middle class?

For the most part, today’s comedies have completely turned their back on these situations. The most egregious examples of recent memory are Judd Apatow’s This is 40 and this summer’s dismal Sex Tape. In This is 40, you have an upper class family living in Southern California, the tension within their relationship is rooted in financial problems. However, these aren’t relatable or, frankly, understandable problems. Paul Rudd’s character has sunk a large chunk of change to bankroll a music label focused on putting out music by washed up artists – poor guy! – and Leslie Mann’s character runs a boutique that has been ripped off for $10,000 which she doesn’t notice for months – how relatable! In Sex Tape, Jason Segal’s character not only lives in an expansive 2-bedroom house with his family, but has the resources to purchase 2 new iPads with each successive update, giving the old ones away to the people in his life including the mailman. Later in the film, the couple goes to the headquarters of a porn website in order to purge the website of their titular sex tape. They’re caught and the situation is resolved when they agree to pay the proprietor of the porn site between $15,000 and $25,000 (I can’t remember which). Instead of using this moment to place the characters in a situation of extreme desperation, it’s resolved with a lump sum payment.

But this isn’t an entirely new phenomena. For about the past 40 years, Woody Allen has made countless films that explore the struggles of upper class New Yorkers. Allen’s attempt at a class-based comedy, 2000’s Small Time Crooks, was a bumbling attempt at Marx Brothers-style rags-to-riches story that illustrated just how out of touch Allen is with in terms of the lower classes. Allen, Apatow, and others have seemingly dedicated themselves to make Upper Class Twit of the Year: The Movie with nothing but a reverence for affluent, asking the audience to root for the moronic masters of the universe.

class-2

There are still comedies being made with a keen awareness about class struggle. No other modern filmmakers have this understanding like the Coen Brothers. Looking at their filmography, one can see that most of their films deal with class issues, but their ability to mine class for comedy is unparalleled in modern cinema. Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy, Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading, The Ladykillers, The Big Lebowski, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? all contain key comedic elements related to class. I believe this awareness is rooted in the Coens’ longstanding love affair with Preston Sturges’ 1941 classic, Sullivan’s Travels. Along with Chaplin’s Modern Times, Sullivan’s Travels is one of the great class-based comedies. John L. Sullivan, a rich director of motion picture comedies, has grown tired of making silly pictures and wants to make a great drama about the nobility of poverty, entitled O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Since he’s never experienced financial hardship himself, Sullivan goes on the road to live in poverty. Through his adventures, Sullivan learns that he can best help the impoverished by making them laugh. It’s a rebuke to the idea of nobility in poverty, understanding it to be an endless struggle.

While not entirely considered comedies, two of the best films from last year – The Wolf of Wall Street and Spring Breakers – found laughs in extreme situations from its class commentary. And not all comedies have to be rooted in a class structure conflict, 22 Jump Street and This is the End are plenty funny while never examining class issues. But then there are the films like Let’s Be Cops which avoids commentary on anything – race, authority, and class – and asks the audience to believe that one of the phony officers has been living for the past two years in L.A. off a $12,000 payday – talk about outlandish fiction. If cinema is a mirror to society, then the issues of income inequality in the New Guilded Age have seeped into comedy in the most nefarious of ways. Like the modern billionaires who cluelessly ask people to toil in low paying jobs for the entirety of their existence, comedy cinema is increasingly unconcerned with the issues of the working classes, let alone the inherent comedy within.  As comedies have focused on a higher class of characters, they’ve provided a lower class of laughs. We’re all poorer for that.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

FanboyNation
Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Annabeth Gish & C. Thomas Howell Talk About Their New Modern Western, ‘Ride’ – Interview

Annabeth Gish and C. Thomas Howell Discuss Their Roles in the...

Exclusive Clip from Roku’s ‘Fight Inc.: Inside the UFC’

Exclusive Clip from ‘Fight Inc.: Inside the UFC‘ now streaming exclusively...

‘D.I.Y. Duck’ Honors the Legacy of Donald Duck on His 90th Birthday – Review

Disney Legend Mark Henn and his team of artists honor Donald...

Event News Event Reviews
‘The Old Man and the Old Moon’ at Mission San Juan Capistrano – News

‘The Old Man and the Old Moon‘ at Mission San Juan...

‘Holmes & Watson’ Solve the Case at the Laguna Playhouse – Review

Jeffrey Hatcher’s ‘Holmes & Watson‘, Enthralls Audiences in a Magnificent twist...

‘Disney’s The Little Mermaid’ Enchants Audiences at La Mirada Theatre – Review

‘Disney’s The Little Mermaid‘ Enchants Audiences with a heartwarming performance now...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Blood on the cactus pt 2?

Scone?

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse! Blood on the cactus pt 1

It was really bloody, limbs hacked, heads torn off etc

Cultural Junk Drawer – The trial of Bluddgore the Obliterator

Wrech Cohvlid takes the stand providing testimony corroborating Cockmiester’s. He also...

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus
MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...