By Rafiek Mammon
“Smile, you ‘re on Candid Camera!” Oh to be able to live in photographs…to be able to live that split second, with a smile on your face – looking like nothing is rotten in the State of Denmark!
I am reminded of a time I had to take the cast for a photo shoot for a new show we were doing at the time. And photographs are strange things – something I had always known, but was reminded of starkly at this shoot. I remember everyone being quite tired as they arrived since we’d been rehearsing for a while before the shoot. Then comes the dressing up – something they were loath to do as well – (I remember it was a bit chilly that day). Then we started the session. And everyone leapt into smiling mode – the atmosphere in the room changed altogether – from sullen to happy, albeit only while their pictures were being taken. And, I remember, whenever photos were taken – even as a child at family gatherings – there would be smiles galore. Sometimes I would know about people’s misery at the time of being photographed, and I would wonder about those fake smiles.
But I also thought about what has become the norm. What becomes the “things we just do or say”, because we think we ought to?
I recently re-watched the film ‘Lovely and Amazing’ and in it, Catherine Keener’s character tells everyone to f*#k off whenever she has beef with them – something she says as a matter of course – because she is so angry at the world, at herself.
But throughout the movie, her cynicism and derision allows her to be forthright – something we should perhaps incorporate more in our lives (the ingenuousness I mean, not the cynicism and derision).
It is something we just do, isn’t it? We say things (as if for a fact) like “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be okay”, to people going through rough patches – without even knowing that it will be.
It is merely a hope that we express. It is something we “just say”. Like the photo shoot – it is something we just do – to look happy in photos – like we only want to capture our happy moments in life and document those to show the world what a happy existence we have.
Perhaps that is why we take so long to get over or to “deal” with things –our constant shying away from problems inculcate in us a lack of knowledge to deal with them, it would seem; probably because we are too busy faking how happy we are. Perhaps some more practice in pragmatism wouldn’t hurt? And this kind of “doing for the sake of doing” permeates a lot more in our lives than mere photos. I think it also pervaded our creative lives – something I was reminded of when people gave me feedback on the show I spoke about earlier.
The feedback had been mostly positive but when it came to the content of some of the humour, some were “offended” – a direct consequence of our scale of conservatism.
What indeed is allowed to be on a stage? Who are we allowed to make fun of? Is it okay to make fat jokes or gay jokes, not knowing whether there are fat or gay people (and their families) in the audience? But don’t make jokes about disabled people?
Can we make white jokes now without being jailed for them? Is it no longer politically correct to make black jokes? And what about the hearing impaired etc etc?
Just who should bear the brunt of humour? As the writers and directors of the show, Gary and I were faced with some strange responses.
We then had to make decisions – stick to our guns and make fun of everyone, or choose the conservative route and only make fun of those we were “allowed” to make fun of all our lives?
Thing is, with comedy and conservatism, I found it is best to do as you please, within your own boundaries, as set by yourself – that is why you have a sense of morality.
Depending on how hardcore some people are, and how many people lack a sense of humour, something you say somewhere, depending on whose ears the comment falls, will always offend someone somewhere, right? It is called text in context!
But that, dear reader is for another time…