There is a new weapon that is being proven quite effective in the First World right now. I am not talking about Donald Trump’s Nuclear Button, rather, it is “much bigger and powerful” than that; such a weapon is, of course, the latest 21st century method of ‘Self-Deprecation’. It is what most comedians like Jimmy Carr (jokes about his appearance), Aziz Ansari (jokes about his race) and Sarah Millican (jokes about her weight) use to sound funny and witty. This is the best way to avoid being hurt by other people; by belittling, undermining oneself and highlighting one’s flaws, experiences and tragedies to the world, before they do; it shows that you acknowledge and embrace them, therefore no one will be able to use your flaws against you to hurt you. Just like Tyrion Lannister advised in Game of Thrones, “never forget what you are, the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armour and it can never be used to hurt you”. So, as long as you flaunt it, society can never taunt you for it.
Jimmy Carr is best known to put this theory into practice. People will pay big lumps of money to listen to his jokes, mainly about the critical judgement of his supposedly unflattering appearance and disappointing sex life. Overall his inspiration is based on his self-image, which subsequently gives a whole new meaning to his character, at the same time, Jimmy Carr, reinvents himself by reclaiming various stigmatised personas.
As a result, self- deprecation morphs into self-reclamation. Don’t you agree? Even being a geek now has a whole different meaning. Back in the day, geeks were pushed around and laughed at because they were different from everyone else, since they lacked virility and were considered physically weak and helpless. The change in attitude of the geek stereotype comes with the rise of technology and social media platforms that made the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook- a billionaire. Now, everyone wants to be geek chic, think of all the ‘geek’ merchandise that was sold throughout the noughties and is still being marketed worldwide. Were you not a bit confused when slaggy Stacey came into school one day with big large round glasses and a large baggy jumper. How about that time when the total playa, Chris Brown, was portrayed as a goofy geek in his 2007 ‘Kiss Kiss’ music video and the pop princess Katy Perry was depicted as a pathetic dork with braces in her ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)’ video in 2011. In a similar way, TV shows such as, The Big Bang Theory and the Inbetweeners also elevate the geek stereotype. To be “geeky” now is considered ‘cool’ because it means that you are intelligent- a very rare trait, that will eventually grant you wealth and prosperity. How strange it is that a ‘geek’ went from being a symbol of ridicule to an emblem of success.
Now let’s take a look at approbation from another angle and how it can turn ugly when misused. It was indeed a form of reclamation when Black people appropriated the racist slur “nigger” from their white colonial rulers. Ever since then, “nigga”, is heard in mostly every Hip-Hop and RnB song, the term is neutralised from its derogative origins to express comradeship instead. It was almost like giving their colonisers a taste of their own medicine by admitting, “Yes, I am a nigger and what will you do about it?” Rather than eradicating the word completely, Black people simply stole it from their colonisers, ironically, just like their colonisers stole their freedom, riches and lands. This self-fulfilling prophecy however, when used too frequently, by not just Black people but White people too, stripped it of its revolutionary meaning. Just the other day I was passing by a group of White chavs and they were shockingly referring to themselves as “niggas”. The constant use of the word in music, films and everyday life has unfortunately stripped it of its powerful expression of liberation and unity, turning it instead into a sort of joke. Now everybody can refer to each other as a “nigga” and no one will bat an eyelash. Is this right? Well it’s not. The normalised form of “nigga” might no longer be used in a strictly oppressive manner, however, now it is used to convey aggression or humour. That was not the purpose of its reclamation, using it in such a standardised way is as bad as using it to denigrate Black people.
So ‘think’ next time you open your mouth, my fellow First World children. There are many complexities to self-deprecation and approbation. But it is up to YOU how you reclaim stereotypes. Remember- Man is the measure of all things!