#2. Being Offended Doesn't Always Matter
Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Or: "Why do you think it's OK to make fun of bronies? Would you make fun of gay people? No."
That's a real private message I got on the Cracked forums in reference to an article I didn't even write, which points to at least four different tiers of incompetence. And even though this guy's feelings are valid on account of him feeling them and all, I don't care. Because sometimes, your feelings -- or your "feels," which I guess is something annoying people say now -- aren't important to anyone other than you. My poop date didn't care about my embarrassment any more than I cared about her reactionary vomit.
That sounds harsh, but it's also a totally necessary thing to acknowledge. People can be offended by anything -- it just takes having a personal experience. Let's say, hypothetically, you were beaten up by a badly jaundiced bodybuilder when you were a child. You're probably not gonna like that scene at the end of The Avengers where the Hulk rearranges Tony Stark's tiling with Loki's face.
I'm offended by how many deviantART drawings of the Hulk's penis I saw while digging up this image.
That's such an arbitrary and unique experience that there's no way to count it against the film's creators. Unless, hypothetically still, jaundice is a serious problem in your community? And roid rage? And somehow those problems are linked -- let's say by Gypsy magic? Then you could say that it was irresponsible to include that scene, because it's normalizing the well-documented societal ill of jaundiced Gypsy roid rage. Also, sorry for saying "Gypsy" so much. Hopefully I didn't offend any Gypsies or Stevie Nicks.
Your feelings and whether anyone should care about them are two different things. Men's rights activists can get mad about how society has broken its promise to award them a hot lady friend, but I'm never going to care, because I've done enough research and lived enough life to know that being a man is way easier than the alternative. I appreciate the fact that I've never had to mace anyone or been harassed for walking around outside in hot pink booty shorts, although that second thing may have more to do with living in Seattle.
Ron Wurzer/Getty Images News/Getty Images
This is the most safe-for-work picture I could find of my neighborhood.
It's not about whether the offended people or the unoffended people are "right"; it's about whether the reason the people were offended matters. How do you determine that? That's not a rhetorical question; I'm seriously asking. See, this is a case in which the discussion is every bit as important as the answer, because ...
#1. It's Really Good for Us
Caring about other people's feelings isn't just the difference between being a dick and not being a dick -- it's central to our progress as a species. I mentioned earlier that I didn't care about the offended brony guy's feelings, and that's sort of the point: Empathy is evolution in progress. We're just not quite there yet.
Everything that separates us from other animals -- the ability to change positions mid-coitus, being ashamed of our body odor, tabbing out of StarCraft II to check our pizza order without screwing up our build -- is built on our ability to understand abstract concepts -- to imagine things that aren't real and then create them out of bamboo, then steel, and eventually an incredibly nuanced pattern of ones and zeroes that allows us to show Laurence Fishburne our kung fu.
"Get over here so we can discuss the cyclical nature of suffering and violence."
But what could be more abstract than imagining what it's like to be another person, feeling something totally different from what we're familiar with? Most of us have trouble figuring out why our crazy younger brother went vegan and got a band tattoo, let alone understanding the thoughts and motivations of thousands of people with completely different backgrounds that we've never even met. Maybe the fact that empathy is so difficult is why it is such an important professional skill to learn, and why it still has some glitches that we're working out, like when we turn it off and murder a bunch of people.
Cracked Fact: Most people don't like getting murdered. Like, a shocking amount.
What I'm saying is that empathy is humanity's next big thing to get really good at, and having those conversations (not just slinging accusations) is an integral part of that. An offensive joke in a comic strip isn't the same as a war crime, obviously. But figuring out why it pissed off so many people is a great opportunity to develop a skill that will someday be just as expected and important as knowing to postpone a date when spontaneous shitting is inevitable.