Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When is Bad Taste Appropriate?

Okay, so I have actually managed to squeek a few minutes of actual fiction writing time in this week, and I am working on a kind of a flirty email prologue thing between my H/H.  She lives in Kentucky, he's originally from Kentucky, and moving back.  So there is witty banter regarding Kentucky life.

Let me state here:  I live in Kentucky.  I love it.  It's beautiful, the people are great, there is history out the wazoo.  And it's funny.   I have, in my county, important landmarks like Frogtown Road, Big Bone Lick State Park, the Beaver Lick Baptist Church, and the towns of Rabbit Hash and Sugar Tit.  There is also the Creation Museum, but that's not something I'm as thrilled about as Sugar Tit, Big Bone, and Beaver Lick. 

Anyway, I like to make gentle fun of Kentucky, but my idea of gentle fun might not be as gentle as someone else's. I tend to think it's acceptable to laugh about needing to stop and put on our shoes before crossing in to Ohio, and getting back across the bridge before the border closes at night.  I laugh about being considered a hillbilly, white trash, whatever derogatory term you chose because I know it's a ridiculous designation.  But I also know that I am pretty lucky--I'm a middle class white girl, a product of fortunate circumstances.  I am fortunate, but I have also been insulated from experiences that might allow me to be sensitive to inappropriate ridicule. 

The safe thing is to avoid poking fun at anyone.  I certainly wouldn't want to hurt anyone else.  How do you know when self-fun-poking gets away from you?  Feel free to insert your own KY (jelly) and self-fun-poking joke here.


  1. This post made me giggle, Teri Anne.

    To answer your question - hum. I guess it's the difference between good-natured humour and mean humour. All the examples you talk about in this post - from the (unintentionally?) naughty place names to the jokes about border crossing are cute and nice, I think. These are all authentic details and help me as a reader who knows nothing about KY (the state, not the jelly) feel included.

    Where humour flips over into using stereotypes instead of breaking stereotypes, that's where I think it has more potential to offend / turn off readers. If you've got a roadkill eatin', trash talkin', Jerry Springer watchin' hillbilly that you want to make fun of, well, that's just not that funny. It's lazy humour, and has potential to exclude people.

    But Beaver Lick Baptist Church...I mean, how can you not use that in your writing? It's just too ripe for the picking.

  2. Big Bone Lick State Park? Beaver Lick? Sugar Tit?

    OMG. I can't. It's just too easy... ;)

    You know what? Unless you're lampooning specific people (I don't think it's nice to hurt a specific person's feelings), I say go to town with it. Funny is funny.

  3. Well, I'm a hillbilly from across the Ohio, so my comments might not count for much, but I think Elizabeth is right. Meanness is not funny, but I don't care whoy'ar, funny is funny. Larry the Cable Guy is one of the funniest people I have ever heard, and he is a far cry from dumb, but he plays on all those stereotypes perfectly. Be authentic!

  4. This is what I think: You really know how far to go because you live there; that's your reality. You know how much to poke fun at yourself.

    But I think there will always be people who are offended by what you write, no matter how careful you are. The most important thing is to remain true to your story. And if you do that, it will all come out the way it should.

    That's just what I think. :)