Gander 2011. Kevin Blackmore
So, we are almost through our six shows in Gander, the place with the fabulous little theatre. I grew up in Gander, spent 23 years there really. It’s been more than 30 since I left. In that time I’ve come back to the Arts and Culture Centre theatre often with Buddy and other things, always to a great audience but do you know what vexes me most? Occasionally some audience member takes offence from an aspect of our presentation when no offence was evident. It only re-affirms that everyone hears what they want to hear and no matter what comes out of the mouth of a presenter an audience member is predisposed to hearing only that which fits in with a point of view, or a bias, or a prejudice.
More often this is innocuous enough and the mood of an individual becomes as that of the whole audience and before a show is through everyone has a good time. Every now and again though, we get one hypersensitive person who believes that the whole world is against them and some aspect of our presentation fits that function.
So, two gay people went up to our merchandiser two nights ago and proclaimed that they were highly offended by a remark in our show and took great offence by it. What in fact they had heard was a line in one of our songs, a song written by Zeke Hoskin of Vancouver ( who incidentally lives with the Gay community there) called “Hunting the Duck”. This song ridicules urban hunters, (that’s the songwriter’s point of view) who take such wasteful and extreme measures to go to the country on weekends to shoot ducks. If you listen to the words you will hear a litany of lines that highlight the ridiculous activities of macho young males who try to impress one another with too much drinking, big machines, driving drunk, shooting at anything and so on until we come to the following verse:
We crouch without standing from nine until three, except every few minutes we stand up to pee.
At last there’s a duck and we fill it with lead, can’t figure who shot it but the sucker’s sure dead..
Then it’s back to the cabin for whiskey and steak where we talk about women ’til nearly daybreak.
No one believes what the other guys say so we have to talk dirty to prove we’re not gay!
Now, if you took offence to this forgive me, the songwriter and almost everyone else in this country for thinking that this is funny. If you are a balanced reader though you might see how this ridicules the young super macho insecure heterosexual male…or did we all miss something? Doesn’t this verse actually mock a set of people who may be intolerant of gays? I think so, and so did the songwriter when he wrote it and so do my partners who actually thought about this when we decided to ask Zeke for permission to perform his song. We are not ridiculing Gays. Need we shout it?
Here’s my point, the people who take this the wrong way want any reason to call foul, to take offence from any source possible. They want to be set apart! To them I say “Lay off”!
Older people in our audiences don’t state ageism and get uptight every time we act the parts of older people! Do you hear outcries because we have characters in our show that are military? Surely it must be easy to find offence in that! How about lines and characterizations of the Scottish, the Irish, the British or the Newfs? No big traffic there! What about references to the unlearned, the character expressions from politicians, believers in Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism or Islam? How about those who are young, or disabled, or simply different? Do you hear all these people in society generally kicking up great campaigns about being discriminated against? If we carry this on to its infinite end we’ll all be gazing at our navels not wanting to look around afraid that someone will take offence at our glance. Guess what…every one can claim some reason for being unique.
So get off your high horse and be secure in what you are, or else question yourself whether the problem is you taking offence, and not that everyone else seems to be giving it!