Jokes: "Racist/Problematic" or just "Unfunny"?

I hesitated to keep this strictly to general media since it originated from watching a video on gaming, and I really hope this discussion hasn’t happened before.

I was recently watching the GBeast quick look of the new shaqfu game. Yikes. I really enjoy Shaq and seeing him basically endorse these jokes, as well as the middling game play itself, made me sigh. The comments on the video took two tones: Either it was calling the jokes racist or defending their right to exist while still admitting it wasn’t that funny.

This is a theme I’ve always seen occur when problematic jokes appear. It feels like calling a joke unfunny tends to come off as denying the larger undertones to the joke itself, denying that maybe this joke puts a marginalized group under the bus, and still finding a way to agree with the points said without admitting that something can be racist. Have you noticed this is well?


I think this is called lampshading?

It’s a common tactic when a writer is writing something racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc to try and clear themselves of being reffered to as such. The thinking is if it’s mentioned in the writing itself that an element of it is toxic, they can continue to get away with writing about it.

In this case it seems instead of just directly saying the jokes are racist, the writers are just saying they’re unfunny and hoping that covers their ass.

Basically it’s a lazy attempt to try and throw any blame off of themselves.

Edit: I misread the post and didn’t see you were talking about the commenters not the writers, apologies! Please refer to @Navster for a better answer


The GB community seems to pride itself with an above-the-fray centrism that has aged poorly since 2008. I admit, until the lead-up to gamergate I too bought into the vision of GB being a site that “just focused on games and jokes”. Unfortunately, this has led to the community allowing for unsavory elements to take root in the name of “free speech”. To your point, OP, this means that there are plenty of people there who find the jokes in Shaq-Fu to be distasteful but feel compelled to make the obvious point that there is no law against being homophobic or racist. But to call out homophobia and racism, what are you doing buddy? Can’t you tell we’re here to have fun?

On a more general note, and I say this coming from a place of relative privilege, but I tend to be more offended as a comedy fan by bigoted humor than as a person from a marginalized group. Stereotypes, at their very core, are retread jokes, and the people that peddle them are hacks. And the people that enjoy that sort of humor are fundamentally nothing people. They have no personality or thoughts of their own, so they chuckle at Asian stereotypes and implications that someone might be gay. I weep for the genuinely humorous GB personalities who must cater to this basic-ass demographic.


i got so mad in that comments section that my account got disabled


I’m glad I didn’t see the comments to that video. I think their critiques of the “humor” in that game were spot on - it’s lazy, unfunny, and clearly racist.

As Glorgu wrote, identifying that one’s own joke is racist does not clear them of critique. Claiming to be ironic about it doesn’t automatically make the joke good or okay.

I watched 4 minutes of that quick look, and I can say with confidence that it’s just racist.


No worries, I totally didn’t know what lampshading was so I’m glad I can add that to my vocab.


I too weep lol. It’s a real shame and I’m glad Alex was so unapologetic about it and continues to be so in videos like this. I feel like a lot of the crew feels so tied up in making a point and it can be sucky to watch.

As a side note, you can boil down why gamergate happened to the conversations people were having in the comments of the quick look. One side vehemently wants to fight against the idea of having opinions in a game review that comment on whether or not a game has racist jokes to them would get in the way of the unbiased game review and the other side more reasonably realized long ago that you can’t untie the two. All reviews are biased and calling out racist undertones isn’t a stride away from ethical games journalism. Just find the reviewer that speaks more to your tastes and don’t complain about the ones you disagree with as if it’s censorship against the games right to exist. I have some hilarious quotes from the youtube comment section.

To the topic of the thread, though, I noticed this a lot when TB was alive. I of course have to say that I’m not celebrating death, but his usual response was often to state that a joke was just unfunny, or that a game about killing black people just “wasn’t fun” as if there is a deep fear in seeming like an “sjw” for pointing out the bleedingly obvious, or that if they say such a thing then it gives the review bias. (as if anyone can escape bias especially in the context of a review)


all I’ve learned from this kind of bullshit is you can’t “teach” those who defend against assertions of bigotry that they are wrong. They don’t care if something is bigoted or not. Bigotry doesn’t affect them. What does affect them is that you are upset and are making a stink about it. They don’t want to hear it. Thus, the endless, circuitous argument about what is or isn’t bigotry. If you’re extraordinarily lucky, eventually they will concede that sure, okay, racism exists, it just doesn’t exist here, so you’re wrong and please shut up and you’re taking this too seriously and also virtue signalling or some shit.

It’s why I don’t argue with people who say “this isn’t bigoted”, I just call them shitheads and tell them to fuck off. I don’t want to convince them. It can’t be done. Instead, I want them to feel unwelcome and embarrassed.


So you are suggesting that calling a racist joke unfunny is avoiding having to address the fact that it is racist right?
I haven’t seen the video or the comments, but I tend to think that straight-faced telling someone that their racist joke isn’t funny and that it doesn’t even make sense forces them to state the racist assumptions upon which the joke is founded and that makes it way harder for them to dodge accusations that they are saying some racist shit.
So in my experience, what has worked is doing both. Call the joke unfunny, demand that they explain the sense of the joke, and then say “oh, you are being racist, I’m antiracist so this is unacceptable to me.”


I think the point is that that extra step needs to be taken. Not just “this isn’t funny,” but “the only reason you’d find this funny is because it’s built on a racist stereotype that you hold.” But (also depending on the audience) not attaching that second part really doesn’t force them to state their assumption—for a lot of people, it would just lead to “your sense of humor is just different” and a quick moving on.


I think context matters. Like in the shaqfu quick look, the same kinds of people who only and exclusively called a racist joke unfunny were also in separate comments claiming that we shouldn’t be calling the joke racist or suggesting that it was muddying the review of the game.

It’s not just in saying something is or isn’t funny. I notice pretty often that an attempt is made to find reasons to state a negative opinion without invoking race or sexism as if admitting something is sexist detracts from the point of a review. You can of course find people who agree still say the game isn’t funny but it becomes obvious when someone uses it disingenuously.

It’s not like telling a person that says a racist joke that their joke isn’t funny. It’s like listening to a peer say that a joke was transphobic and responding that “I just thought the joke wasn’t funny” - It comes off like “I hear you but I don’t want to comment and probably disagree on the systemic issues underlying it”


Who is the “he” who was endorsing the jokes?

Shaq, by participating in the game

Ah, I understand now.

Honestly though, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything from GB where they properly recognize and address any problematic content. They’re all too white so a lot of stuff goes over their heads and when they do notice something they will just throw in an “um” or sounds of displeasure for good measure.

The community is such trash and the GB staff does cater to it. I still remember Jeff’s stance of “not discussing politics” in response to GG. That lukewarm attitude is what led to its most recent debacle of taking the patriotism streams down. Like, really, you couldn’t tell that was essentially nationalist rhetoric you were spewing? They’ve been too lenient on pleasing the community (see: VInny heavily correcting Abby when referring to them as “randos”) and too focused on the “fun” which games have embodied (to populations which it didn’t adversely affect).

They need sensitivity editors or be more concrete in their stances cause the problematic members of their community still feel comfortable when Dan says “cops are good” or when Jeff adds a “go on” to something uncomfortable.


Hey everyone,

While we think the broader subject is interesting here, the basic framing of this thread leans too heavily on Rule 10. If you would like to have these discussions, we’d ask you to either do so with another centrepiece or to approach this from a broader perspective.