School of Policy Studies

School of Policy Studies
School of Policy Studies

Queen's Contagion Cultures Lecture Series SCOTT MACKENZIE

Tuesday February 23, 2021  4:00 PM

"Contagious Humour"

Scott MacKenzie, Professor and Associate Head, Department of Film and Media, Queen’s University

When neighboring Norway banned Monty Python’s Life of Brian in 1979 on the grounds of blasphemy, Sweden advertised the film under the tagline: “So funny they banned it in Norway.” While various factions of the religious right were incensed by the film, one could still see the humor in the Swedish advertising campaign. Yet, in the current context, it might be easy to resign oneself to the cliché that the present is no laughing matter. COVID has no doubt led to a series of personal, social, and mental health issues, especially in regard to feelings of connectivity in a world facing a pandemic, systemic racism, political upheaval and a climate crisis. In a world that can seem so oppressive, forlorn, and abject in the face of any action often seemingly impossible, what positive role does laughing play in this regard? This talk will address some of the forms of laughing and humor as resistance, especially in regard to what the French Marxist philosopher Guy Debord theorized as détournement. Drawing on theories of humor developed by Simon Critchley and Terry Eagleton, this talk will explore how humor can undermine spectacularization in the time of COVID, where humor becomes a form of both defamiliarization and truth telling. 

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