The phrase “politically correct” has always set my teeth on edge, but for the first few years I had no idea why. I mean, surely such uncool things as Captain Planet existed, which employed blatant take-home messages and insincere tokenism. I could not deny this. But the majority of things deemed “politically correct” were not even close to being like Captain Planet. Most of it made sense to me. “Native American”, for example, made more sense then “Indian”, since it prevented confusion with actual Indians. “Salespeople” made more sense then “salesmen”, because not all of them are men anymore. I didn’t understand why these were “politically correct” and thus insufferable.
Still, I went with the generally consensus that to be deemed “politically correct” was to be irretrievably uncool, and that a prerequisite to being anybody of worth was to be “politically INcorrect”. Something still seemed off, though.
It all came together when I read a review for one of my favorite movies. Tank Girl is one of the corniest movies of all time. It’s about these punk girls in a post-apocalyptic world who wage war against water hoarders with the help of mutant kangaroos and tricked-out military vehicles. It’s got an awesome soundtrack, gratuitous action and violence, and is also wicked hilarious. I strongly suggest you rent it, or even buy it. One night I was reading comments on a B-movie website and I came across a commenter that described it as “Mad Max, only politically correct.”
Politically correct? My mind screamed. But Tank Girl is edgy, funny, awesome! What did it do that deserved the brush of death? Surely it’s not just because the lead character is female?
Of course, that turned out to be the case.
But wait! I thought. I watch “edgy” movies and stand-up comics, and I’m not afraid of offending people. I do the proper politically incorrect things. Tank Girl is the closest thing to me than pretty much any other female character in movie history. If she’s politically correct, then that means–
It was then what I realized what “politically correct” meant and why it had bothered me all those years. “Politically correct” doesn’t mean insincere, slapdash attempts at diversity and inoffensiveness, as I had once thought.
It means people who aren’t straight white dudes. Specifically, non- straight white dudes doing things reserved for straight white dudes, like waging post-apocalyptic warfare or not being subservient to straight white dudes. In an ironic twist of fate, “politically incorrect” is a PC term for whiny snots that can’t stand their special privileges being taken away from them. Whoda thunk?
It becomes more and more obvious as time goes on. The next time someone complains about “political correctness”, listen close. Chances are they’re either talking about someone not knowing their place, or someone having the gall to tell the listener to act like a decent human being. “What‘s this chick robot doing in my show about walking dude robots? TOKENISM! Chew with my mouth closed? POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE WILD!” These folks are under the impression that they’re “edgy”. After all, what is more rare and groundbreaking than straight white dudes ragging on things? Sometimes I can go an entire day without hearing that! Assuming I don’t watch television or listen to radio or go on the internet, and also spend the entire day in the woods.
Things are improving, but this stuff is still going on. When Monsters vs. Aliens came out, Ben Mickiewicz said that “at the risk of sounding too PC”, he appreciated the main character being a powerful woman. Gee, thanks Ben! The character is everything required of a typical movie lead- white, skinny, attractive, American. But one little bullet point- a uterus- is enough to make it politically correct.
Can you imagine the shrieking that would break out if they made a movie about me, a fat schlubby ubernerd? There wouldn’t be any shoe shopping, cleavage revealing tops or date obsession, like in every other movie with female leads. If I had my way I’d probably be more of a horror anti-hero, fighting snake demons and spouting one-liners as I mow my way through evil with power tools. Right now the closest I could hope for is a Nurse Annie Wilkes-type psychopath who menaces the main male character. If I somehow shrunk to a size zero, I could expand into a Femme Fatale character that tempts the male lead or a Manic Pixie Dream Girl character that tempts the male lead. If I was REALLY lucky, some aspiring Joss Whedon-type could make a snake-demon slayer role for me. I’d still have to wear tight tops though.
And I’m saying this as a white woman. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who is gay, or disabled, or who isn’t white, or all or some of the above. The last time I saw a black person in a wheelchair on TV was– surprise– as a throwaway gag about political correctness. Why not have a show about a gay black woman in a wheelchair? I bet it’d be more watchable than all the interchangeable “white slob patriarch and his photogenic family” sitcoms.
Chances are, you’re probably politically correct in some way. You could be anything from a many-breasted purple mole person from the Earth’s Core, to a straight white dude that enjoys spicy mustard. I say, embrace your political correctness! And when someone says you’re politically correct, respond with a hearty “HELLZ YEAH!”
Say it with Captain Planet and the Planeteers!