Luther College Chips

A case against Cards Against Humanity: Privilege and shock-value

Jacob Warehime, News Editor

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Cards Against Humanity is the equivalent of that boy in junior high that repeats the naughty jokes he hears on “Family Guy” for his friends, oblivious to the fact that they’re not laughing at him for his inherently diminished retelling of an already unfunny joke but simply because it is commonly understood that what is being said is taboo. In short, Cards Against Humanity is a dumb game. That’s my thesis.

I realize that this is the one thing I could say more unpopular on campus than “I voted for Trump so he could build a wall through Anderson Prairie,” but this is a belief that I’ve held very close and very secret for a very long time. There are two main reasons for my disdain. First, many of the cards are either in bad taste or try too hard to be humorous that they actually achieve the exact opposite. Second, the format of the game is inherently unfunny.

Historically, Card’s Against Humanity has proven a hard game for me to critique. Not because I couldn’t put my finger on what I didn’t like about the game, but because its defenders always revert to bullying based on the concept that people are too easily offended nowadays. “Woah, PC police over here doesn’t want us to play Card’s Against Humanity. He’s worried he might be offended.” Besides being the thing that gifted the world everyone’s favorite 45th president, this mentality has become synonymous with the game itself — its creators even use it as a marketing strategy. The back of the box reads “Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.”

But I don’t dislike the game because of this. I dislike the game because it’s not funny. No, I’m not offended by the content. I’m as white and cisgendered as the half-dozen white men that invented it with their 2011 Kickstarter. It’s unfunny because it’s trying so hard to be funny. Some of the cards are so bizarrely juvenile that even 13-year-old me might look up from his iPod Touch fart generator app to roll his eyes. Take for example the cards, “A ball of earwax, semen, and toenail clipping,” “Having anuses for eyes,” “A snapping turtle biting the tip of your penis,” and, my personal least-favorite, “Jerking off into a pool of children’s tears.”

While these cards can be passed over as harmlessly juvenile, many other cards rely on homophobia, classism, racism, ableism, domestic abuse, and rape-culture to secure a laugh. Randomly drawing cards out of my roommate’s copy of the game, I was rewarded with “Not giving a shit about the Third World,” “Passable transvestite,” “Poor people,” “Child abuse,” “The Trail of Tears,” and “Surprise sex!” I’m not against taboo humor. Nor am I advocating that comedy should ere on the side of safety. It shouldn’t. It should blatantly throw itself to the wind. However, you can always make a joke at the expense of someone. The best comedy hits on something deeper, it takes these topics and buries itself deep within them — sometimes to uncomfortable lengths.

However, with Cards Against Humanity, the “humor” is not created from playing the game at all — which calls into question the point of the game in the first place. It doesn’t matter what I match the card “inserting a Mason jar into my anus” with because the joke lies within the supposedly “shocking” concept of putting a Mason jar into my anus. I would be just as well off to read through the cards. And how many times can you play the card “Firing a rifle into the air while balls deep in a squealing hog” before it loses its shock value? Once? Twice? And then you’re left with, “Oh yeah, that card. Ha.” This staleness is evident in the ever-increasing number of Cards Against Humanity expansion packs users are encouraged to purchase.

Consider the game Apples to Apples. Same premise but with cards that don’t beg to be laughed at. In Apples to Apples, the humor comes from the situation. It’s organic and spontaneous. And I would argue, refreshing in the face of Cards Against Humanity’s ‘wink wink, nudge nudge’ non-humor.

So no, I’m not offended by Cards Against Humanity. But I’m sure there are some that might be. The effectiveness of the game’s humor relies on the privilege of its users. I just think that there are multiple things that make the game cringefully unfunny. Or maybe I just wanted to see the phrase “inserting a Mason jar into my anus” published in Chips.

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