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EDITORIAL – 11/6/2015: POLITICALLY CORRECT IS THE WHOLE POINT

By Andrew L. Urban

"It’s an uncomfortable mix with the comedy targeting religious traditions and revelling in ethnic stereotypes," writes one American blogger critic, dismissing the French comedy by Philippe de Chauvron, Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu? (Serial (bad) Weddings).

Critical faculties clouded by what is called political correctness but actually signifying group think, she seems to have ignored the basic cruelty of so much humour. It is precisely stereotypes who provide the fuel for a great majority of our humour. As for racial/ethic stereotypes in comedy, ask the Irish, the Jews, the Poles, Italians, Germans or the Hungarians ... Likewise religions, none are spared the satirical barbs of comedy. It is the stereotype that provides the defined tafget for the audience to grasp and understand.

Comedy is more important than political correctness. It is a unique form of communication in which we understand that you can laugh at something and simultaneously take it seriously (as Stephen Fry the English writer and actor has pointed out).

The irony of this particular review is that the father of the daughters who each choose a husband from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, is the one portrayed as out of touch and faintly racist - though he is not, as we disciver. He is just being French and bourgois.

And equally ironically, the film doesn't really caricature its subjects with any venom, but simply relays some of the stereotypical elements of difference. Hence the film's success in France, where over 5 million people have bought tickets to see it at time of writing. It is popular because it smarts but doesn't hurt.

Of course the film exploits the clash of cultures for its comedic currency. The middle aged parents are square and Catholic, and when we meet them they are pretending to be smiling at the wedding photographer's camera as they pose with three of their four daughters who have chosen a Jew, an Arab Muslim and the third, a Chinese guy, to wed simultaneously. But they grin and bear it and try to adjust, in the hope that their fourth daughter at least will marry a Catholic ... And she does. What she can't bring herself to tell them before they meet, is that the man is from the Ivory Coast, black as spades.

It's clearly designed to manipulate the audience, touching on those stereotypes for easy laughs. And that's what it does, deliver entetainment that with its well executed if predictable ending, reveals that even wealthy French families can find harmony in difference. Hollywood couldn't have done it better.

Not all critics share the narrower view. As another blogger critic (Canadian) writes: "Racist humour doesn't get better than this!"

Our Australian readers won't get to see it in cinemas, but our readers in the rest of the world are already seeing it (or will before year's end) but its not just about this film: my point is that reviewing films through the filter of today's political correctness (which may become tomorrow's joke) is a disservice to both the film and more importantly to the reader.

That is especially so with comedy. Humour is the most powerful healing agent known to man ... And to woman.

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