Wednesday, May 25, 2011

That's so....

The adorable Lauren Potter from Glee wants us to stop saying "that's retarded".

I couldn't agree more. It's sad that so many of the generic put-downs in the English language pick on groups of people who are already either in a minority and/or are stigmatised in some way. "That's gay" became popular about 15 years ago, and it's only until quite recently that people have started arguing that it shouldn't be used. It's a case of re-reclaiming the word gay to make it mean something bad. Even when I saw it being re-re-reclaimed (my university's LGBT group used to have a poster which said "Homphobia is gay" - kind of an own goal), it felt wrong. I've lost count of the number of arguments I've had about "that's gay". However, that's not to say that I'm not above similar criticism. I've unthinkingly described things as "lame" before - not really considering that the term does exactly as the same for people who use wheelchairs or crutches to get around.

Another term "that's so old", to mean "boring", is also problematic, particularly in our youth-obsessed culture. While "old" doesn't necessary mean "old people", there's an association with getting old as being bad.

One problem though, is if we cut out all of these terms, how do we express disapproval? Is it OK to say "that's stupid" because being stupid isn't a trait you're born with, but due to intellectual laziness, lack of education etc? Or could we even argue that "that's stupid" discriminates against people who haven't been lucky enough to have a good education, or because their brains don't work as fast as other people?

I suggest a new put-down - "that's so Ayn Rand". She won't mind because she's dead. Rand was the strange writer of a number of awful books about greedy rich people who got their own way. Her most famous book Atlas Shrugged was about all the rich and talented people going off in a sulk to start their own society because the state wouldn't let them do what they wanted. It reminds me of those famous dolts like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Paul Daniels who claim that they'll leave the UK if Labour get in. I always want to say "Please go, I'll help you back your bags. You have entertained us long enough." Rand invented her own amoral philosophy which was based upon being selfish.

Rand only achieved cult status in the 1950s and 1960s, surrounding herself with a small number of fanatics, but by the 1980s Atlas Shrugged was the second most influential book in America (after the Bible, naturally) and helped to influence the increasingly right-wing direction that America has gone in.

So I think it would be fitting if we decided to label bad things as Ayn Rand.

1 comment:

Silver said...

Just checking, have you read Atlas Shrugged?