Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mac King's Transphobic Joke

Every year, my family goes to Las Vegas because it's my father's favorite city. I suffer through the rampant sexual objectification, swearing I'm going to write a ranty blog post and never getting to it. One highlight of the trip, though, is the Mac King Comedy Magic Show. Though there are a few innuendo-laden jokes, the show is very family-friendly and enjoyable--even if it's easy to figure out how the tricks might work. One point that always makes me uncomfortable, though, is a throwaway line that uses the idea of being transgender as a joke in itself.

This part of the magic act involves a fishing pole. As Mac King assembles it, he says something like that it was his grandfather's, and Mac King's grandfather took Mac King's father fishing when the father was a little boy, and the father took Mac King fishing "when I was a little girl..." He moves on with the trick without pausing. The "little girl" thing is just a throwaway line used for a bit of humor. The humor comes from the incongruity from what is obviously a man talking about being a girl, and the concept is presented as absurd. It's a small part of the show, but it always detracts from my enjoyment of the act.

This time I saw the show, however, serendipity had him give the line slightly differently, and it was better as a result. He changed the act a bit to have a (brave) child volunteer from the audience, who he could scare with a guy in a bear suit, and he kept the kid onstage for the fishing trick. This particular kid was an androgynous 9-year-old boy named Aubrey. Aubrey wore purple pants, had long hair, and had a limp wrist, so Mac King made the assumption he was a girl.

Mac King set up his joke by asking Aubrey if 'her' grandfather took 'her' fishing "when you were a little girl". He held his hand down to indicate a height half Aubrey's current size.

Aubrey: "I'm a guy."

Mac King: (getting fishing rod) "What?"
Aubrey: "I'm a guy."

Mac King then gave a friendly apology, and delivered the line like "well, my grandfather took me fishing when I was a little girl..." It's the same joke, but because of the way he changed it to adapt to the situation, it didn't come off in the same way. And that's refreshing.


valeriekeefe said...

I dunno I kinda like it... it's definitely dependent on exploiting an audience's ingrained cissexism, but it's not as though it's cissexist in and of itself.

This happens a lot. A joke involving a trans person can be a joke about the cissexism of the other subject(s) for example, in series three of the IT crowd, Douglas can't get over his cissexism and it costs him his ideal straight-girl-with-butch-tastes. As a beer-drinking girl who loves ridiculous action movies at times, I don't think that really degendered her. Nor do I think her being in a fight scene did either... Anyway, off topic of Mac King, but I wanted a more dicey example.

Anonymous said...

I felt weird about the IT crowd thing as it was a bit unnecessary. But it did help me come out last week :)