Who’s Laughing Now?

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Kat Smith, Staff Writer

“Dude, I just failed that algebra test, I’m about to kill myself.”

This phrase has been uttered by many high schoolers and college students over the years. It has become a social norm to laugh and joke about killing yourself. We as a society have become desensitized to vulgarity and crude jokes.

I asked some students at GCHS what jokes they’ve heard around the school that really upset them. Marley Wilkinson, a GCHS sophomore said, I don’t know if it’s an actual joke, but it makes me really mad when people act like they’re shooting themselves when they’re doing something they don’t want to do. It’s not funny to act like you’re shooting yourself in the head or mouth.”

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For me, I hate to hear either cancer or rape jokes around the school. I don’t feel as if there’s a need for them because personally I have had cancer flowing through my family and the last thing I would like to hear is a student crack a joke about cancer. It can damage someone innocent who you wouldn’t even think would care”

— Kyle Davis

“Things like swastikas deeply offend me, as I had family that died in the Holocaust. Also, I’ve been told a lot of jokes about killing yourself, especially ones about hanging. Things like that bother me,” said Faith Turner, GCHS sophomore.

“I hate hearing jokes like, ‘Did you hear about the new Imo’s pizza? It cuts itself!’, ‘Emo grass cuts itself.’, and ‘Oh, I’m going to go kill myself’. Yes, humans joke about a lot of things that we know we shouldn’t be laughing at like 9/11, ISIS, and mental illnesses. All of these topics plus more are serious issues that are going on in this messed up world of ours and maybe people think that using those situations to make humor will make light hearted of the topic or just to make them look cool. We’ve all joked about something we shouldn’t have, I have, you have, and so have many others,” said sophomore Cierra Barrios-Ogle.

Some people have become so desensitized to cruel jokes that they believe they aren’t being offensive. A perfect example of this is when Donald Trump recently mocked a reporter who suffers from arthrogryposis. When confronted about such an offense, our president responded by saying that he was merely showing the reporter “groveling.” Is that true, or was he actually just being a bully? This kind of bullying, unfortunately, happens everywhere. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, 22% of students will be a victim of bullying.

“My mom passed from cancer and cancer is a terrible thing. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It took away a lot of loved ones so it’s a very sensitive topic. And so it makes my blood boil to the extreme when people say ‘That post gave me cancer’ or ‘Your face is giving me cancer, go away.’ This infuriates me, and I hate when people randomly say ‘Please go kill yourself’ as someone who was suicidal and dealing with depression. Some days it doesn’t take much to push someone over the edge. And so when people say that and joke about it, I get really angry and scared because what if someone actually does it, you know?” said GCHS junior, Courtney Long.

But why? What is so funny about mocking someone or their tragedy? SLU High School senior Dylan Hilton answered this question by saying this: “I honestly think that teenagers joke about it because they simply don’t care. Rather than have any feelings of sadness or sincerity, just laugh it off to be cool.”  

Junior Kyle Davis said jokes that bothered him range from jokes about cancer to jokes about sexual assault.

“I’ve heard a lot of jokes around the school that can upset some people in particular. For me, I hate to hear either cancer or rape jokes around the school. I don’t feel as if there’s a need for them because personally I have had cancer flowing through my family and the last thing I would like to hear is a student crack a joke about cancer. It can damage someone innocent who you wouldn’t even think would care,” said Davis.

Often times when a bystander calls out a bully for making fun of someone, the bully will shrug it off by saying “It was just a joke.” But what people (not just teenagers) need to realize is the things we say have effects. In America, suicide is the third leading cause of death, amongst young people,behind car crashes and heart disease. In high school, 14% of students have thought about suicide because of the bullying they have encountered with about 7% having actually tried to kill themselves. “Light-hearted” jokes have turned into a serious trigger for those who have suffered a terrible tragedy.

As someone who has been through more than most 16-year-olds have and who has been told several of these jokes, let me tell you that hearing “I’ve never told a rape joke that i didn’t think was funny” is demeaning. Hearing things like classmates making fun of the Collinsville boy who fell down the stairs or joking about killing themselves really does get under people’s skin. Everyone tells you to let it go because they’re just goofing around but no one thinks about the repercussions hearing those things has. Saying someone is “anorexically skinny” is not a compliment or a light hearted punch line.  Poet Blythe Baird wrote about her struggle with an eating disorder and how she fell in love with her illness in the poem called “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny.”  She talks about how if you have an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are called a success. So, yes, what you say matters. Even if you think you’re just joking to your friend, it can affect others too. No joke that pokes fun at someone else’s tragedy is funny.