Tiktokers and problematising our laughter

Tik tok is a social platform where people post their 1 minute videos, mostly lip-syncing to a song, or a movie dialogue or many a times, random comedy tracks. Tik tok as a medium, is over populated by people across all classes. India has the largest number of tiktok users at present. It was important to talk about it, although tiktok seems to be my centre of discussion here, but it isn’t actually. Now for your information, I am not on tiktok, I made an account earlier, to see what actually happens in there, and it was mostly cringe as per my taste, which is again a result of a privileged social and intellectual class I belong to. But my objective of this article is to question the most obvious questions, we should be bothered about.

I watched a YouTube video the last night. An Indian youtuber named Chaudhary, was trying to justify his negative stance for the tiktokers. He calls himself a roaster, and finds it legitimate to speak ill about tik tok users. Now my point isn’t about how wrong it is to make fun about anyone’s business. No, not at all. We can have opinions and stances about what we see around us. It is absolutely fine to find something funny and laugh about it as well.

Therefore, I want to very consciously question the rationale behind our laughter for a certain video or act. Ask yourself, when you find a man who has done his hair and has put on some lipstick, lip-syncs to the song, ” main tandoori murgi hu yar gatkale saiya alcohol se”, in his tiktok video, what makes you laugh? Is it because you find the song funny as it is highly misogynist, or is it because you find a man who has put on make up and is lip syncing to a ‘women’s song’ as FUNNY ?

You should not be apologetic for the taste you have garnered, taste for fashion,music or any art form. But we definitely need to rethink and deconstruct our inner selves by problematising the underlying reasons that dictate our every day laughters.

When we watch a woman weighing supposedly 80 kilograms, trying to do a belly dance and failing miserably because she absolutely doesn’t know the art form, why do we laugh at her? We don’t laugh at her because she hasn’t learnt belly dancing at all, in her entire life, but we laugh at her body shape, her ‘big size’. ( Laughing at someone who is a learner, is also not very wise though)

Similarly, when we see a couple of young men, who seemingly belong to a down trodden society, mostly a slum, dancing to the song, ”khalnayak hu main” or “Dus bahane karke le gai dil” ; we laugh until our stomach pains. But again ask yourself, why is this laughter? Because of his class position in the society? Or was he not lip syncing properly?

The aforementioned youtuber; he calls himself a social influencer as well, and I am really sad that more than 6 lakh people have subscribed to his channel. My article is not about him per say, but actually the points he makes in his videos, which I find being spoken rampantly around us. He calls people from humble backgrounds, who make videos on tiktok, as ‘slum dwellers’, and those who follow those tiktokers, are sons of cobblers and rickshaw pullers. He even goes on to call “chhakka”, a very derogatory term which is popularly used to demean transgenders in our society, to men who dance in women’s songs, who put make up on their face or who lip sync to women’s songs in tiktok. He even claims that ‘showing cleavage’ in tiktok videos, is an act of a slut. ( Why is slut used as an abusive term is another problematic story altogether)

I have no hate for him, he is inconsequential in my life. What I want to engage in, is the fact that his smart commodification of our problematic laughters, shall indulge into more such narratives, where people would believe it as a norm. He knows what makes people laugh, and he is banking on to them on purpose. We should recognise that laughing at a joke is funny and cute, but those jokes should not be homophobic, neither should they be the proprietors of misogyny and elitism. Unless we as a society reform ourselves, they shall continue to commodify our emotions, (problematic emotions especially), which makes the whole situation doubly jeopardized.

If anyone still thinks that pleasure is a personal thing and nobody gets to decide what one should be laughing about and what one shouldn’t, then I must tell that the Personal is Political. You are never isolated from the society, even when you are lying on your bed munching on popcorn and laughing at a tiktok video, solely because you are either homophobic, elitist, sexist,body shamer or all of it.

I am also not out of the whole patriarchal structure (nobody can get out of it), even though I understand such sensitive things now, like many others do as well, and shall understand them better as I grow, but I too remember being a really toxic girl when back in the school days, I used to make fun of a guy behind his back, who was supposedly less ‘masculine’ than the standard norm suggests. Now, I have made sure to sensitise myself, as much as I could, and I am still trying. A long way to go.

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