Questions of fairies

Opera on the Avalon

A billboard promoting Opera on the Avalon’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

How sensitive is too sensitive? Is there a line drawn for when something is too trivial to be reasonably offended over? Does someone have the right to be offended on behalf of someone else?

Sometimes I ask myself these questions after hearing about a situation in which a group has been in some way targeted in a music video, a film, a statement made by a public figure, or an advertisement. When in doubt, I often try to spin the situation to make it apply as equally as I can to something I can relate to and then ask myself if it would offend me then.

This week, a production company in St. John’s removed a billboard shortly after putting it up following the response that it was distasteful and offensive to the gay population. The billboard, promoting A Midsummer Night’s Dream, advertised that the show was “Filled with more fairies than St. John’s on Pride Day.” ‘Fairies’, in this case, obviously implies gay men and is considered to be a derogatory term.

Like most terms, ‘fairy’ isn’t one I particularly care for and in most circumstances, would be annoyed if it were applied to me. But it’s also about context and intention.

I wasn’t personally offended by this but I do acknowledge that it has the potential to strengthen harmful stereotypes that are better off being diminished. So I understand the outrage and appreciate the company’s immediate response in removing the sign.

What did outrage me was the response to the situation from people who think they can dictate what should and shouldn’t offend people, and then demand they get a sense of humour while further demeaning and being dismissive of the entire LGBT population.

At whose expense is the joke made? If the situation were shifted to be about a racial minority, would it be acceptable still?

If I hear about a situation where people are offended, who am I to belittle them and tell them not to be? Who am I to believe I have a ‘right’ to laugh or be entertained at their expense and struggles?

It’s bothersome when people fail to emphasize with a situation or attempt to look at it from the perspective of the people potentially affected. If you don’t understand why something is offensive to someone, engage yourself to try to. If you still don’t get it, at the very least you can still learn from it and move on.

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