FX's new animated series Chozen premiered Monday night shrouded in manufactured controversy.
It was supposed to offend us: irreverent prison rape jokes mixed with a "weak take" on hip-hop homophobia sounds like a boycotter's wet dream. So why did I instantly forget what I'd watched just moments after turning the TV off? Because sometimes shows about gay, white, over-sharing, ex-con rappers aren't as edgy as they think they are. In fact, as far as our generation's concerned, nothing is.
To put things in perspective, we grew up in the age of South Park, the televised enfant terrible to end all enfants terribles that masterfully hunted down America's sacred cows and slaughtered them one by one. By the time we were 14, a TV comedy where the word "shit" was uttered 162 times in one episode was #NBD.
Shows have to whip out some real left-field material to get shock laughs these days. And despite Chozen creator Grant Derkenion's claim that he's not "trolling for outrage" or "looking to be controversial," I'm pretty sure he's lying. Why? Because little else about the show is funny: Chozen tackling a dude from behind in a jail shower and licking his cheek isn't a good joke on its own. Its humor lies in its perceived outlandishness.
Image Credit: Sneaker Freaker
But this is 2014. A comedy that tries for laughs by mining "uncharted" territory is basically doomed. That shit might have worked in 2002. But we grew up laughing at Peter Griffin beating his daughter, so the bar has been set pretty high (low?). Even Dave Chappelle couldn't hang with us, walking away from a multi-million dollar TV contract partly because he was "uncomfortable" with a laugh he got. You'd have to do something soul-crushingly horrific to make our desensitized asses that uncomfortable.
So whether it's empirically true or not, I feel safe saying most of humor's envelopes have been pushed, and few topics are taboo. Whatever you're thinking of right now, odds are it's been done. Probably by South Park.
In comparison, Chozen feels like the mediocre "everything but the kitchen sink" culmination of the adult cartoons that have grown increasingly popular in the past decade. It's like the showrunners threw a bunch of seemingly contradictory character traits into a hat, pulled out three, and said, "Gay, white and rapper. Cool, let's make a show." If edgy comedy were that easy, we'd all have our own HBO specials. I'm grateful we do not.
In the meantime, grab your iPhones and start taking pictures because you may be witnessing the historic moment where the comedy world finally realizes we're beyond offense. Look at the evidence: Everything on "offensive" shows like South Park has been normalized, and new shows that try drawing laughs from the crude, the outlandish and the unexpected fail to spark any real uproar.
Either way, this particular gay white rapper is here to stay, meaning we get plenty more "smooth-ass penis" jokes in the coming weeks (pun intended). That's a cause I can definitely get behind (pun intended). And hopefully, shows like Chozen stop trying to shock us and focus instead on the elusive art of —gasp — actually writing funny jokes.
So far, I'm not impressed.