I suspect James McGrath is probably right when he says, regarding Chick-fil-A: “Satire is likely to be a more effective weapon in the controversy … than protests and boycotts.”
That calls to mind an exchange from Robert Wiede’s Directors Guild interview with Mel Brooks:
Q: On the surface, The Producers is simply good, silly fun. But do you take personal pleasure in the subversive element of making fun of Nazis? There are Nazi jokes in many of your movies.
A: Yeah. If you can make them seem foolish and silly, then you’ve won. But if you get on a soapbox and go head to head with Herr Hitler and Goebbels, you’re not going to win. They’re good at that [stuff]. But they’re not good at comedy.
It isn’t just The Producers, Brooks is always making fun of Nazis — in everything from Blazing Saddles to his bittersweet remake of To Be Or Not To Be.
But Brooks applies the same approach to other targets as well, because the same principle that holds for superlatively evil tyrants also holds for incomparably lesser bullies and bigots, prudes and scolds, Comstocks and corporate overlords. None of them is any good at comedy. “If you can make them seem foolish and silly, then you’ve won.”
And the good news in all such cases is that you don’t need to do much to “make them seem foolish and silly.” Since they are foolish and silly, sometimes all you really need to do is point and laugh.
As the flustercluck swept through the news this week, Conan O’Brien introduced us to Chaz the Intolerant Chick-fil-A Chicken:
This is not what “winning” looks like for Chick-fil-A. And it’s really not good news for the chain that Chaz was popular enough that he’s becoming a recurring character with his own catchphrase: “Eat up you Godless Sodomites!”
Meanwhile, at Funny or Die, we find the great John Goodman as Col. Sanders — icon of the rival Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I love gay people, always,” Goodman/Sanders says. “And we’re open on Sundays.”
Kristie Stremel chimes in with the beginnings of a song.
People are laughing.
People are laughing and Chick-fil-A cannot laugh with them because they are laughing at Chick-fil-A. The joke has taken hold and they are the punchline.
And people are likely to be telling this joke for a long time — or at least until the company gives them a reason to stop.