Pete Buttigieg on 'Joker' Controversy: "It's a Cop-Out to Blame Pop Culture for Violence"

Pete Buttigieg is seen arriving at Telemundo Center on May 20, 2019 - Getty-H 2019
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During his interview on 'Good Luck America With Peter Hamby,' the South Bend mayor also spoke about how consumers get to debate with themselves about whether or not they will turn off comedy that feels harmful or hateful.

South Bend mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg commented on the recent controversies surrounding comedy, political correctness and fictionalized violence during an interview on Good Luck America With Peter Hamby that aired on Snapchat.

First, Buttigieg was asked for his thoughts on how director Todd Phillips — who made a name for himself with The Hangover — said he's moving away from making comedies because everyone gets "triggered" and "offended" in a culture that often feels too politically correct. The mayor replied, "Two things are true. One is that part of how comedy works is it challenges our conventions, it challenges our sensitivities, and that's a part of what it can contribute. Another thing that's also true is hurtful things and hateful things often come at us in the form of humor, and [we] just have to learn how to handle both of those things."

Buttigieg then focused on the choice that consumers have when they try out controversial content. "When a piece of art that is out there to challenge conventions, does something that's really harmful, then I think it's time to turn it off. But we get to have those debates.”

Pressed about the violence in Phillips' latest film Joker, which has received strong reactions from those worried about the real world acts of terror it may encourage, Buttigieg said, “I think it's a cop-out to blame pop culture for violence.... What I will say is that the culture we produce, reflects us. And if you see a dark dystopian film doing well, it might be because the American people are feeling unsettled and bothered and maybe dark in a time like this."

Hamby also raised the issue of how there's a "subgenre of comedy" with comedians such as Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr who are, he says, deliberately trying to be provocative in the culture of political correctness. He referenced the way Chappelle deliberately made fun of transgender people, and asked Buttigieg if that sort of comedy should simply be "turned off," or if the comedian's Netflix deal should be pulled. The South Bend mayor answered, "I haven't seen the special, but I will say that there comes a point where you're just straight up hurting people, I don't know what goal you're hoping to achieve. As much as there has been a lot of political correctness, there's also this weird way in which it's become fashionable to attack political correctness that I think has become its own weird correctness out there."

He went on to say, "At the end of the day, I may be at risk of sounding simplistic, I'm just coming at this from the perspective of, like, helping and hurting. Is what we are doing every day, whether you're a politician or a comedian or an artist or a business person or whatever, are you doing more good than harm out there? And if you’re not, it’s time for some reflection and time for some adjustments.”

The whole interview can be viewed on Snapchat.