But something that's struck me re-watching these films is that we, as a culture, have lost (wait...we haven't lost it. We've suppressed it. Crammed it into a little box and shoved it away in our closet) the ability to laugh at ourselves and each other. At this Brooks was/is a master. He freely and boldly satirizes everything we hold near and dear (things the culture now holds with a death-grip or uses as a weapon). He's the master at it because no one gets off scot-free. It's not mean spirited because he's poking all of humanity. Sort of a meta self-deprecation.
But this kind of comedy (at least to the extent/quality of Brooks) is dead. (Mel himself said this last year: source!) The last movie he directed was "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" in 1995. 23 years ago! There's no way any of these movies would be (allowed to be) made today, and I think it's because our society doesn't know how to laugh at itself anymore. We've lost the ability to laugh at each other. If that reveals nothing else, it at least reveals that it's a symptom of a disease. If laughter is the best medicine, it's obvious that our society has refused to take their pills. It's a sign of a lazy society that places a childish (not child-like) importance on seriousness. We've bought into the lie that seriousness is a virtue.
That's good. It's easy to be heavy: hard to be light. But because it takes effort to leap, it gives me a little hope that we can re-learn to laugh again in this way. It's easy to get bogged down and tangled up in the weeds of our serious society, but it takes a bit of effort to get ourselves untangled. If we look a little silly when we attempt it, and even fall down, for the love of God, let's at least let that be the beginning point of being able to laugh at ourselves in the attempt.G.K. Chesterton wrote:Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good TIMES leading article than a good joke in PUNCH. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.
In that article I linked to above Brooks says this: "Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks. It's the lecherous little elf whispering in the king's ear, telling the truth about human behaviour."
Now he doesn't tell us anything we don't already know, (he even echoes Chesterton, walking a thin line is harder than a broad street) but that doesn't make it any less true. Comedy, really funny comedy, like really good fiction, tells the truth about human behavior. Seen in that light, it's no wonder movies like his aren't made anymore. Our society can't handle comedy because it can't handle the truth!
Now for the Christian, two things are evident: 1) The Gospel is the answer/solution to everything; and 2) truth telling is part of the job description. This leads me to believe that the people who should be laughing at themselves the most ought to be the church. (Is it any wonder that the Babylon Bee has made such a splash?) If we are held firm in the hands of Jesus, we have the freedom to be laughing our heads off. We have the freedom to be zany and playful, and to invite everyone to get in on the joke. The answer to a broken world cannot omit humor. Broken people need humor. And the sooner the church catches on to this, and not as a fad, but as a fish to water, the brighter the truth will shine.