When I was in second grade, I got teased so much that I would fake a sore throat every Monday so I didn’t have to go to the same art section as the kids who teased me. I did this until my mom caught on, and then I learned how to adapt in another way: I made fun of someone else. Then my bullies would bully that person and stop picking on me (as much). Of course the adult me realizes that this was a shitty way to protecting myself. Now, instead of picking on the funny-smelling girl in class, I watch reality TV stars fall apart, then I tune into one of my favorite shademasters (Funky Dineva and Kid Fury are standouts) to see how cleverly they will take these stars down.
There’s something primal in all of us that gets profound enjoyment in seeing someone taken down a peg. It allows us to forget our own problems and insecurities for a moment. Whether it’s a blog, podcast or a sketch comedy show like SNL, there is a large audience for making light of others.
There is a dark side to making light of people, however, as #BlackTwitter discovered yesterday. A notable Twitter Person (TP) ((c) Nene Leakes) had documents for an investigation into possible fraud related to her former employer shared with other Twitter People who she allegedly had run-ins with in the past. I’m not going to name any of the parties involved because I don’t know them or the whole story. Needless to say, it was ugly.
Sometimes I wonder what the late Dorian Corey would say about the recent resurgence in ‘shade’ outside of gay ball culture. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Corey was a legendary drag queen and performer that was profiled in Jennie Livingston’s ground-breaking and near perfect 1990 documentary, “Paris is Burning.” In the film, Corey famously laid out the history and origin of shade:
1. Reading came first.
2. Reading is the higher art form.
3. Shade comes from reading.
Reading is the act of verbally and cleverly taking someone down to size. If someone hair is unkempt, for example, you may read them by pointing this out in a humorous way (i.e. Your hair is so dry, when you comb it, it sounds like someone’s eating an apple). Shade on the other hand, is more covert (i.e. You must save a lot of time, since you don’t do your hair in the morning).
Not everyone will agree, but from my observation, there are some factors that separate shade and reading from out-and-out insults and bullying.
1) The object of the shade/read is someone from your ingroup. Corey points out that for gay and transgender people of color, reading happens within their group. If someone from the outside insulted them about their sexual identity,it wouldn’t be a read it would be harassing. If we are the same thing, we can’t jones on each other about that, so we have to get specific.
2) The object of shade should be something specific and superficial. Back to the hair example, the condition of ones hair can be changed to a certain extent, which is why this is a appropriate topic for reading. Even if someone were to cut deeper, by talking about your face or body, they aren’t talking about who you are, just how you look. It’s hurtful, yes, but it’s still fair game for reading and shade.
3) The target is someone in the public forum. Much like satire, jabs at people in the public eye are generally agreed to be part of the territory.
The Twitter fallout supposedly started because this particular TP had said some things about another TP in a podcast. The comments in question didn’t meet any of the aforementioned criteria for shade: It wasn’t ingroup (they were not a part of the same community), the insults were general and deep (e.g. The TP in question said that the person was broke, unemployed and not smart enough to pass the bar) and the person was not in the public sphere, unless having more than 1,000 Twitter followers make you a public entity. For my own sake, I sure hope it doesn’t.
Shade, reading, jonesing, The Dozens, all of these are examples of how insult can be elevated to an art form. It is important to remember, however, that even if the insult is artful, it is still an insult, which carries all the regular consequences and repercussions of a plain ol’ diss.
Talk to me in the comments section or on Facebook/Twitter using the hashtag #ShadeRules: Do you agree with my shade rules? Why or why not? Has shade gone too far?
The post Shade, Read or Bullying? Three Rules to Follow appeared first on Freedom Reeves.