In which Chicken Sheets considers the bathos of the Citizen Jim stories, hoping that nobody will think the violence, misogyny, and various -phobias explored in the stories is anything but satire.
(If you just want to read the disclaimer, click here.)
The long-overdue notion of a disclaimer for the Citizen Jim stories came to mind as I was reading a profile of the comedian and actress Jenny Slate, who said at one point in the article:
“When Gabe Liedman, my comedy partner, and I first started doing comedy, we felt really free to use language that were slurs against women or Jews or gay people, because we felt that that empowered us…And now it’s like, I don’t want to hear that at all. We are in an emergency, and you can’t use that language because it’s all flammable.”
This gave me pause–and panic. She was right, and I had actually thought the same thing over the years regarding the Citizen Jim stories. It was even partly addressed in the introduction to An Awesome Collection of Great Tales:
“…you’re still not going to be able to sell this book to more than five or six people. Not with the violence, misogyny, and female objectification splattered all over it like menstrual blood in an office full of women.”
I let a distracted “Mmmm…” escape me to create the illusion that I was busy trying to write; what I was actually doing was thinking how unlikely it would be for any male character in a story to mention menstrual blood—even in a story by me, a female, with a stand-in of my male friend Jim standing in as my id and my super-ego while a stand-in of my ego tried to keep the peace.
Citizen Jim went on, continuing to be unlikely: “Or maybe you’ve never heard of the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements?”
Of course I had! I said, “Of course I have!”
More eye-rolling from me. It has to be said: he wasn’t really helping me out.
What might pass for a partial disclaimer is in that passage: “…with a stand-in of my male friend Jim standing in as my id and my super-ego while a stand-in of my ego tried to keep the peace.”
I realize, though, that it’s nowhere close to enough.
Regarding the Citizen Jim stories and any questionable content they contain, I always think, It’s just satire.
Then again, I reason, just because I consider it satire and categorize it as such, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be viewed as satire by everyone who reads it.
However. Whenever I think that, my next thought is usually, Who the hell is reading this crap, anyway?
At this point I usually start crying on the inside, and every once in a while the inside crying decides to take a walk and becomes outside crying. Sometimes I forget why, exactly, I’m crying but I soon come back to the origin of my crying and feel a little better because my therapist once said that as long as I know why I’m crying, it’s not a bad thing to cry, even if I find myself crying more than I think I should.
Not that she ever said it is a bad thing to cry under certain circumstances. But you know what I mean.
At this moment, I’m letting all the above sink deep into the crevices and folds of my brain and trying to imagine what the atmosphere inside the public arena will be like in fifty years, a hundred years.
Will we have doubled back and decided white men can do whatever they want to anyone they want without suffering any repercussions? Will we have doubled back and then flung ourselves even further into the past where women could only hope for careers as teachers, nurses, and nuns? Would the highest aspiration for a female be marrying, bearing children, and “making a home” without considering she could even have her own hopes and dreams, let alone that she should get on with the business of realizing them?
I only wonder about all of this because I also wonder what a person fifty or a hundred years from now would glean from the stories I’ve written about Citizen Jim and Chicken Sheets. I’m not even saying I know they’ll be read in fifty or a hundred years; in fact, I’m almost a hundred-percent—maybe a thousand-percent—sure they will have become lost to the mists of time by then, swallowed whole by the void that is gobbling up each one I write even now.
Will the present age be thought of one day as a dark time when white men almost lost their grip on the crank they’d been using to turn the world to their favor since the beginning of recorded history? It’s not difficult to imagine the horrors that might stand as proof on the flip side of: We learned lessons back then that we will never be doomed to repeat.
As that last thought entered my mind it made me nearly crap my pants.
Where was I?
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, entities, or locations is purely coincidental. Any seeming endorsement, sympathy for, or alignment with ideologies of an offensive nature is the result of my employing a literary device known as satire, and should not be used to destroy interest in or to incite vilification of the work I have been producing on a near-exclusive basis for the last twenty years.
If more warning is required, here is—off the top of my head and not in any way complete—a list of subjects satirized in the Citizen Jim Stories as of this writing:
- Representation in popular culture of
- religious mania
- toxic masculinity
- toxic ambition
- toxic friendship
- Exploring various degrees of toxicity within the constructs of:
- conservative ideologies
- liberal ideologies
- conspiracy theories
- traditional publishing
In closing, please note (since the need for so many other warnings about “triggers” appears, in this age, to be dire): this entire disclaimer might also be considered a satire of literary disclaimers (provided the reader’s idea of “literary” is loose to the point of being completely erroneous).
And finally: don’t ever say you were not warned.