It’s Thursday, but this is still a Write Anything Wednesday Post. Today, I would like to talk about some disagreements I have with comedian Bill Maher.
Let it be known that for the most part, I enjoy listening to Bill Maher. While I don’t agree with him all the time and I don’t find all of his jokes funny (it would be pretty boring if I did), I agree with him much of the time. And I like the way he speaks (in a structural sense).
However, there have been two things that have bothered me about him over the years. First I have never liked his speech whenever he broached the topic of overweight people. Secondly, I am concerned with him being pretty forceful with his view on religions.
And this year, I have to add a third gripe: The way in which he addresses Millennials. There is an angle here.
1. I Don’t Like How Bill Maher Addresses Overweight People.
If you watch Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO or have seen Politically Incorrect, you may have a basic understanding of how Maher views fat people. In short, he criticizes people for living unhealthy lifestyles and for the way they look.
Before, I shared a clip of Maher lampooning local newscasts as part of my series on Things I Don’t Like About Television. Here is the clip again:
Overall, I felt that the clip was funny. But the discussion of course veered toward reports on obesity. As many of Americans know, these types of reports have images of overweight people and those images are cut off from the neck up.
Those images are basically dehumanizing and repetitive. But that’s not the angle Maher took. Of course it wasn’t. He used it as a jump off point to tell a few fat jokes.
In another episode, Maher remarked on the appearance of an anorexic woman. “But she looks great.” Ah … so there it is.
So when you look at it, many of the criticisms and hate directed at fat people is based on appearance.
For example, Maher will address New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Yes, the man is heavyset but that is the basis of all of Maher’s jokes aimed at Christie. Sure, as a comedian, that would be impossible to ignore. Well, it’s impossible for anyone to ignore, but that is low-hanging fruit.
Look at how the Nightly Show handled Christie’s entrance into the presidential race on June 30, 2015. Now, there were some mild fat jokes there, but those were not the featured jokes. There was a greater focus on Christie’s harshness against his political opponents, i.e., his bully mentality.
The point is you don’t need to harp on people’s weight for easy comedy. You can’t ignore it, but lingering on the subject past a certain point is tantamount to bullying.
It is bullying, because it is mean-spirited. You don’t think so? Consider other things Maher has said.
In at least one episode, Maher said that fat people were responsible for increasing healthcare costs. That’s an often-repeated talking point by people who hate fat people, and it is easily debunked. Ask professionals in the medical field, and they can give you a list of other causes for the increase of healthcare costs, including the purchase of new equipment, high administrative costs, and new drugs.
I think some people are alluding to emergency-room visits and chronic illnesses. Yes, you will find overweight people in emergency rooms due to chronic illnesses, but not every person with heart disease is overweight or obese.
On top of that, there are many people who are uninsured and underinsured. They visit emergency rooms, too. Many of those visits aren’t paid for because many people simply can’t afford it. They might not even be able to afford premiums.
Now, this is not to excuse the general laziness that keeps people from losing weight or the obesity epidemic. Excess weight is unhealthy and, again, it does lead to chronic illnesses and other problems. It reduces the quality of life for many people.
But again, when overweight people are picked on and constantly mocked, that behavior is unattractive. It’s not easy being fat or losing the weight and mocking a person for being fat does little if anything to spur people to improve themselves.
Don’t give me the line that it’s about comedy. It’s more than that. (And this is an issue that deserves its own post.)
2. Bill Maher Doesn’t Just Attack Religions but Anyone Who Follows Them.
Maher has never gone a month without telling his viewers how much he hates religion. He is an atheist who is highly critical of Christianity, Islam, and other religions. Many of the criticisms aren’t without merit. But he largely relies on liberal snark when telling people who believe in “an imaginary friend” that they’re stupid and crazy. He calls religion a mental disorder.
One time, Maher was interviewing his friend Larry Miller, who had a life-threatening brain injury in April 2012. When on Real Time, Miller was talking about his experiences in the hospital. At one point, Miller said that he thought he saw a sign from God, but Maher wouldn’t allow Miller to finish his thought. Sure, that was Maher’s show, but he was being disrespectful.
Now, I get it. Maher will contend that we should maintain a separation of church and state. Religions should be examined and we should be free to ask important questions about religious teachings. Also, morality is not exclusive to the religious. On those points, I’m right there.
Additionally, there is an unfair stigma towards non-theists. Atheists are among the least-trusted group from country to country. In the United States, people trust Atheists less than anyone who follows a religion and some criminals. That’s ridiculous, because atheism does not preclude morality or the general concern of humankind. But surveys like these illustrate how people are threatened by any question on their faith.
That said religion should not be banned. A ban on religions would lead to more to a new type of tyranny. There should only be checks on religious practices that violate human rights and religion should be separate from government.
But does an atheist always need to counter a mention of God or religion? No, but Maher and some other atheists always will. There are times when it’s really unnecessary.
3. Maher Has Not Been Kind to Millennials (As of Late).
And finally, I have to address this topic since it is a hot-button issue for this election. As many of us know, young voters are known for their low turnout in elections, especially in midterm elections.
Where does Maher come in? Well, it starts with his condemnation of “Bernie of Bust.”
Now, this is not bad at all. In fact, it’s in line with his criticisms of self-proclaimed “liberals” attacking each other over petty issues. I agree with that and appreciate that another liberal would do that. This type of behavior needs to be called out. Liberals are what Maher calls “my tribe,” and that tribe needs to get its act together.
Attacking Millennials and Bernie Sanders’ supporters as a whole is non-starter. It speaks of ignorance and condescension. Those are but two things that are dragging down the Hillary Clinton campaign — despite her having the most unqualified opponent in the history of American politics.
So when people like Maher — who incidentally appeals to many young Americans — says something like this:
And leaves a Tweet like this (look at the hashtag):
It feels like a betrayal. During this election, so many other liberals have betrayed their viewers (and their better judgment) in essentially stumping for Hillary Clinton. Yes, that’s what this is all about.
I will concede that most of us are terrified of the prospect of a Trump presidency. I don’t want to see one because we are getting more and more of an idea of how he would do on economic, domestic, and foreign policy and it’s disastrous. In particular are possible connections to Vladimir Putin. Trump may act like a stooge for Putin in order to get lucrative deals and we don’t need our president being controlled by another country’s leader.
But these concerns do not excuse Maher and others from dumping on young voters. Younger voters have their reasons for viewing Hillary Clinton the way they do and when they are dumped on, it harkens back to her and her obvious disdain of younger voters. That is a problem and one that I want to address this week.
In the meantime, I wish Maher would realize that he is essentially part of the problem in this regard.
Now, you might think that this is another case of a liberal attacking another liberal. But fully I plan to attack other problems I see across the political spectrum. These are a few issues I have on the liberal side and I believe I have addressed them respectfully.
I also realized that anyone who reads this might not like what I have to say. Of course, they are welcome to disagree and the comments section is always open.