Fly on the Wall—Entertainment’s Spectrum

A Realm of Cultural Problem Solving

Cultural problem-solving (CPS) is all around us: it’s where entertainment explores a dicey topic in an approachable way.  CPS is in movies, where the lustrous term verisimilitude explains the way given scripts and settings convey a sense of reality.  CPS occurs anywhere a person performs for an audience who in some ways relate to the goings-on onstage.

Even in fantasy films, unreality feels right somehow because a given situation transposes onto normal circumstances by way of metaphor.  This projective process, whereby broad swaths of reality are translatable between people and situations, manifests within many forms of entertainment.  Never had a real magic wand?  Well, how about wishing you could solve a challenge or overcome a shortcoming.  Fiction is the royal road by which unconscious desires are addressed.  In sports, for instance, a national sense of destiny and meaning can be pinpointed on a given hockey team; like the magic wand, it’s not the team itself that matters so much as the meaning it gathers.  And in comedy, where each chuckle and punchline twists, just enough, normal life into a more palatable morsel, crucial understandings can be reached.  But to get there we have to admit that some of our assumptions may be faulty; that’s where a social science education pays certain dividends.

CBC’s stand-up comedy show Laugh Out Loud gives glimpses into how Canadian society addresses, through humour, nominal topics of the day.  Commenting on being remarried to a portly, short, and bald fellow, standup comedian Lianne Mauladun provides some adroit clarity on social truths that in normal conversation might be unspeakable: “His body’s exactly what I wanted, because he won’t leave me.”  Her new husband is also a Quebecois man: “he’s exactly what every woman wants in a man: a language barrier.”   Also, “he’s an engineer so, you know, he’s in the spectrum.  But I don’t tell him that to his face because he doesn’t like direct eye contact.” Guffaws to the ceiling, but what are we really laughing at?  The more anal among us would, for lack of a better word, here get their politically correct bums in a bundle wondering about who might be quietly offended at this joke.  Meanwhile, we erudite social science majors ought to pull up our academic britches and realize that when the broadest of generalizations are possible in comedy that suggests that maybe, just maybe, such easy performative answers are apropro because they are true.  Vaguely unsettling, but true just the same.  For such truths to apply beyond the bounds of one person; that is, for them to be entertaining in the minds of an audience, they must be generalizable.  They must speak to larger, societal, realities.  CPS strikes again, proving that laughter is the best medicine – because it relieves unspoken anxieties.

Mauladin, L.  (2024).  Laugh Out Loud With Ali Hassan.  CBC Radio.  Retrieved from