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Don’t cry over LeGrand meme, bruh


Beyoncé delivered quite the performance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards — there’s no doubt about that. But a reaction to the performance from former Rutgers University football player Eric LeGrand caused quite a controversy on social media. LeGrand, who is partially paralyzed from an injury during a kickoff game against Army in October of 2010, tweeted “Beyoncé got everyone like this when she performs Drunk in Love” with a meme of a picture of himself in the exact moment of his life-altering injury that read, “BRUHHH.”

As a writer on Mashable.com puts it, “So, to sum up: Beyoncé was so good, she paralyzed us all.”

As you can imagine, the meme received a mixed response on social media. Comments ranged from “WTF? I’m actually offended” to “HE made the joke ... so can we laugh?” to “You have to love @EricLeGrand52’s outlook on life. An inspiration to those looking to find positivity under tough circumstances.”

A few hours later, LeGrand tweeted ”With my last tweet you guys can see that I have a sense of humor with my injury gotta enjoy life and laugh I know that cracked me up lol.”

There is a culture, especially among our college-aged demographic, of a new sort of hyperawareness and sensitivity to issues of social justice — from racism to sexism to ableism and everything in between. And of course, so there should be. These issues are all still very much present in our society, and it has never been more important than it is now to address them seriously. 

But sometimes, genuine care and concern is lacking in conversations about justice and equality, and instead we become more worried about ourselves — am I being offensive? Is it ignorant of me to say that? Would it be wrong if I laughed at that joke?

So what happens now, when the joke about a guy being literally paralyzed by Beyoncé’s performance is made by that guy himself?

It’s really not anyone’s place to judge whether this joke is “offensive,” because none of us — whether we are also paralyzed or not — have had the same experiences as Eric LeGrand. He made a joke about himself. He’s not asking you to laugh, or not to laugh, and we’re pretty sure he’s not asking what your opinion is on whether you should be laughing or not. If anyone else made this meme, of course it would be offensive, because it’s not their experience to share in any way — through humor or otherwise. 

Yes, LeGrand’s joke is off-putting, and any decent person should have a hard time laughing whenever people are this seriously hurt. What used to be harmless, slapstick humor has somehow now become increasingly alarming on TV shows like Tosh.0, with audiences of millions laughing at videos of people getting seriously injured. People are getting bored. There’s no shock value anymore, and our entertainment is just becoming wilder and more inappropriate in a desperate attempt to keep that edge.

Whether or not you think LeGrand’s tweet was giving us some kind of permission to laugh at the joke, the question is: Why are we even looking for that permission in the first place? Just because he can find humor in his personal situation doesn’t mean we can or should. 

Frankly, we don’t really find the meme funny — it’s a pretty specific type of humor that only LeGrand, as the creator and subject of the meme, could really get. But we shouldn’t be dissecting memes like this just to determine whether or not it would be considered socially acceptable to laugh. It shouldn’t be about our own sense of self-awareness — that’s a superficial, narcissistic and self-centered viewpoint. Instead, we should think about what our sense of humor, and what we actually find funny, really says about us.

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