When I was a kid, “Mad Magazine” was the magazine you brought home from the drugstore if you wanted to annoy mom. It was just off-color enough, just gross enough, just funny enough, that a twelve-to-fourteen-year-old would find it irresistable. My favorite part of the magazine was always the margin doodles by Sergio Aragonés, whose tiny illustrations were somehow more satisfying that full-sized comic strips.
And then there was “Cracked.”
“Cracked” was the also-was, a publication that tried so hard to ape the style and format of “Mad” that it even poached various “Mad” staffers over the years. “Cracked” was never as good as “Mad,” but it was okay. It ran for almost 50 years before flagging circulation prompted it, briefly, to reinvent itself as something of a “lad” magazine.
In 2007 it printed its last issue and was reborn as a website that is now really nothing like either print formats. Instead, Cracked is run and written by what seems to be people in their 30s and 40s—people my age who likely read and enjoyed “Cracked” as teenagers but who have since outgrown it.
The result is a kind of news-of-the-Web infotainment site targeted to thirty-somethings and above that crowdsources funny photo captions and gives Sean Patrick “Seanbaby” Reiley something to do that isn’t carefully sculpting his mohawk or delivering atomic wedgies to hated nerds. At times, it is funny. At times, it is insightful (one of my favorite articles explains the ways that poverty affects one’s decision-making processes). Much of time time, however, it is simply obvious and tiresome.
In the spirit of the hit-pieces “Cracked” authors love to write about topics, figures, movements, and cultural trends with which they disagree, let us examine five uncomfortable truths behind the Cracked.com website:
1. Cracked.com is painfully leftist.
One of the lessons left-wing comedians never seem to grasp is that bitter hatred for your political opponents isn’t funny. Prominent once-comedians like Bill Maher and, increasingly, Jon Stewart demonstrate this for us on television every day. The more they devote their time to hating republicans, crafting ever-more-tasteless insults under the guise of “jokes,” the more bitter they become and the less funny their routines happen to be.
“Cracked” suffers from this problem, but it is not the website’s primary issue. Much more problematic for even the apolitical reader is the fact that Cracked frequently forgets to be funny in favor of political rock-throwing. In some articles this creeps in as gratuitous shots at Fox (a favorite target of left-wingers, who have never forgiven the right-leaning Fox for breaking their iron grip on network news) and offhand comments that show a hatred for conservative and even libertarian or constitutionalist views.
“10 Baffling Romance Tips From the Sociopaths at Fox News,” is the title of one article. “The 8 Greatest Wars Ever Fought By Fox News” is another. “Okay, so maybe Fox News and the Chinese government aren’t bastions of journalistic integrity,” writes Danny Gallagher in “7 Clearly Fake News Stories That Fooled The Mainstream Media.” Fox is such a frequent target of the site that it is its own topic category at “Cracked.” Why, they even found time to write an article defending Fox (sort of) from the very hatred their contributors heap on it.
Other notable left-wing articles at Cracked include the assertion, “Almost every republican is a white lower to middle class uneducated person from the south, meaning a majority of them range from stupid to dumbfuck stupid.” Another page at Cracked calls republicans “stubborn gun wielding anti-abortion homophobes,” while the article “The 5 Biggest Pricks in Congress” cites four Republicans and only one Democrat.
The Democrat “Cracked” did choose? Robert Byrd, widely reviled for having been a member of the KKK—whom the author then defends because Mr. Byrd apologized for his Klan affiliations “hundreds of times.”
Libertarians and those related to them fare no better on the pages of “Cracked.” “…[A]nyone who quotes Ayn Rand must be met with a frothing at the mouth hatred,” reads one article. “Anarcho-Communistic Libertarian Freedom is the primary philosophy of Edgar Friendly in Demolition Man. This is also the primary reason why killers were cryogenically un-frozen to kill him.”
What all these shots at non-Democrats and non-liberals have in common is that a liberal’s hatred for conservatives, his contempt for libertarians, and his knee-jerk disdain for things like guns or people like Ayn Rand just isn’t that funny. It isn’t particularly entertaining. It just puts people off.
2. Cracked.com presents a variety of propaganda as “truth”
Furthering a cultural war that paints men as the enemy and women as perpetual victims, “Cracked” has fired more than one salvo across the bow of anyone who is not a simpering, politically correct beta-male. Two of its worst examples are “5 Ways Modern Men are Trained to Hate Women” and “5 Uncomfortable Truths behind the Men’s Rights Movement.”
The former is propaganda because it projects onto all men an emotion—“hate”—that is neither reasonably construed from the cultural phenomena identified, nor reliably divined by the author (who we must presume is not psychic).
The latter is worse than propaganda because it slanders and smears the entire manosphere—that loose collection of men’s rights and men’s interests websites that includes Return of Kings—as fedora-wearing misogynist neckbeards who can’t get laid (the favorite insult of both feminists and even some members of this site when dismissing, without critical analysis, an opinion with which they disagree).
The first article purports to identify cultural conventions that institutionalize female victimhood—of course, casting men as the villains and accusing them all of “hate.” This is part and parcel of accusing all men of creating and sustaining “rape culture,” wherein “rape” is any act, word, deed, or thought that makes any woman, no matter how sensitive her feelings and no matter how appropriate or proportional her reaction, uncomfortable in any way for any reason in any context. It does so by wildly distorting a series of cultural facts, twisting perfectly ordinary and understandable human reactions into male hatred.
Do you, a single man, hope to find—or even fantasize about—an attractive woman, even a woman “out of your league,” for sex and a/or a relationship? Do you long for basic human contact and want to be loved? That, according to David Wong, is “hate,” and you feel entitled (and thus you will react with bitter violence when you are denied, you fedora-wearing neckbeard). Do you find fat, ugly people to be unattractive? Clearly society has taught you to hate and objectify women (you fat, ugly, fedora-wearing neckbeard).
That selective reiteration of random assholes’ commentary is precisely how J. F. Sargent justifies his or her laughable piece, “5 Uncomfortable Truths Behind the Men’s Rights Movement.” This column is nothing more than Sargent’s hatred for non-submissive males projected onto the closest group that makes Sargent uncomfortable.
From dishonestly linking Men’s Rights to the UCSB “shooting” (the perpetrator of those killings was part of a group devoted to hatred of “pick-up artists” and was not in any way a men’s rights activist) to proving Godwin’s law in the second paragraph (Sargent claims Men’s Rights activists are closer to “neo-Nazis” than civil rights activists), Sargent’s article is a laughable exercise in slander and misinformation that, sadly, seems typical of Cracked.com’s approach to sociopolitics.
3. Sometimes Cracked.com makes no sense.
A recent article, “5 Pieces of Advice Your Dad Gave You (That Are Total B.S.),” is a great example of a largely incomprehensible “Cracked” piece. If there is one thing contributors at “Cracked” like to do, it is call bullshit on various widely held notions. If slaying sacred cows were a competition, “Cracked” would hold several third-place trophies and a room full of participation ribbons for its barbecue sauce.
Among the advice that author John Cheese thinks are B.S. are, “Slow Down Before You Burn Yourself Out,” “You’ll Understand When You’re My Age,” and “You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To.” In some cases, Cheese declares these aphorisms “useless” because he ignores their context. In other cases, Dad is a hopeless moron for offering advice because Cheese insists, absurdly, on taking the words completely literally.
In all cases, the attempt to shoot down widely held (even overused) beliefs fails because Cheese is struggling to find problems where there really are none. There is nothing over which to be outraged—and no real B.S. to expose. The article is essentially meaningless. And it certainly isn’t funny.
4. Motherfucking lists.
Seemingly 99 out of every 100 articles on the site is a list, even if the list format is unnecessary to the material presented.
5. Cracked.com simply isn’t very funny
Granted, humor is subjective. I will also stipulate that there are certain articles on Cracked.com, both new and old, that are screamingly funny and have made me laugh out loud. Overall, though, Cracked really isn’t a comedy publication. It’s a sometimes humorous opinion site that has more in common with Web newsies like the Daily Dot or Buzzfeed (which are similarly liberal and anti-male).
Its video features are almost never funny (not the ones featuring Cracked.com staff, anyway). They come off more as smugly self-aware. One supposes all that green screen money goes somewhere.
There’s no law that says “Cracked” can’t be leftist AND funny. Jon Stewart certainly manages it—or he did before he started interviewing economists and political figures his audience has never heard of. When a comedian (or comedy outlet) starts believing it is itself more important than making people laugh, however, it runs the risk of becoming exactly what Jon Stewart is now: An occasionally offensive and not particularly incisive Democrat political pundit who hides behind, “I was only joking,” whenever anyone calls him on his assertions.
There will always be a market for smug. People love to read humor that is rooted in denigrating people and groups they don’t like. No well-trafficked site is immune to that. But the more “Cracked” becomes an echo chamber for only one side of the political aisle, the more that it ignores even the most rudimentary facts and logic in presenting its opinion—and the more it does both to the exclusion and detriment of actually making people laugh—the less relevant the site will become.
If it can’t make you laugh, if it can only misinform, it is not useful at all. If that is to be Cracked.com’s fate, it is destined to whither away much as its printed predecessor did.