Just Because It Uses the “F” Word Doesn’t Mean It’s Funny

If you haven’t heard about the book Go the F–K to Sleep, allow me . . .

It’s a parody of sorts that was written to give voice to the inner monolgue some parents report experiencing during the throes of sleep deprivation–and also, probably, to make its author and the publisher quite a bit of money.

I suppose before I hop up on my soapbox, I should admit that I am familiar with the “f” word, I have used the “f” word; and despite being a huge fan of the English language, I believe that there are times when no other word will do.  There, that’s out of the way.

I am also a huge fan of parody.  Goodnight, Goon–a clever parody of the sweetly sappy Goodnight, Moon–is a huge hit in our house, with both those under and over four feet tall.  My husband and I have been fans of SNL from the time it was called Saturday Night Live.

However, this book is simply not funny.  And it’s not not funny because it uses the “F” word or because the parody is less-than-clever.  It’s not funny because it does precisely what, as a parent and a teacher, I ask my students NOT to do–and that is to give voice to every thought–errant, irreverant, or otherwise–that goes through their heads. 

Many parents report identifying with and laughing at this book because the sleep they lost caring for their children was colossal if not debilitating, and they remember having the titular thought expressed here.  They say they feel better after reading this book because now they know they were not alone.

Now they know? 

Sleep deprivation is synonymous with parenthood; and sleep deprivation does all sorts of things to body and mind.  This is not news of the day.  And for that reason alone it doesn’t need to appear in 36-point font.

But the more important reason is that, honestly, not every thought a person has needs to be memorialized.  How many times have you had a thought–about the person in front of you in traffic, a co-worker, the weather–that was less than savory?  Thoughts that don’t even deserve to be articulated because they’re either unkind or inappropriate don’t deserve space in print nor do they deserve the kind of attention this book is garnering. 

And for the record, no, I’m not jealous that I didn’t think of this book first.  Though I know the “f” word and have now admitted for all the world to see that I use it, I do not use it in front of my children–ever–and I am very unsettled at seeing it alongside anything remotely related to children (including parodies that are obviously meant for adults). 

Herman Melville wrote, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”  The author may have succeeded in imitation–of children’s bedtime stories, of thoughts going through the minds of exhausted parents–but at what cost?  Humor is indeed subjective–no argument there.  But for those laughing at Go the F**K to Sleep, I won’t be able to join you because I would rather fail here in voicing my opinion than to succeed in the way this book has.

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6 thoughts on “Just Because It Uses the “F” Word Doesn’t Mean It’s Funny

  1. I have read it & I agree with you Samantha. When I first heard about this book & it being promoted as funny. Honestly, I was horrified. I didn’t think it was appropriate at all.
    My opinion!
    : Carey

  2. Well, to be the contrarian voice, I laughed my head off when I read this, and when I heard Sam Jackson’s version. But it’s a bit of a “one liner”. The fact that it exists is as funny to me as anything else.

    I think because it riffs so heavily on Goodnight Moon, it resonates with people even more. I was at a conference where a multimedia version of GM was being demoed, and half the audience (myself included) had memorized the entire book.

    I know I’ve thought those words myself numerous times “under my breath” and we live in a culture of parenting that doesn’t recognize its own absurdity. Every once in a while it needs a pue thrown in its face.

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