There is no classic piece of art or cinema exempt from cancellation by the woke mob. In fact, it is our most beloved pieces of culture that ideologues often target and this is the case with Elf. According to the Business Insider, Will Ferrell's Christmas classic is actually baffling and "offensive" to cognitively disabled adults.
Esme Mazzeo writes, "I couldn't sit through Elf for more than 10 minutes without feeling offended. After forcing myself to sit through the whole film, I'm even more confident that purposefully or not, Elf makes fun of cognitively disabled adults through Buddy."
Mazzeo supposes that Buddy is cognitively impaired, which explains his many gaffes and faux pas throughout the film. However, Elf never explicitly states that Buddy is cognitively impaired. The only evidence of his supposed disability comes from his biological father insulting him and the fact that the other Elves refer to him as "special."
For the culturally uninitiated, Elf stars Will Ferrell, a human who accidentally crawled in Santa Claus' bag as a baby and wound up in the North Pole. He is then raised as an Elf, despite being human, leading to all sorts of hijinks.
Eventually, Buddy decides to find his real family and ventures out to the unfamiliar human world of New York City. In film, this is called a "fish out of water" trope, highlighting a character who must adjust to something entirely foreign. Obviously, this is comedic as Buddy's entire persona is that of an Elf. He is silly, childlike, kind-hearted and naïve. To Mazzeo, however, Buddy's behaviour is direct ridicule to cognitively impaired people.
"Buddy eating cotton balls, running toward moving taxi cabs, and even exposing a department store Santa as fake doesn't inspire me to laugh. Instead, these moments made me wish he had a real support system in his life," she writes.
Mazzeo also notes, "I'm not trying to destroy a modern Christmas classic, but as a physically disabled woman who spent part of my childhood with cognitively disabled kids and adults, Elf offends me."
According to Mazzeo, who feels she has a firm grasp of what is permitted to be funny, Elf could have been comedic if Will Ferrell was replaced by an actor with cognitive disabilities. "Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to joke about disability. You just have to let disabled people know that they're in on the joke, too. The easiest way to do that is to cast disabled actors in disabled roles."
In other words, if Buddy the Elf were portrayed by a cognitively impaired actor, having him eat cotton balls and run towards oncoming traffic would be funny and not offensive. However, given that we live in the time of victimhood Olympics, I would like to check Mazzeo's own offensive presupposition.
The notion that Buddy the Elf is cognitively impaired and would thus eat cotton balls and run toward traffic is within itself, recognizing a caricature of cognitively impaired people within a story that does not truly feature one. In other words, if you think of disabled people when looking at Buddy the Elf, you may be applying an offensive stereotype to a character who was clearly not written to be disabled.
Mazzeo may be applying mal intent where this is none, as one Twitter user writes, "We have a son with autism. My wife worked her professional career with kids with special needs. We watch Elf every year, it's hilarious, and we don't find it offensive."
In reality, Buddy the Elf does all these silly things because he was raised in a magical fictional land where Elves do things we would find silly. Movies like Elf have become classics for so many families because they do not take themselves seriously and are meant to escape our politicized reality. Mazzeo believes the writer should have "truly committed to empowering Buddy" and that "it would have been a rare and important gesture of support toward the disabled community. Instead, Elf falls back on tired tropes for laughs," she writes.
It is crucial not to ridicule others for their disabilities, as Mazzeo herself notes. However, in the age of cancel culture, it would seem as though some in society are bullish on finding oppression in every single piece of cinema and culture. Meanwhile, if what is arguably the most beloved and innocuous Christmas classics has found itself outside the Overton Window, I have very little hope for common sense in 2022.