A couple of weeks ago, the Paramount Plus series The Good Fight name-dropped Selena Gomez.
The critically acclaimed spinoff of The Good Wife is known to be just as topical as its predecessor.
But in attempting to craft jokes about how to craft inoffensive jokes, the show stirred up the Selenator Hive.
Selena heard the outcry and echoed it: please, comedy writers, don’t joke about her kidney transplant. Instead, try being funnny.
Season 5, Episode 4 of The Good Fight actually began with a main character being tipped off about an FBI raid of her home.
However, after Christine Baranski and Gary Cole’s characters dealt with that crisis, the episode’s main story tackled self-aware comedy.
Across multiple scenes, various characters discussed offensive comedy, sanitized comedy, and how jokes can be crafted to amuse without offending.
This led to Marissa (played by Sarah Steele), Jay, (played by Nyambi Nyambi), and Jim ( played by Ifádansi Rashad) discussing offensive jokes.
Though we will provide full context for how Selena’s name came up, it began with a discussion of what topics are off-limits for jokes.
With the Selenator Hive abuzz, Selena shared her thoughts on how her life-saving kidney transplant worked its way into this discussion.
The supremely talented singer took to Twitter a couple of weeks after the episode aired to express herself.
"I am not sure how writing jokes about organ transplants for television shows has become a thing," Selena began.
"But sadly it has apparently," she remarked.
"I hope in the next writer’s room when one of these tasteless jokes are presented," Selena expressed.
She hopes that "it’s called out immediately and doesn’t make it on air."
Selena’s kidney transplant was a life-saving necessity, one made possible only by the generosity of her friend, Francia Raisa.
Selena has faced a chronic battle with Lupus, an autoimmune disorder in which her immune system targets her own organs.
She has had to undergo rounds of chemotherapy over the years, a brutal treatment.
Her kidney transplant is an understandably sensitive topic. And needless to say, she’s not the only one sensitive to this subject.
To offer the full context of the scene, as promised, take a look at these screenshots.
As you can see, these three characters are discussing what is totally out of bounds.
Parts of the conversation are humorous, but not every line is a joke.
They are jokingly passing around, among the three of them, "permits" to tell jokes on touchy topics.
"Is there anything we can’t do?" Jay asks.
"Necrophilia?" Jim asks, referring to the practice of having sexual relations with a corpse.
"Mmm, no," Marissa answers.
She suggests that "that could be funny." She’s not wrong.
Jay accurately suggests that "Autism" could be off-limits. Going to agree with him, there.
"Selena Gomez’s kidney transplant," Jim declares.
"Do you think we could get canceled for even joking about being canceled?" Marissa asks.
"Oh, yeah," Jay replies, as if quasi-predicting the backlash to the fictional conversation.
The actual punchline of the scene, or one of the punchlines, is a card.
The idea is that one might joke about teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Wisely, none of the characters actually go through with telling a joke about Greta.
There is an unfortunate tendency among some comedy writers to work in weirdly offensive jokes disguised as conversations.
However, we do have to acknowledge here that there was no joke about Selena’s transplant, only a mention of it.
Selena’s feelings are hers and she’s allowed to have them, but there was no real attempt to joke at her expense, right?
The actual secret to writing comedy that doesn’t belittle or mock any marginalized group is … literally just be funny.
There are a lot of comedians who don’t tell jokes predicated upon dehumanizing stereotypes or shock value.
Whether this scene of The Good Fight was in poor taste or a fair and realistic depiction … that’s more complicated.