On graph jokes

In an episode of David Mitchell's Soapbox, he discusses innuendo.  (I promise this will get back around to the point.)  Here's the video:

In case you, for some reason, don't want to watch a British dude pontificate for two and a half minutes, here's the point he makes that I intend to hang my thesis on:  "Innuendo is only really pleasing when not everyone gets it. [...] It stops being funny when there's no one left outside the joke."

He goes on to discuss the history of innuendo in recent decades -- the fact that in the sixties and seventies, sitcoms were "filled with innuendo -- because sex had only recently become something you could allude to, and so the place between saying something innocent and saying something rude was fraught with tension, ambiguity, and, so, humour. [sic]"

Now, here's my thesis: I think we're seeing much the same sort of thing going on today with science, and I think the proliferation of graph jokes on the internet is a sign of that.

I think we're at a point, culturally, where the idea that most things can be sensibly expressed in chart form is still controversial.  Not in a media/election way, not the kind of controversy people have heated arguments about, but in the sense that a lot of people still have an intuitive, ingrained sense that there's something a little bit wrong with bringing certain topics into the realm of clear, unambiguous expression, like with flow charts or with graphs.

It's funny, in the same way innuendo was funny in the aforementioned sixties, because there are people who are on board with the idea that it's okay to talk about pretty much anything in a logical or scientific sense, and that it doesn't diminish the meaningfulness or personalness of the thing being talked about.

Those people, when they see something charted unexpectedly, get a kick out of it, because it's exciting to see the transgression of a social norm that supports your beliefs.  In the same way, innuendo was funny because it was exciting to see other people who also hold the implied belief that it is, basically, okay to talk about sex.

The reason I bring this up in the context of that David Mitchell video is, I think this is all going to stop being funny eventually, and I think that's really pretty awesome.  Because if he's right, and if my analogy is valid, then the hilariousness of charts at the moment is a strong indicator that, within the next few decades, it's going to become culturally normal and uncontroversial to make a point of being accurate and clear, no matter what you're talking about.

The charts are just one area I see this in.  There's also the present day disconnect in art, the expectation that it's okay, expected, and even right to be dishonest or inaccurate in music, poetry, or on TV shows and in movies.

Right now, just being totally honest about reality in a love song is enough to get a laugh:

But maybe this is an indication that, in twenty or forty years, it'll be considered normal throughout mainstream culture to admit that, if you weren't with your current partner, you might not necessarily be miserable and alone.  Even if it's in a song.

(incredibly creepy counterexample.)

In summary:  graph jokes are awesome, but I think they're going to get old, because I'm optimistic about the future of rational discourse in society.