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The value of artists is in being obstreperous, outlandish and obscene. Their business is to ignite a revolution of insight into the soul.
James Broughton
"I write about the eternal truth that bind together all of mankind; the whole world over. We eat. We shit. We fuck. We kill. And we die."

If masterpieces aren't angst-laden or head scratchers, then they're deliberately designed to piss off part of the population. Religious groups are the most frequent targets, though anyone and anything the author considers self-parodying, misguided, or outdated is fair game.

Cue the targets frothing at the mouth, and the critics delighting in this dead-on satire of whatever fallible aspect of society is under scrutiny.

The concept that True Art Is Offensive is mainly backed by the belief that if a work is jarringly unconventional enough to make a person question his/her basic beliefs or stimulate heated discussion between both sides of the fence, then it's true art capable of forcing us out of our predefined ways of thinking into a new perspective.

Of course, it's true that some genuinely great works have been produced in a time or society that was offended by the fact that it challenged its belief system. However, there is a difference between using shocking imagery to make a point about the "shocking" factor and using shocking imagery just because one can. Over-emphasis on this aspect of art can also lead to some works being praised as being "challenging", "edgy" or "confrontational" when on closer (or even basic but not pretentious) examination they are, in fact, anything but.

The counter to this trope is the much less supportable assumption that if art isn't offensive it isn't really art. This form of the trope is often trotted out to belittle and mock works of art that offend hip, trendy characters by not being edgy or dark enough for their rarefied sensibilities. In reality, the quality of a work of art has little to nothing to do with the intent behind it, but viewers are more likely to notice the effects of Sturgeon's Law when they don't agree with the intent.

When art is 'offensive' not to tastes and sensibilities, but the Evil Political Establishment, then it's True Art Sticks It to The Man.

Compare with Refuge in Vulgarity and Refuge in Audacity, where some offensive content is instead played for laughs. Not to be confused with art having offensive capabilities.


Fictional Examples

Comic Books

  • An early arc of Ex Machina concerns a painting of Lincoln with "Nigger" scrawled over his face. Subverted in that the artist was trying to make something so blatantly offensive that even the artistic community wouldn't be able to praise it; when this backfires she vandalizes the painting in disguise, so she wouldn't be accused of giving in to the "establishment".
  • In Asterix and the Cauldron, Asterix and Obelix join up with a highly acclaimed theater troupe in order to earn back the money they lost. Why is the troupe so highly regarded? Their performances consist of nothing but offensive material.
    • Rule of Funny. Also, it's never said the group is highly regarded -- in fact, big-name actors leave the leader in disgust. It's like an in-universe version of Viewers are Morons.
    • Inverted when Obelix is supposed to deliver his performance and suffers from stage fright. He resorts to using his famous catch-phrase "These Romans are crazy!". Only THEN does the audience become offended (most specifically, an authority figure who orders the troupe to get arrested).


 Vollard: I always try to create some tension in my work. Once a certain reviewer said "that's disgusting", and I said "good, I wanted to disgust you". Sometimes I'll be working on a piece and I'll think no, this is bullshit. So I will literally rub bull excrement on the a metaphor.

  • The President's Analyst has an early scene (seen on early broadcasts but missing since) where Dr. Schaefer visits an avant-garde movie house playing a film that disgusts the audience and has them filing out - but he finds little nuances quite funny and gets the girl next to him laughing too. The lights go up and the film's auteur angrily criticizes them for enjoying it, since it was meant to be disgusting. (Note: earlier on, Schaefer is seen to appreciate contemporary art his mentor dismisses as 'junk'.)


  • Dean Koontz's From the Corner of His Eye subverts this by featuring a serial killer who buys this kind of art -- mostly grating blotches of color with titles like "In the Baby's Brain Lurks the Parasite of Doom" -- as a sign of his disconnection from normal, sane, humanity.
  • In Life, the Universe, and Everything, Arthur Dent learns that there's a prize for Most Gratuitous Use of the Word Fuck In a Serious Screenplay. The censored version changes the word to "Belgium", which is arguably funnier, since Arthur tries to explain how strange it sounds to him and ends up offending the woman to whom he's talking by "carelessly" flinging around such a strong swear word.
  • In Nick Hornby's short story "Nipple Jesus," a gallery hosts a ten foot tall image of Jesus Christ that is a mosaic of hundreds of photographs of women's breasts.

Live-Action TV

  • Claire's art teacher in Six Feet Under told her that "true art should make you want to vomit". Lovely.
    • Not as lovely as his pride and joy masterpiece: a giant American flag he used to wipe his own ass with.
  • One of the Law and Orders had an offensive painting as a man's Berserk Button, which caused him to murder the owner of the art gallery that displayed it. He pleads insanity due to Stendhal Syndrome.
  • The subject of a drawn-out argument between Toby Ziegler and Tawny Cryer (I swear that's the name in the cast list) in The West Wing semi-gag episode "Gone Quiet". Tawny, who works for the House Committee on Appropriations, reels off an impressive list of art projects all of which are supposedly offensive to Middle America. The NEA didn't fund these works, but did give money to the museums that put them on. They include the word "Slut" written in scarlet on a huge piece of canvas; a woman who gets naked, covers herself in chocolate and sings (Toby says he isn't crazy about musicals); another woman who created two bacon cheeseburgers out of burlap and Rottweiler dung; one who does pictures of people with genitalia in anatomically incorrect places; and a performance artist who destroyed all his belongings outside a Starbucks in Haight-Ashbury. (Sam Seabourne has come in by this time and says he's done that a couple of times but he didn't know you could get funding for it.) Some of the projects she mentions are real, although she's changed the artists' names. Toby replies: "You'd need the Budweiser Clydesdales to drag my ass to Picasso and Monet. I'm not the guy you want deciding this! ... And I don't know where you get the idea that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for anything of which they disapprove! Lots of 'em don't like tanks. Even more don't like Congress." Go Toby.
  • Parodied in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide where the titular character made a painting in Art class that caused a girl to slap him and also had various fictional Moral Guardians protesting it. However, the some people from an Art Institute ended up praising it and one of them ended up donating a huge sum of money to the school because of said artwork.
  • In the first season The L Word there was a plotline revolving around Beth’s attempts to have an exhibition titled Provocations, consisting entirely of some of the most offensive material imaginable. Her battle against moral guardians was pretty bloody.


  • In Quills, a play and subsequent movie adaptation about the later life of the Marquis de Sade, the marquis pens a scathing satire about the new supervisor of the asylum, Dr. Royer-Collard. Royer-Collard comes to see the play as performed by the inmates of the asylum and is enraged. The marquis himself greets the shocked audience by sticking his head out from behind the curtains and shouting, "It's only a play!"

Web Comics

  • Parody of the concept: Millie tries resorting to this a few times in Ozy and Millie, including an art project that looked like she sneezed all over the page. Somehow the teacher was able to touch it long enough to give her the proper results... F.

Web Original

  • A satirical article from The Onion: "Non-Controversial Christ Painting Under Fire From Art Community"
  • Happens in Episode 7 of the webseries Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, when J goes on a date with a white guy. After dinner, they go to a spoken word poetry performance and one performance is by a black woman dating a white guy. A few of the lines (spoilered because of content) are "Can you satisfy me? Cause pastel colored penises ain't as fun as choclate colored ones...Are you really going to be able to make my brown sugar pussy moan?". J gets up and leaves after the last one.

Western Animation

  • The South Park episode "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs" has the boys writing a novel so offensive that one can't get through the first paragraph before vomiting... yet the world can't stop praising it.
  • "Here's our next exhibit, Industrial Penis #5..."
  • "Drawn Together" was (from the show's own point of few) created exclusively to showcase dead baby shock value humor.

Real Art and Artists

Artworks and Exhibitions

  • An exhibition called Warning: Religion! was displayed in Moscow for the sake of instigating a "constructive dialog about the specifics of religious perception" (read: trolling the religious). The exhibition was a complete success - a bunch of vigilantes demolished it, and the organizers were sued for "incitement of religious hatred".
  • David Cerny was commissioned by the European Union to make an art installation that represents all of it members, and he did a really good job getting attention to his work
  • Andres Serrano's Piss Christ.
  • The Brooklyn Museum's 1999 exhibit "Sensation," whose most infamous exhibit was an elephant-dung-splattered painting of the Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili.
    • This Troper actually attended the exhibit, and is honestly baffled why Ofili's work was the one decried as obscene, and no one said a peep about this work which featured penis-nosed and vulva-mouthed children.
    • The controversy over Ofili's work was probably more media spin and Values Dissonance than anything; Elephant dung in Africa is symbolic of good luck and fertility. Ofili chose to use it in a lot of his work for these reasons.
      • However, for this work at least, he took the manure from the nearby zoo, so it could be said he created this for the sake of being offensive.
    • Ofili's would be a case of Offending the Creator's Own, as he is by his own admission a Catholic.
  • Lesser known, and milder, example of the two above: a cock (no, I'm not touching fowl here) on a cross. Supposedly symbolised the hardships of manliness.
  • Richard Serra's sculpture Tilted Arc, was basically a long, slightly tilted piece of steel erected in a New York City plaza. Critics hailed it as a great work of site-specific art, while the public complained that it was ugly, prone to vandalism, and made public use of the plaza difficult, since anyone crossing the plaza now had to go around the sculpture. Serra said that this obstructiveness was the point: he wanted the viewer to "[become] aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza". During a campaign to have it moved, Serra claimed that, as site-specific art, "to remove the work is to destroy it". He was right on both counts: Tilted Arc was dismantled and sold for scrap. The public is glad they can cross the plaza in a straight line again, the art world is displeased, and Serra states that "art is not democratic. It is not for the people." Of course, we tropers already know that. (Skeptics are best advised to avoid following that link, lest their eyeballs be overwhelmed.)
  • Readymade artist Marcel Duchamp was prone to this. One of his more memorable examples is taking a cheap postcard print of the Mona Lisa, scribbling a goatee on its face, and renaming it L.H.O.O.Q -- which sounds quite a bit like "She has a hot ass" (Elle a chaud au cul) in French.
    • Subverted in that it only looks like a cheap reproduction of Mona Lisa - it's actually a photomontage with Duchamp's eyes and nose replacing Mona Lisa's.
    • Duchamp is also a word case of this trope, mainly because the people he was trying to offend was the art community itself.
  • The Dada movement (of which Marcel Duchamp, above, was a founder) started out as a subversion of this trope. Originally an WWI anti-war movment, their anti-art was intended to satirize what the saw as the decadent bourgeoise mainstream culture responsible for the war, and the morally bankrupt art community supported by it; describing themselves as the only "true" artists of their time. At first soundly rejected; they eventually developed a following, and even admiration. Soon, many involved started to believe in their own propaganda, and began to play the trope straight, eventually merging into the growing Surrealist movement.
  • "My Lonesome Cowboy", by Takashi Murakami; better known as the pioneer of the "superflat" movement (and the illustrator for Kanye West's Graduation album) made a sculpture of a young boy swinging a lasso made of his semen. It makes sense in terms of said movement, which sometimes aims to parody anime over-sexualization, but it still doesn't change the fact that it was actually sculpted and displayed. There's also a female version with an absurdly-busty (and disturbingly-young) girl squirting milk from said boobs, which makes a sort of milk-ring around her.
  • Ron Athey, a man who calls "sadomasochistic ritual" his personal religion, had an act where he cut up an assistant's back, mopped up the blood with paper towels, and put them on a pulley over the audience. He then got to feign surprise that the audience was offended and just a little off-put by this (Athey is HIV positive, but his assistant was not - something misreported by the local paper). Later on naked models had Christmas Tree ornaments attached via fish hooks. It was also a convenient moment to call people homophobes who thought it was a waste of NEA money and lacked artistic merit.
  • Although Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica is mostly known by his penetrable propositions, where you enter a place barefoot to experience colors and sensations, some of his works were intended to shock. One of his bolides Cara Cara do Cara de Cavalo was made as a homage to a recently (at the time) deceased drug dealer that was his friend. Other of his works (that only went exposed after his premature death) was the Cosmococa collection, in which he does celebrity make-ups with cocaine. Even in his penetrables he wanted to involve drugs. In Eden, there are two squares called cannabiana and lololiana, which the visitors would smoke weed and sniff lolo, respectively; he dismissed it probably because such drugs were already illegal in London, when he exposed the Eden for the first time.
  • In 2008 there was quite a mess in Finland about a work called Neitsythuorakirkko ("Virgin Whore Church"), which criticized child porn. The work contained samples of actual teen porn easily found in the Web, and the artist was sued and convicted of possession and distribution of child porn - she got no sentence, though, since her intent was to criticize. The issue caused a lot of discussion about freedom of speech and suchlike, but I can't remember that anyone would have talked much the easy accessibility of child porn.
  • Richard Whitehurst, a Columbus-based artist who until recently was a fairly normal artist, has begun building a "Rape Tunnel." If you want more info, follow the link, because it shall not be written here.
    • Mercifully, it's fake. Whitehurst was parodying this trope.
      • His Punch Tunnel wasn't.
  • Er, Robert Mapplethorpe anyone? "To you, that might look like Robert Mapplethorpe with a whip up his ass. To me it's the devil." - friend of Robert Mapplethorpe in 1988 documentary, Robert Mapplethorpe.
  • Marat Gelman's take on World War Two. That's OK, veterans are stupid sheeple anyway, right?
  • Richard Prince's "appropriation art" which really should be illegal. He takes photos of other people's photos and sells them as his own. Seriously.

Comic Books

  • Miracleman #9, by Alan Moore, featured graphic images of childbirth for no apparent reason other than to be artistic (and perhaps to lecture the readers on how they're wrong in being offended).
    • Moore admitted at the end of #10 that it was specifically for the lecturing. The art was lifted shot for shot from a book on childbirth that had been released and praised in the previous year.
  • Preacher (Comic Book).
    • Anything by Garth Ennis.


  • See Euroshlock.
    • Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo is a movie about a bunch of fascists from the Salo Republic days raping and torturing teenagers in various gruesome ways. (In one famous scene, the teenagers are forced to eat excrement. This is alleged to not be the most offensive scene in the movie.) Though opinions are divided on its merits, The Criterion Collection, one of the most prestigious DVD companies around, declared it a masterpiece and are rereleasing it after several years of leaving it out of print. (The original edition of the DVD is one of the rarest in the world, often selling for hundreds of dollars.) It has been rumored for decades that the reason behind Pasolini's murder in 1975 was related to the movie's existence.
    • Belgian Thierry Zéno's Vase De Noces ("Wedding Trough") has had no official theatrical or video release, partly because of the graphic scenes of a farmer and his sow (so controversial were these scenes, in fact, that the film is known informally as The Pig-Fucking Movie), and partly because of other scenes of said farmer eating his own excrement and killing actual animals on camera. The incoherent plot structure and the "lesser" bizarre habits of the main character may combine this trope with True Art Is Incomprehensible.
      • That sounds like the I AM PIG film within a film in ~S1m0ne~, which shows "Simone" in a wedding dress wading around in a pigsty and eating at a food trough. Her director is doing this so people would hate her and he won't have to explain that the best actress in the world is just CGI. Since it's also a Shout-Out to The Producers, everyone praises "Simone" and the director for creating such a thought-provoking, avant-garde film.
    • This is one of two ways of looking at Antichrist and its already-infamous scene of female liberation.(If you must know,a woman graphically removes her clitoris with scissors.) The other is that the director's admitted depression was a bit deeper than he admitted.
      • A brief glance at any other film by Lars von Trier tends to confirm the second opinion. Especially Dancer in the Dark, as sheet-metal worker and sole parent of a child going blind, Bjork, starts going blind herself, and sings about it.
    • French filmmaker Gaspar Noe is pretty much a walking personification of this. I Stand Alone has a final scene in which a man rapes his daughter, then commits suicide, then it reboots it by having the man not commit suicide, and Irreversible contains a ten-minute, extremely graphic rape scene and a lot of Brown Notes to make the audience actually feel sick. Yeah, the man probably has some issues.
  • The early works of John Waters like Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living, though how artistic they are is a heavily divided argument.
  • The prolific Finnish artist Teemu Mäki's video montage Sex and Death (1988) is infamous for involving a six-second scene of the artist killing a cat with an axe and ejaculating on its corpse. The Finnish Board of Film Classification deemed it unfit for public exhibition and he was fined about 3100 FIM for animal cruelty.
  • There was a huge amount of controversy when The Last Temptation of Christ came out, largely due to scenes showing Jesus Christ, the savior figure of Christianity, not being completely pure. Vitriolic protests greeted its premiere and showing in theaters throughout the United States and it was hotly debated on the news talk shows of the era. How controversial it remains today is subject to opinion, however.
  • The only remaining way for film distributors to advertise movies like Birth of a Nation or the Triumph of the Will is by hyping them as "controversial" (read: so spectacularly obscene that it's actually entertaining to gawk at them in horrified wonder). Ironically, neither film was intended to be offensive to its original audience.
  • The Spanish director Luis Buñuel said of his famous Surrealist film Un Chien Andalou (which features, among other things, a woman having her eye slit open with a razorblade and ants crawling out of holes in people's bodies) that it was "a passionate call to murder".
  • Crispin Glover's "masterpiece" of mindfuckery, What Is It?, aims to be the intersection of True Art Is Incomprehensible and this trope. Features minstrels in black face, a cast full of actors with Down's Syndrome, songs with lyrics like "Some n***ers never die, they just smell that way," and an image of Shirley Temple (we're not talking Ambassador Shirley Temple Black, we're talking child star Shirley Temple) masturbating with a riding crop while wearing Nazi regalia.
  • A SERBIAN FILM. When The Cinema Snob (who's favorite movie is Caligula) and Phelous (who's made it through films like Five Across The Eyes and The Human Centipede without flinching) BOTH regret watching your movie, you know you've hit this trope.
  • Most of Du Å¡an Makavejev's work qualifies, though Sweet Movie deserves special mention.
  • Begotten, directed by E. Elias Merhige, shows a man disemboweling himself, then a woman masturbates him - after his death - and impregnates herself with his semen. It gives birth to a child, who is abducted by faceless men who spend the remaining time of the movie to beat him to death. Twice : after his first death he is resurrected by his mother... the men come back and torture them again (and rape her), them dismember the corpses and bury the bones. It makes begin the life on Earth. Those few sentences are a full summary of the movie


  • The premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring caused a riot that degenerated into a brawl between its supporters and detractors. Let's just say that it included some shocking dance moves and the music was like nothing the Parisian audience had ever heard.
    • Another explanation for the riot is that the audiences were angry at the poor quality of the dancing--compared to traditional Russian ballet--rather than offended by anything. The music quickly became popular when not accompanying the ballet. After watching a reconstructed performance on YouTube (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), you have to admit that it is very primitive and sloppy-looking. Besides, Stravinsky did not intend to anger or offend anyone. He was genuinely upset at the audience's reaction. Diaghilev on the other hand ...
  • The Dead Kennedys included a copy of H.R. Giger's "Landscape #XX", A.K.A. "Penis Landscape", with their Frankenchrist album. Which features several penises penetrating vaginas, one of which is wearing a condom. The band was then sued for obscenity, which ended in a hung jury.
  • The Scorpions' Virgin Killer album features the photographer's nude young daughter whose crotch is covered only by a conveniently placed crack in the "glass". It's considered the most offensive album cover of all time, by a band that apparently knows no other way of designing covers.
  • Many Horrorcore artists, like Necro, Eminem, Insane Clown Posse and Esham.
  • OFWGKTA in all their virgin Mary-raping, Bruno Mars-stabbing, drugabusing glory.
  • Punk rock musician G.G. Allin's stage shows take this to the logical extreme. Things he did include throwing his own excrement, mutilating himself with broken glass and stripping and taunting female fans to perform oral sex on him.
    • GWAR is also good for this kind of show. While milder (i.e. they don't throw shit at people), they do splatter fake blood everywhere and pretend to vivisect George Bush...
      • The key words here being "fake" and "pretend." Unlike GWAR, G.G. Allin was the real deal people! There is no comparison here.
  • Most grindcore and death metal bands focus on this kind of thing in their subject matter, whether it be Anal Cunt and their reliance on Dead Baby Comedy, Rape As Comedy, and other variants of Black Comedy or Carcass and Cannibal Corpse's horror-movie gore.
  • Frank Zappa 's movie / soundtrack 200 Motels was set to feature the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, until they read his lyrics and decided his work of art had a particularly pornographic bent to it.
  • Passenger of Shit, and anything related to his name. Some say it's all part of the joke.
  • Anything by Marilyn Manson.
  • The Misfits
  • The Butthole Surfers. Their band name alone comes from a pejorative slang term for homosexual males.
  • Patrick Sky was a mild-mannered folk singer of no great repute... until the Vietnam War and his own lack of repute pissed him off so much that he recorded [Songs That Made America Famous], a record which explicitly set out to offend everyone and everything. Let's put it this way: "Child Molesting Blues" is probably one of the least offensive songs on the album.
  • French metal group Tritriren has an album named Art is vandalisM.


  • The above-mentioned Salo was based on the Marquis de Sade's (from whence we get "Sadism") The 120 Days of Sodom, which was, true to de Sade's style, far more graphic than the film version. Pretty much all of de Sade's works can be said to fall under this category. They were banned and burned in many a nation, and while there's still debate about their literary merit today, many scholars and critics defend his work on the grounds of being one of the first examples of flesh-centered philosophy (and how).
    • They are much more tolerable, if you understand them for the scathing social satire that they are. The tormentors represent the institutions with power; the state, the church and the major property owners, that can toy and brutalize those without power, represented by the tormented parties, until they start to believe they deserve it, and even start to get masochistic enjoyment out of it. It's basically de Sade shoving the filth on people's faces shouting "this is what you consider normal and fair!"
      • That would make it much more understandable if de Sade did not participate in many of those activities in his own life, though he left most of the ones involving mutilation and murder to fantasy.
        • He was bisexual and dabbled in sadomasochism, but there is no indication that he ever went further than modern S&M clubs do. His life wasn't even near the vileness of his books. Never mind that he was among the first people to demand women equal rights to men, further cementing people's opinion of his insanity.
        • This troper understands that much of de Sade's...vivid imagery could be considered a brilliant commentary on the abuses of the time, but its sheer volume is enough to convince her that de Sade derived more than just abstract enjoyment from his writing. 120 Days in Sodom, especially the later tales where the Marquis never had a chance to elaborate, seem mainly to concentrate more on the acts than the actors. Add to the fact that the author happened to be in prison at the time, probably very bored...In any case, I think it would be an insult to a rather brilliant individual to deny a particular facet of his personality just because we find it unsavory. Especially since the Marquis derived much of his own personal philosophy, the stuff we admire today, from his...well, sadism.
  • Chilean (anti-)poet Nicanor Parra is well-known for his antipoetry, which is pretty much set up to mock everything and everything academic in regards to poetry. He was already good before, the first antipoetry book made him a academic must-read. And yes, I notice the irony there.
  • Lolita. Apparently a complete accident, Nabokov thought people would see Humbert as a liar just like he did.
  • Really any of Bret Easton Ellis' work, but particularly American Psycho.
  • J.G. Ballard's Crash. Said he: "I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit and force it to look in the mirror."
  • Gravity's Rainbow. It's unknown what great questions of life and death the graphic description of a woman pooping into a man's mouth is supposed to evoke, besides "Why am I reading this?"
    • Unknown isn't the word. The scene does have a point, the whole book looks at how people degrade themselves and the reasons why they do it, as well as examining paranoia and a whole bunch of other stuff, you can fit a lot in 900 pages! Here it's mostly a BDSM thing, a desire to be utterly dominated and the guy doing the poop eating wishing to show his utter submission to his chosen higher power, the woman. But yeah, a reader's first response is going to be disgust. That said, this is a book that features the 'hero' having sex with a twelve-year old girl.
  • Goluboe salo (Blue lard) by Vladimir Sorokin. What you are supposed to see in it is a profound modernistic insight full of hidden messages and homages to classic works of literature and historical events. What you see there is a mush of pervasive pornography (including sodomy, sadistic mutilation and soilfucking), excrement and distorted dystopian scenery that would make Orwell on LSD shrink into a corner and sob incoherently. His other books are not as bad but still extremely graphic and obscene (and they ALL feature shit).
    • To be fair, Sorokin is a good stylist. Not sure about the "true" part, but it is really art (and an incredibly memetic one).
  • There is no way to do justice to Story of the Eye in the subjective manner of TV Tropes without devolving into condemnation of it. So here's a link to Wikipedia's attempt to objectively describe it. Caution: Not safe for sanity.
  • Jose Rizal's "Noli-Mi-Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo" mocked-- not very subtly, either-- the Spanish government (and a good deal of their priests), for abusing Filipinos. A little after that, they traced the cause of the revolution to someone reading his books, and he was put in jail, then shot in public.

Stand Up Comedy

  • George Carlin: "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately."
  • Lenny Bruce is probably one of the most important figures in the world of stand up comedy, and was (at the time, this is the 50s and 60s) extremely offensive, as evidenced by his obscenity conviction, and many more court cases. He was given a a posthumous pardon, and his act signaled a change in the stand up comedy climate, paving the way for the likes of George Carlin up there, as well as Bill Hicks and Doug Stanhope, among many others.
    • Here's some of his more offensive stuff. It is pretty heavy, even by today's standards, in this troper's opinion.
  • What do they call this act? The Aristocrats!


  • And They Put Handcuffs On The Flowers calls for a priest to eat his own testicles, for Cleopatra to visibly perform oral sex on Jesus, and for two male characters to defecate into a small clay pot. It's to be performed on a series of small platforms in the audience's seating area (which is not allowed to have chairs or cushioning of any kind for them) in such a way as to make faking the sexual and scatological acts difficult at best. In all, it makes wholehearted effort to offend at least four senses for everyone in the audience.
  • Older Than Feudalism example: Leda and the Swan. If you know the myth, you know why it was so offensive.
    • Actually, that myth was popular with artists because it was considered less offensive than if they showed two humans engaging in the same act.
  • Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen was compared in its time to "a lazar-house with all the windows open." (For those not in the know, a lazar-house was where they kept lepers.) A Doll's House counts too, though changing mores make it no longer offensive that Nora leaves her marriage at the end. The fact that she abandons her children on the other hand....
    • The second item in the spoiler space above is Values Dissonance but was not Moral Dissonance at the time, since men automatically had sole custody of any legitimate children they fathered.
  • There once was an artist living in Berlin (in the 1920s) who stated: "If you want to have success in Berlin, you should be dead or perverted or a foreigner. Optimally, you should be a dead perverted foreigner."
  • The Theater of Cruelty, conceived by Antonin Artaud. To explain it, he once demonstrated how he'd show a man dying of bubonic plague before a stunned audience who'd come to hear him give a lecture on art.
  • Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin made a living out of this. His first notable works at the end of The Sixties were the cabarets You, Me, and the Next War, Ketchup, and Queen of a Bathtub, brutally satirising Israeli post-Six Day War patriotism and military attitude, as well as racism towards Arabs. Many aspects of his satire would still be controversial in Israel if brought up today. He responded to the criticism by apologising and claiming it was the result of "the poor education [he] received at home". Later on, in The Eighties, his play Job’s Passion was criticised for having a naked man on stage. Nowadays he’s celebrated as one of Israel’s best playwrights, despite being quite repetitive.

Western Animation

  • It is easy to see that Thurop Van Orman, creator of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, feels this way about comedy; judging by this quote "Comedy, or at least the kind of comedy I like, are the ones that make you feel a bit uncomfortable and then hit you with a great joke." [1]
  • Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, has been a popular showcase for animation for over 30 years, giving great animators like Mike Judge, Nick Park and Pixar their first commercial exposure in North America.


  1. Of course, feeling disturbed and uneasy (as Flapjack often invokes) is not quite the same thing as feeling morally offended.
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