Did George Takei’s OCD Humor Fall Flat?

by Bill Brenner on September 27, 2012

The Facebook page of George Takei — Mr. Sulu from the original Star Trek series and subsequent movies — has become one of my favorites. The actor has made a second career for himself on there, plastering his page with some of the funniest photos/memes I’ve seen.

Today, I noticed one such meme that pokes fun at OCD:

I didn’t think much of it at first. I see all kinds of OCD-based humor on the Internet every day, and this meme struck me as typical. I was more amused with Takei’s comment: “This strikes a cord with me.”

Then I remembered a post I recently wrote about how OCD humor cuts both ways. [See: Is Humor Reinforcing The OCD Stigma?] It occurred to me that this meme straddled that shaky, hard-to-see line that separates the funny from the offensive. To most people it’s a quick chuckle before moving on to something else. But to someone suffering from the disorder, it’s going to hurt. I can laugh now, but I assure you I wouldn’t have been laughing had I seen this eight or so years ago, when OCD had driven me to the brink of a physical and emotional breakdown.

I’m not the only one who did a double take on this meme. The International OCD Foundation sent Takei the following comment, which is also posted on its Facebook page:

Yesterday’s OCD pun was well-meaning, but missed the mark. Even if someone is obsessive or compulsive, that doesn’t mean they have OCD. Trivializing the term just makes it harder for those who do have OCD to get help. Like most mental health issues, stigma and lack of awareness are the biggest obstacles to getting treatment. You are such a great advocate for many causes, I hope you will consider joining ours.

I think that was the right response. I also think it’s a message the actor will take to heart. He strikes me as a good man who works hard to keep the hurtful humor off his page.

In fact, when he sees this, I won’t be surprised if his reaction is a mortified version of his trademark “Oh Myyyyyy.”

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