Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I didn't say it was nice! But everybody does it!

schadenfreude - Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

I've been thinking about schadenfreude a lot lately. It started with seeing the musical Avenue Q, which has a song about it. After that, it just kept popping up. In articles. In conversations with friends. I noticed it last night when watching The Colbert Report, even though it wasn't mentioned by name. I felt it hit home this morning when the wind blew my umbrella making it hard to handle and causing me to spill coffee all over my hand. A girl walking down the street laughed at me as coffee burned my hand.

As much as we may not want to admit it, I think all of us have experienced this from time to time, myself included. All day today I have been thinking about situations where I have derived pleasure from the misfortune of others, and in each of those cases it occurred when I heard something negative about someone I went to school with. Someone I didn't like. I also noticed that in each case it was often something that wasn't major, such as someone gaining weight and not being the beauty they were. Or it was something that I thought they deserved given their actions. Whenever I have heard about something horrible that happened to someone, even someone I didn't like, I didn't take pleasure in that. Illness, death, etc. Nope, I don't take pleasure in that.

Why do we do this? I'm probably it has something to do with some sort of psychological reaction to inflate our own sense of self-worth, kind of like the schoolyard bully who feels like a big shot because he or she picked on someone else, except in this case we aren't performing an action against this person. It's in our heads.


Blogger greatwhitebear said...

I think there maybe there are two seperate issues here.

WE often take glee at the misfortunes of those we don't like, or whom we perceive to be someone we would't or shouldn't like.

But often, ew laugh at our friends and strangers not because of the mishap, but because of the view of the mishap.

When you think of it, the sight of this woman trying to keep the wind from picking her up and carrying her away all the while juggling her starbucks... the visusal in miy mind is remeniscant of the physical comedy of somebody like Red Skelton, Dick Van Dyke, or Chevy Chase.

I'll bet just the look onyour face was priceless!

11:47 AM  
Blogger redhairedgirl said...

I probably did look a bit silly.

11:51 AM  

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