Who Is Worthy of Ridicule?

Britney Spears experienced a public fall in 2007 and quickly became the punching bag for the national comedy network. Puncturing Spears on public missteps – shaving your head, accidentally exposing yourself while getting out of a limousine, marrying second dancer Kevin Federline at a shotgun wedding – was a comedy break that salivated the hosts of late-night shows.

America’s gleeful schadenfreude is featured in a new New York Times documentary on pop star Britney Spears Framing , which currently airs on Hulu and HBO Max. The documentary is all about preserving Spears’ $ 60 million fortune, which her father, Jamie Spears, solely manages. The film also recalls a public humiliation news cycle directed against Spears, who at the time was a 25-year-old mother of two who knew nothing but a performance.

Since the country remembers the frenzy that has plagued Spears every waking moment, it is worth discussing how one talk show host, Craig Ferguson, chose not to direct any taunts or calls to the singer out of respect for her emotional and psychological state. living.

Putting humanity before cheap and conniving jokes, Ferguson refused to poke fun at the megastar, despite what most of us thought it was fair enough to “fight” the rich, popular, and successful. Ferguson’s monologue has surfaced for a good, instructive reason: You too can recognize when it’s inappropriate to revel in another person’s despair, whether it’s a public person or someone you know personally.

What is a “cape”?

In comedic terms, “hitting” means making fun or making fun of someone with a bigger platform and public profile than you. Punching is generally kosher and kicks are inappropriate, although spectacles inspired by Spears and later Tiger Woods demonstrate how to define what is more art than science.

Personally, ordinary people tend to come close to similar numbers: perhaps channeling anger at a multimillionaire artist who enjoyed worldwide adoration only to collapse under the spotlight, or joking about a sports icon after his fall. There is a psychological impulse to enjoy the misfortunes of people who are more outstanding and successful than we are. This is a kind of cultural kink.

In a 2018 article in the Guardian , Tiffany Watt Smith explored the cross-cultural meaning of gloating, a German word for delighting in the misery of others:

The Japanese have a saying, “The misery of others tastes like honey.” The French speak of evil joy , devilish delight in other people’s suffering. In Danish it is scadefried ; in Hebrew simcha la-ed ; in Mandarin – xìng-zāi-lè-huò ; in Russian – gloating ; and for Melanesians living in the remote Nissan Atoll in Papua New Guinea, it’s Banbanam .

Understand the nuances of the situation

There is a psychological impulse to seek solace in the misfortunes of others. It’s only when you don’t understand the true situation behind someone’s erratic behavior that the joke goes from seemingly harmless to vindictive. People don’t spin in a spiral for no reason, so before joking at someone else’s expense, it’s worth asking ourselves if we understand correctly why someone might behave strangely.

To take an obvious example: Spears was formed from the earliest stages of her life to become an empire deprived of free will and thrown into a megastar. She was, in Craig Ferguson’s words, a “baby” in her own right, even when it seemed like the world was at her feet.

Ask who is in pain

Of course, our opinion can change if the person in question has done something terrible. But in the case of a girl like Britney Spears, her breakdown happened at the expense of herself and those closest to her. It can be fun to enjoy the pain of someone who writes music you hate, but that only makes us bullies when we don’t understand what makes someone lose their grip and the real life consequences that follow.

How to decide who is worthy of ridicule

There are many cases where punching can be good, pure fun, and it includes criticizing people for their mistakes, especially when they are shameless assholes about it. This works especially well when it comes to politicians who do not always understand their motives well and sometimes use words incorrectly . You know a celebrity who was blacklisted for doing outrageous acts just to double the excuse for their behavior? Humiliating people and situations like this is a little different from enjoying someone’s crisis, celebrity or not. There are many villains out there who don’t fight a toxic family or loot the paparazzi outside their doors. It takes a little effort to separate those who are worthy of humorous ridicule from those who don’t, but it’s worth it.


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