When life gets you down, there's always YouTube and it's "Fail Compilation" videos, faceplants, nut-shots and other videotaped mayhem. A guilty pleasure some would say, but to me there is nothing guilty about it, as I believe we all have this tendency to take pleasure through the form of humor from other people their misfortune and it can help us cope with the unavoidable misfortunes of our own.

Humor is an important tool for coping with life's darker moments, yet when it comes to schadenfreude, it's often considered a "guilty" pleasure.

What are your thoughts? Are there boundaries, are the "Darwin Awards" funny for instance, and does anyone feel guilty for enjoying other people's misery?

Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Darwin Awards are prices awarded to people that have successfully removed themselves from the gene pool in such a manner that they deserve to be rewarded for it. 

Tags: awards, darwin, faceplant., humor, misery, misfortune, schadenfreude

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As Mike pointed out in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, nearly all humour is based on the misfortune of others.

"Perhaps I don't grok all its fullness yet. But find me something that really makes you laugh, sweetheart… a joke, or anything else – but something that gave you a real belly laugh, not a smile. Then we'll see if there isn't a wrongness in it somewhere and whether you would laugh if the wrongness wasn't there."

I have never read Heinlein, but I do believe that he has a point there. I did find out that quite a few people somehow feel ashamed for laughing at other people their misery, and I wonder if this is common or not.

Schadenfreude ist die beste Freude. Don't let people talk you into guilt. That's what religion taught them.

Du hast recht, kOrsan. 

Guilt is useful for controlling people, make people feel guilty about sexual desire and you have 'em by the balls, so to speak.

I enjoy other people's folly, not misery.  Videos of serious injuries make me cringe - someone getting their bell rung by walking into a sign, however, well that's hilarious.  I do laugh at my own mishaps as well - particularly if I fall out of bed or fall flat on my back by failing to note some black ice while walking down the street.  I typically start laughing before I've even landed.

"I enjoy other people's folly, not misery."

This distinction, to me, is what the term 'schadenfreude' is about. Let's say I decide to take up skateboarding. As I attempt to ride up a quarter pipe, I fall backwards launching the board into the air, which then falls back down straight onto my head. As a result, I need stitches.

To my understanding, if people laugh at the way I fell, that's not really schadenfreude. Despite my injury, it would be a comical series of events. I would probably laugh at myself in that scenario. If, however, they took delight in the fact that I was injured itself, that would be schadenfreude. I don't see an issue with the former. I don't relate very strongly to the latter. Even with people I dislike, I don't take pleasure in their suffering. I don't feel that my lot in life is ever better because someone else's is worse.

It's not that I feel better because of the misery inflicted as well as the series of unfortunate events that lead to them. The unexpected fails are the best ones in my opinion. When I hurt myself I can see the humor in that situation as well, for as long as the sequence of events was actually funny. 

Bumping your toe on something generally is not funny. Bumping your toe, because you stumbled over the pair of shoes that you were supposed to remove weeks ago kinda is. 

"Even with people that I dislike, I don't take pleasure in their suffering"

Aye, but I do enjoy the slapstick leading up to it. 

Ah. That sort of thing I've hardly given a second thought guilt-wise (as long as the target of laughter wasn't getting upset over it). As you mentioned above, finding something to smile or laugh about, especially in bad situations, can help us cope.

I hate to admit it, being brilliant and all, but I never knew before what “Schadenfreude” meant.  So I googled it.  For my money, in terms of my life, Google is the greatest invention of all time. 

The Darwin Awards, on the other had, I was very much aware of, the latest one having been earned by the guy who stood in the middle of the road in a sasquatch suit trying to frighten passing motorists, may he rest in peace.  And I must confess to just a smidgen of Schadenfreude whenever I read about one of these dolts having his genetic line abruptly truncated.

Ah, the pleasures of expanding my vocabulary!  Rest assured that this decorous word, which never in my life have I used in any form whatsoever, will appear again in my future rhetorical discourse and exposition (see below).

Thanks, Dr. Grixis.

P.S.   Something for people who are at all uneasy about feeling Schadenfreude:  the word is obviously of German derivation; so, should any of us have a sense of Schadenfreud (LOVE that word!) at giddily giving the Darwin Award to Hitler for removing his Teutonic DNA from the gene pool?


Dale - another new word for you here called Atheophobia - the fear of Atheism.

Well, the circumstances surrounding Hitler's suicide are not particularly funny, so a Darwin Award is not an option. If Hitler would have pushed the button for his final superweapon thereby accidentally detonating only the Fuhrer bunker and leaving everything else in tact, it would still somehow be less funny. Perhaps as for Europeans the death of Hitler was an symbolic end of the war, as such it is not something that people can take without thinking of that context.

I'm sure that Monty Python could've made it hilarious in a sketch though.

My belief is that you feel what you feel without having all that much control over it. Sure, positive and negative thinking can help influence emotional states, but something like schadenfreude is more of a reaction. If you feel it you feel it, so why be ashamed?

What you can control is your actions. If you see someone you happen to think is a total dick get punched in the head, I don't think there is anything wrong with getting a bit of a kick out of that. It is what it is. If, on the other hand, you go around punching people in the head just to get your kicks, that's a different story.

Clearly no one here has advocated causing harm to anyone, so I agree with the original post; schadenfreude in itself is nothing to feel guilty over. It's a valid, albeit dark, emotional response.


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