Okay, so I’ve had a thing lately for comic strips and animated movies.  Here’s how I came around to posting this one.

Emma and I passed a cop scene on the way to school last week. A mini-van was in the left turn lane. There was a police vehicle in front and another behind it. As Emma was too young to remember traffic things when we moved from Philly nearly seven years ago, she hadn’t experienced traffic due to rubbernecking. She didn’t even know what rubbernecking was so I had to explain it.

The effect on the traffic is something I don’t miss from big city life. Everybody slows down to see what the damage is, causing a line up in traffic much larger than the situation requires. The drivers slow down and turn their necks as far as possible to take in as much of the drama as possible in the few seconds it takes them to pass, hence the name “rubbernecking”. Sometimes the traffic going the opposite direction slows down to take a peek, too. Gotta admit, when I lived near NY city there were a couple of times that I slowed down to look because I figured I’d paid my dues waiting in line so long. More often than not I just barreled through, partly out of disgust for the unnecessary traffic. Fortunately, there was no accident the morning Emma and I had our discussion, but people still got a good look at the embarrassed woman.

Why do people feel the need to observe the suffering of others? A groin shot on American’s Funniest Videos.  Joe Theismann’s leg shattering over and over again on the replay of the injury that ended his NFL career when his Washington Redskins battled my New York Giants. People are attracted to the misery of others.

It’s not just the guys either. A good chick flick has to have something in it to may a woman cry or it’s a dud. How about Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? Two young lovers end up killing themselves at the end . . . and it’s been a hit for centuries! (Sorry if I ruined the ending for you). Then there’s reality TV. I’m not talking about the talent shows and amazing races (though we enjoy the suffering in those sometimes too). I’m referring to the shows where former celebrities yell and cry at each other, where dysfunctional families display their craziness to the world, or where a few dozen strangers vie for the hand in marriage of someone they’ve never met. I used to think it was all fake, but even with the cameras on 24/7, true personalities inevitably shine through the poser facades.

Why are people so inclined to see other people suffer? Is it because we have such little drama in our own lives that we need to vicariously experience the pain others are going through? It could be that it makes us feel better to see that other people have it worse than we do. As I was considering this concept I came across this comic with the chickens. Pretty accurate parallel to most reality TV shows do you think? Not only do we like to see people meet their fate, sometimes we vote as a way to participate in their doom.

Feel free to fill me in on your thoughts. It would help me with considering what to include in my book (that’s almost finished!).


11 thoughts on “Rubbernecking

  1. Though this is a little bit different,I’ll offer my take. As a long-distance runner, I’ve found that most long-distance runners talk often about their pain, injuries, or difficulties while training together. It’s a matter of bonding and relating to one another on a level that only those who have experienced or are experiencing the same pain as you are experiencing can understand. I believe it’s a way of searching for a deeper connection with other human beings.

    As far as just watching others suffer on tv or along the roadside, I think it can be just a matter of curiousity. Most of us have never seen a crime scene or a cadaver..but.. those who love to immerse themselves in gore, horror, murder and malice-filled entertainment, I believe, simply love darkness more than light. The bible teaches us to do just the opposite. Whatever is pure, whatever is holy, whatever is lovely…

    On another note, last night I had to take my 3 year old to the ER. She had blood everywhere and a large gash on her forehead and under her eye. It was *hard* for me to look at that and watch the dr. stitch her wound. It wasn’t facinating or exciting…it was heart wrenching. There’s a difference between the suffering of strangers along the roadside and the suffering of those you love. So idk…would we really be so attracted to blood and guts if we loved people like Jesus? I’m not saying either way…just pondering…

    • Wow, Lori. Great response on many levels. There is a bonding that happens when people suffer in the same way, especially if it’s together. Soldiers who return from war have a powerful bond, for instance.

      As totally depraved, people would be attracted to darkness more than to light. I wonder if the percentage of Christians who rubberneck is different than everybody else? (Me thinks I ponder too much).

      I’ll pray for your 3 year old right now. I’m not sure who is more scared in those circumstance: the child or the parent. So, in the spirit of your comment, I’ll pray for you as well.

      Thanks for reading and commenting Lori.

      • I guess ppl rubberneck for different reasons, and, just like everything that’s neutral, it comes down to the motive of the heart. Am I looking upon that scene because I care, love, and am concerned enough to want to know the victims and pray for them as best I can, or am I just nosy? lol.

        Thanks for your prayers. She’s the crazy kid she always is today but she looks more rough and tough with that black eye and dora band-aid on her head. haha. The most interesting part of the whole episode is my husband’s response…you know the one who watches braveheart, predator and gladiator repetitively, was in the military and carries a gun…he was so horrified by it all that he said he might not be able to stay in the room while the dr. worked on her…odd huh?

      • I’m sure it’s different for your hubbys since it’s his baby girl being attended to. I imagine I’d be the same way. I’m glad she’s alright (and Dad’s alright, too).

  2. Was just reading about this on another blog. The author (kyllingsara) called it the “attraction/repulsion dynamic.” Sara and I both are mentally ill. We live with this on a regular basis. It is why among other reasons I don’t watch TV, why I find people’s TV attraction to mental illness sickening. And why rubbernecking is also sickening.

    • Thinking again about the quote above. I gave you who wrote it, cuz I think it is good, and wanted the person to get credit. But I didn’t ask her permission first. Please handle with caution. Thanks!

    • I’ve read killingsara but I havent’ been reading many blogs lately so I missed it. I’ll give it a look. Thanks for the heads-up. Thanks for your perspective on rubbernecking too. I’ve never considered it from your angle.

    • Check out the rest of my blog site. I’ve posted the first chapter and the outline of the rest of it. It’s for people who struggle with wanting to want Jesus more. I have a different take on why Jesus called himself the “Good Shepherd”. There’s a good chance he meant “Noble,” or “Attractive” Shepherd. I really hope you check it out and tell me what you think. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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