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!).