Popular Culture

4 Ways We Love to Watch People Suffer



For some reason, human nature seems to include a fondness for suffering. When has that ever not been clear? From deathmatches (person vs lion, person vs person, whatever — as long as someone dies) to a sugarcoated perversion such as America’s Funniest Home Videos, our suffering ‘fetish’ has evolved — but not that much. Now all you have to do is go to YouTube and type the word ‘fat’ for autocomplete to suggest ‘fat people falling’ as the most popular search for that word. One thing we’ve done well is expand the varied and colorful ways in which we love to watch, laugh at, and sometimes masturbate to the suffering of others.

Painful Videos



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As mentioned, YouTube is the perfect medium for suffer-viewing. Fat people falling, skating FAILs, street fights, kids tripping, and animals attacking are all available in the thousands. The most popular ‘fat person falling’ video has been viewed almost 9 million times, and the Best of Fails 2010 Compilation (10 minutes of people tripping, running into stuff, breaking things with their faces) has over 13 million views.

A guy falls onto a railing and smashes his nuts super hard. We laugh and say ‘ouch!’ in feigned sympathy. Then we wipe the spittle off our screens before sending it to a million people with the message “LOL!” In a sick way, the funniest part may be the fact that the guy was actually quite seriously injured and had to have a painful and expensive surgery on his junk. We make it into a huge joke, but not entirely because we are indifferent to his injury — many of us simply don’t even consider that he may have been injured. It just looks like it hurts; no real thought is put into it.

There’s no doubt that watching someone clumsily flail about can be pretty funny due to how awkward it is, but shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos have definitely helped train us, like dogs, to enjoy watching others get hurt.

Reality TV



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Reality TV is a giant abyss of negativity, anger, and suffering. Those three words don’t typically come to mind when thinking of shows like The Real World and whatever that Kardashian one is called.

Reality shows about D-list celebrities like Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian or Basketball Wives don’t feature too much suffering — the producers want people relating to (and sometimes even admiring) the ‘stars’ of these shows. The suffering here isn’t so much watching Kim Kardashian ‘struggle’ through her blatantly fake divorce — although there are some lunatics who are fooled and actually sympathize with this person. This is more about playing into the weakness present in our minds. Kardashian has really nice stuff. Why can’t I have the same stuff? I want my hair to look like that. Why can’t I have a personal driver? I want my husband to buy jewelry for me… and so on and so on. These shows train us to suffer and keep it that way, little do we choose to realize us.

Other reality television shows have no plot besides suffering. The Bad Girls Club is a perfect example of this; a group of mindless, slutty, ill-tempered women are moved into a giant house and given unlimited alcohol. There under the false pretense of ‘changing and growing’, there is literally no point to this show other than the brawls happening between cast members. No therapy, activities, challenges, or anything promoting ‘change and growth’ is ever present in this show, not even for a second. During each season, every cast member will inevitably fight with every single other member of the house before making up and claiming to be BFFs all over again. Actual fights have been about:

– A girl dancing with boys at the club and ‘betraying’ her friends for not remaining in the group
– A girl says she’s the baddest girl in the house and is instantly challenged by everyone
– Pranks which start property destruction wars
– A girl got too drunk/messy/loud one night and now everyone hates her

That said, all of this is what makes it a truly amazing show.

The News



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Ah, the fear-mongering news. Get the vaccine or die, get the vaccine and die. Crime is everywhere, rapists are specifically looking for your daughter, terrorists are planting bombs outside your house, all the planes are crashing, everyone’s addicted to drugs, and by the way, there’s a new disease and you probably already have it.

The news is chock full of negative, sad reports on crime, abuse, poverty, disease, and other discouraging topics… and we love to share it.

“Hey, did you hear about that guy who chopped up 40 little kids while he raped his own grandma? Messed up, huh.”

Nevermind-ing the secret agenda to create a society fearful of living and use that fear to oppress them, news outlets know people want to hear the bad stuff first. Which are you more likely to explore: an article about two female Satan worshipers who kidnapped a guy for a weird stabbing ritual, or one about a women’s workshop which has helped do somethingsomething so boring I can’t even remember what it was?

There are only a few categories:

– Entertainment (TV/Movie/Music/Celeb)
– Funny picture lists
– Politics (which could be included in suffering — it’s all a bunch of miserable fighting, mudslinging and slandering)
– Tech
– Suffering (Crime, health care company profits while patients suffer, fifth grader faces felony, lesbian couple denied cake, etc)

In Life



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Morrissey didn’t say “we hate it when our friends become successful” just because it sounded cool. That was part of the reason, too, but he said it because it’s an honest statement.

We don’t necessarily hate it when our friends become successful all the time — only when they become more successful than us. Most people won’t admit it. Most people also can’t help but feel a small, guilty pang of joy when, on a bad day, your more successful friend comes along and mentions that he/she has either been set back or is self conscious of that success.

That’s just the beginning. We also want to punish other people for things we think they ‘owe’ — we want to make people pay. Like children, our society is still obsessed with the idea of getting even. We make it sound sophisticated and necessary by calling it retribution and justice.

The truth is that our perception of the world is completely man made; we’ve been trained to think certain things are right and others wrong. No man actually owes a man another thing at all — and there’s no real way to measure how one would go about ‘getting even’ if one slighted another. This thing we call justice is completely fabricated.

So we found the one to blame, and now we wish to make them pay, to suffer, as if this will reverse their crime or give back in some way. Fine. What about situations where the culprit is elusive? It doesn’t matter; we seem to always find someone at whom to point. A kid killed his friend — blame the video games, make more warning labels and censor more stuff.

It’s not that bad. Suffering can be delicious. Lobster, anyone?


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