A Little Bit Evil

Although I watch a lot of shows, I don’t watch a lot of television. Last year was the first time I purchased a TV license and it was only because I want to watch the Olympics. So I hope you’ll forgive me for not keeping up with all your favourite television. It also means that I don’t really watch any of those daily, very procedural shows. Like You’ve Been Framed, which is a show that is basically in every country but with a different name.

A large supply of home video clips, entertaining us with other peoples mishaps that just happen to have been caught on camera. Now this kind of show isn’t for everyone because mostly it is pretty cringey stuff. But I doubt there’s a person alive who hasn’t experienced a little bit of schadenfreude at some point in their life.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you have probably at least recognised that it’s a German (Deutsch) word. It literally translates to damagepleasure and it is the word that describes the pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune.

For some reason unknown to me the smarty pants Germans were, I think, one of the only peoples to create a word that describes this particular joy (and people say the Germans have no sense of humour). Instead of the other languages realising they were missing a word in their vocabulary and coming up with one, they all just did what the British excel at, they re-appropriated someone else’s culture. So there are a few languages with the word schadenfreude.

In a strange twist of normalcy, the British created The Great British Bake Off and everyone else re-appropriated it for their country. This show is a great example of my love of schadenfreude. Because sure I root for my favourite baker, but I also watch for everything to go wrong for the other bakers. Muhahaha they burnt their cake with only 30 minutes left to fix it. Ahahaha they just broke their feature decoration piece into five pieces…

I beginning to see now why the Germans have a reputation for humourless evil… it does sound kind of … shall we say… dickish? for me to laugh my arse off at other people’s failures. But I’m pretty confident I’m not the only one…

I’m no psychologist but I’ve been thinking about why other people failing brings us joy. And I think I’ve cracked it… it makes us feel better about ourselves. To know that other people fail and maybe even aren’t as good at something as we are takes the pressure of us having to meet the high standard we have a tendency to set for ourselves.

S. Hansen


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