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Laughing at Others' Pain in YouTube Videos is Degrading

Laughing at Others' Pain in YouTube Videos is Degrading

Schadenfreude Redux

Schadenfreude Redux

Recently, I wrote about the German word, Schadenfreude, which means something like "pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune." As I surf the video-sharing sites, I find many clips that seem to invite the viewer to take pleasure from someone's misfortune. We see hundreds of car crashes, bicycle wipeouts and fistfights. A clip of Miss Teen South Carolina (answering a question incoherently) reaped over 16 million views on YouTube, ranking it the 27th most-viewed video of all time, as of this story, and making it one of the fastest-growing shared videos in history. I am dismayed by the prevalence of video of suffering people. The idea that video-sharing sites may be cultivating these types of clips disturbs me even more. We did not see many Schadenfreude videos until America's Funniest Home Videos came along. However, there was an explosion of these video clips within the first months of the launch of video-sharing sites. Could this be a coincidence? Or cause and effect?

Searching video-sharing sites for "hot pepper," we can see people eating more hot peppers than they can bear and see them suffering. Has the increase in video cameras enabled these events to be better documented, and has the popularity of video-sharing sites allowed us to see more people suffering from eating hot peppers? Or could it be that the camcorders and the video-sharing sites are prompting people to eat too many hot peppers?

Allen Funt's Candid Camera and MTV's more recent Punk'd show people whose friends have tricked them into suffering. Unlike the suffering-exploitation TV shows, like Fear Factor, these sufferers did not volunteer.

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Tags:  February 2008
Matthew
York
Fri, 02/01/2008 - 12:00am