Friday, August 26, 2011

Pop Culture

As I made my way through the reading I noticed a trend in how people took to minstrel shows and for lack of a better word, "entertainment." Noticing how there was an unexplained attraction to things of all nature- offensive, non-offensive, funny, rude and sad. People still wanted to watch and at times, take part in these activities. 

In class, we spoke of black face and minstrel shows. I learned that "My Ole Kentucky Home" was in fact a minstrel song. One young man said "people are obsessed over how things got started," which got me thinking that some things/content is socially acceptable for the audience it applied to. The best example of this strange behavior was our conversation about Halloween and dressing up for it in costume. Wearing the dress of a Nazi on any other day besides Halloween would be frowned upon undoubtedly. Why is it OK on Halloween? It is a holiday where this behavior has been socially accepted. It is an act that has been applied to the US for generations now and very little concern would be shown for anyone's style of dress.

In the reading it says, "minstrel shows expressed class identification and hostility; they conveyed ethnic satire as well as social and political commentary of wide-ranging..." Now people were said to be attracted to this kind of display which leads me to think of the pop culture that I take part in.  I have noticed, much like what people watching minstrel shows did, that people often enjoy something that is offensive to others, simply because they are not the ones doing the offensive behavior. As I was watching MTV the other night a preview for a new show came up on the screen, "Ridiculousness." I remember making a comment to my friend about how badly I wanted to see the show.  I like to describe the show as being a more edgy version of America's Funniest Videos. What is it with people getting hurt that makes us laugh so much? I mean someone, somewhere is getting sometimes, seriously hurt and we think that's funny? I certainly do and I'm unsure why. 

I grew curious of how this tradition first began.  I guess the easy answer would be it started with minstrel shows, first form of entertainment-seeing someone get insulted by dress or facial expression. I think "Ridiculousness" is already popular because people in general like seeing people fall and stoop down to unknown measures of stupidity. One possible reason for this could be a physiological release for us as a human release to see others do what we are too scared or too smart to try.  Another could be that it simply makes us feel better about ourselves. Whatever the reason, we are under a common agreement that this is what makes us laugh. 

Once I dived further into this assignment I found the history on our favorite show, "America's Funniest Home Videos."  In the text it says, "The most common videos usually feature slapstick physical comedy arising from incidents, accidents and mishaps." Now this TV show originated in 1989/1990 and it wasn't even the first to make fun of people publicly. The show was actually based off a Japanese series Fun TV with Kato-chan and Ken-chan, which aired on the Tokyo Broadcasting System.  This is proof that poking fun of people getting hurt or acting in ridiculous manners has been a worldwide form of pop culture for decades. So when did this all start, I guess it's safe to say that this form of pop culture was born right along with us.


  1. I agree with what you have to say about our culture finding pain funny. I think much like Minstrel shows, people play up the social unease of race, class, culture, and even pain and are able to find humor in the uneasiness of it all because that is what comedy does and you look back at early slapstick humor and the three stooges and then at shows on MTV that show people getting hurt and there is really no difference.

  2. I have personally always found it a little weird that people think that it is funny when other people get hurt. Now don't get me wrong. I love AFV and laugh right along with everyone else. I have found myself thinking a few times while watching it how strange it is to get pleasure out of someone elses pain.

  3. This is really interesting, and really thoughtful. You incorporate class discussion and reading nicely, and take it off in a whole new direction, which is exactly what I was hoping for! Your question about why we laugh at things that are painful and offensive is a really good one. And you're quite right, that mode of humor has been around pretty much forever--even the classical Greek theater had burlesque. Do you think that maybe the best or most effective humor of this type potentially transforms pain into something greater? Maybe makes it more universal? Of course, sometimes it's just good sadistic fun.

  4. In my own opinion, I feel as though it is just an innocent act of sadistic fun. I think it's important to not read too far into it just for the main reason of it being universal-it is already in a language we all understand, so why try to mess with it right? I'll just keep laughing like everyone else.