Empathy VS Comedy: Why Do We Laugh About Bad Things?

Empathy VS Comedy: Why Do We Laugh About Bad Things?

When is it bad to laugh?

Humor often comes at the expense of other people, as we recently saw in the response to the calamitous Fyre Festival. As news of the fiasco broke, the Internet spun it into comedy gold.

The Fyre Festival was advertised as a luxury music festival on a private island. Ticket prices were insane, with one highly publicized package going for $12,000. As guests arrived, the island's infrastructure was still weeks away from completion. In place of luxury lodging, they found disaster relief tents. Instead of a gourmet dinner, guests were offered, well, this. Understandably, the bands slated to perform pulled out.

Comparisons to Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games abounded on social media. For every actual attendee documenting the experience, there were dozens of people making up apocalyptic stories about wild dog attacks and gangs of cannibals. I'm not going to take the high ground here. I, like many others, think the Fyre Festival is hilarious. The guests, after all, were some of the most privileged people in the world. For college students that can drop $12,000 on a weekend getaway before finals, this is probably the only brush with hardship they'll ever have. As far as most of Twitter is concerned, a weekend of fighting over mattresses may have brought them down to earth. To many it was a simple joke, to others a quasi-Marxist victory over the perceived ruling class.

There's simply no denying that the response to the Fyre Festival shows a lack of empathy. We can't honestly assume that every attendee deserved that. And yet, that realization doesn't stop me from laughing. The Fyre Festival makes such great comedy because it fulfills the rule of punching up. Punching down, making fun of someone less fortunate than yourself, can seem mean-spirited. Making fun of people more fortunate than yourself is the safest way to avoid controversy while savagely mocking people.

However, punching up is just a rule applied to an inherently lawless pursuit. Comedy is subjective, and there is no clear line between an acceptable and unacceptable joke. Making light of a recent tragedy will provoke responses of "too soon." 9/11 jokes won't be well-received for years, and Pearl Harbor could still be questionable, depending on the age of the audience, yet nobody will bat an eye at a Titanic joke. Pompeii is probably a safe target, too. So how many years do we have to wait before we can joke about death and destruction? However many years it is, it's totally arbitrary.

Perhaps we make these rules to avoid the inherent link between comedy and a lack of empathy. The main difference between a horror movie and a horror comedy, for instance, is that one might try to shock us with a decapitation, while the other tries to make us laugh. Even innocent, old-fashioned slapstick expects us to laugh as people are injured. Have you ever sat on a train and watched the automatic doors shut on people trying to get through? I have, and it's amazing, but I should probably feel bad about that. Can these quintessentially human traits, humor and empathy, actually be at odds with one another?

I'll laugh at plenty of jokes that could be seen as in poor taste, yet there some topics I simply can't laugh about. I'm sure other people feel the same way, about different jokes. Limit comedy to the universally wholesome, and you wouldn't have much left.

Perhaps comedy shouldn't be about avoiding the unpleasantness of the world, but confronting it. Maybe we need to laugh about terrible things sometimes, or maybe I'm just making excuses for myself. I may never know when I should or shouldn't laugh, but that's not going to stop me.

Cover Image Credit: HollywoodReporter

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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