3 TV Shows That Prove Schadenfreude Is Real

3 TV Shows That Prove Schadenfreude Is Real

It allows me to forget my own worries, setbacks, and responsibilities for an hour. Or two. Or seven...

First off, I'll begin by admitting that I love TV. What makes that even better is that we're living in TV's "Golden Age". We have Netflix, Hulu, even Amazon Prime Video, all of which I love. My Roku is one of my most prized possessions. There are so many great choices and endless story lines, and all you need is a username and password from a friend and you can potentially have it all for free. Seem like a dream? I does to me. I love getting absorbed into a television show, learning all about new characters, analyzing their actions, and creating my own internal commentary on the events that I see occurring. It allows me to forget my own worries, setbacks, and responsibilities for an hour. Or two. Or seven...

But often I wonder why myself and so many others find television so comforting. Why do we enjoy becoming absorbed in a story, often absurd, contrived, or even completely fake, like The Bachelor or The Kardashians? Why do we enjoy watching a shows with a implausible storylines like the ending of Dexter, or the entire premise of Scandal? Why are we willing to dedicate hours to a program of our choice, oblivious to the outside world, the real world, sometimes even neglecting to set foot outside? Back when Glee and Gossip Girl was popular, I had friends who would stay indoors and spend all day devoted to these shows. Most shows don't necessarily teach us anything or better our lives in any significant way. Yet, we still devote our time, our emotions, and sometimes our money to these shows. Why?

The strange thing about watching television is that for the entire time you're watching you're show, you're only doing one thing, and that on thing is observing. Why do we like observing so much? For me, I like the choices. I like being able to pick and choose what I watch, deciding what's worth my time and what isn't. I think being able to choose is a big factor in the widespread devotion to television in modern culture. But I also think that, myself included, what most people chose for entertainment is often representative of the idea of schadenfreude. By this, I'm referring to the idea that we derive pleasure from the suffering of others. We like to see others going through difficult times, because it puts our lives into perspective. Here are some examples.


One of my favorite shows Shameless is about a poor Chicago family held together by the eldest sister, Fiona in the midst of an intermittently present but alcoholic father and an often missing mentally ill mother. Clearly, their lives are all difficult. This show is extremely entertaining, but also puts my troubles into perspective. After watching an episode of Shameless I'm often inclined to laugh at my own so-called "problems" like having to write a paper for school, when the main character, Fiona just got thrown in prison for a minor mistake.

The Bachelor

This is a completely contrived, fake, and, in my opinion, "stupid" show. BUT I STILL WATCH IT. WHY? My opinion is that all watchers of The Bachelor literally enjoy watching heartbreak or at least enjoy watching a flimsy simulation of heartbreak. We also enjoy watching people fall in love or, once again, a simulation of people falling in love, even if we know it's contrived. The fact that we often enjoy watching individuals experiencing drama, heartbreak, and outbursts of tears suggests that many of us have an innate need to see others "fail" in order to feel relaxed or satisfied.


This Netflix original follows the life and career of Pablo Escobar. While viewers enjoy watching his lavish lifestyle, we are also constantly on edge and nervous because his illegal operations are almost always threatened. He has to continuously defend his lifestyle and fight for the survival of himself and his allies. His life in hiding is not necessarily one to be admired and viewers can compare his lifestyle to that of our our own, thus recognizing the comfort and stability we have.

I'm not saying we're inherently bad for taking pleasure in others' misfortunes. But we need to recognize this dark tendency in ourselves. Schadenfreude can be dangerous. We should work on controlling our inherent schadenfreude while developing empathetic tendencies in ourselves in order to treat each other with kindness and respect. I believe as long as we attempt to limit our schadenfreude to television, it's dangers may be mitigated.

Cover Image Credit: streaming observer.com

Popular Right Now

What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.

Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.

Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

12 Unique And Slightly Obscure Halloween Costumes

In case you're having trouble coming up with ideas.


Halloween is just around the corner! If you're anything like me, you take it very seriously—which means it can be really hard to come up with a good costume. Here's a list to steal from (or at least spark some ideas of your own)!

1. Quail Man- Doug's heroic alter ego from the hit Nickelodeon TV show Doug

(For the record- I noticed this costume on a few other online lists but I sourced it from the depths of my own creative ingenuity)

2. Suzy as a raven- from Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom

3. Igor- from Young Frankenstein

4. Candace and Toni- from Portlandia's Women and Women First bookstore

5. Melanie Daniels- of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds

6. Charlie Brown's attempted ghost costume- from Peanuts

7. A Mod 60's Space Girl

(give cred to my sis for this one)

8. The Morton Salt Girl

Nicole Reyna on Instagram: “It's always a fun time when I get to dress up for Halloween at school. I went as the Morton Salt Girl this year, and the kids surprisingly…”

9. A Yip Yip- from Sesame Street

10. A Price Is Right Contestant

11. A Cute Lil' Flower Pot

12. Chuckie- from The Rugrats

Now go out and have a great Halloween!

Related Content

Facebook Comments