Monday, June 11, 2007


The kind way to put it would be to say that I am picky about a lot of things. I don't find amusing a lot of things that other people do find amusing, things like movies, or humor. A less kind way would be to call me "high-brow" or "elitist". The least kind would be to call me snobbish.

At times I wonder if I'm missing out on some of this stuff. But most of the time, I can be pretty condescending in my assurance that there's really nothing to be missing out on. A great example is the large number of formulaic jokes in widespread circulation on the Internet that are, as far as I can tell, "funny" by virtue of only two things: intentionally bad spelling, and excessive repetition. Sometimes, there's a picture of an intentionally irrelevant animal, too.

Most of the time I conclude "this is not really funny, people are just worn down by repetition to have progressively lower standards". A tiny part of the time I wonder if there's something to low-brow humor and I'm missing out. Is there really something funny about fart jokes? How about cruelty humor? What do people who enjoy the badness of bad movies see that I don't see? Where's the true amusement in 2.3 million videos of cats falling off tables?

I want to apologize to the people who I must seem very snobbish to, because I don't mean to come off with a superiority complex. But would such an apology mean anything? Part of it is just apologizing for my general social ineptitude that prevents me being more tactful. Part of it comes from that tiny bit of wondering whether it's not really me that's missing something. But the fact is, a lot of me still concludes that I am, in fact, more discerning, and the problem is just that I don't think that makes me "superior", but it's inevitable it will come off that way. And if it comes off that way, how can I apologize for seeming snobby? Maybe I really am snobby.


litlfrog said...

It's awfully hard to explain humor, so I'll try to steer as far from that lee shore as I can. In a general sense, I'd have to disagree that standards of humor show a general downward trend. If that were so, we'd expect to see humanity's funniest work in ancient Greece or Elizabethan England or Roaring 20s Hollywood. As far as I can tell though, every age has its Aristophanes, its Mark Twain, its Sarah Vowell--along with vulgar graffiti, boring slapstick performers, and Pauly Shore.

FWIW, you certainly don't come off as snobbish to me. From my perspective, you just treat unfunny things as not relevant to your life; that strikes me as pretty healthy. I'm not sure that fart jokes, cruelty humor, bad movies, and lolcats have much in common, though. I rarely enjoy fart jokes, never enjoy cruel humor, quite like worthwhile image macros (an admitted rarity), and love certain kinds of bad movies.

Hawthorn Thistleberry said...

I never intended to suppose that humor is on any decline. In fact, I would argue that the Internet is likely to make the best we do a little better, partially because some geniuses that might never have had a chance to show off their work will now be able to, and partially because of increased synergy of interaction of ideas. But it also will mean that the crap at the bottom of the pile is orders of magnitude bigger. It's not that the crap wasn't always there: it's just that now people have an avenue to get it seen. So the modern age will feature higher highs and lower lows, if anything.