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Gervais And His Relation To The Unconscious

Gervais And His Relation To The Unconscious

Being funny is hard. Determining what comedy is “edgy” and what is “mean-spirited” is even harder.

This is particularly true for Americans, and even more so for women, but even male Brits can find themselves at the center of a discussion of whether or not their comedy has “gone too far,” as Ricky Gervais is now doing.

As it happens, I’ve already been thinking about this problem for several weeks — “this” being, basically, the problem of how can I ever hope to be funny again without being accused of being mean? Because to me, though there might theoretically be a line between “edgy” and “mean-spirited,” the only line that counts is the line between funny and not funny.

Did they laugh? Then it’s comedy. If not, then it’s something else.


Here’s how jokes work, according to Freud, and super simplified because I don’t really remember it that well and I’m getting old: they touch on some kind of unconscious anxiety that we all share — fear of death, let’s say — and they allow for a release of it in the form of a laugh.

So if Ricky Gervais gets up at the Golden Globes and makes some jokes about Scientologists being closeted gays — something many people in Hollywood know to be true but cannot say themselves out of fear for their careers, the people in the room laugh because it’s not their ass on the line for saying it — it’s Gervais’. The people at home laugh because they know it’s true as well, and it exorcises their own anxieties about living in a world where that kind of behavior would be necessary or encouraged — that a whackadoo church would in effect run the entertainment industry and encourage people to hide their sexuality for the betterment of their careers. We laugh because it helps us exorcise our anxieties about any of it being actually true.

You see the crowd laughing. You see Alec Baldwin wiping a tear away from his face, he’s enjoying the jokes so much. Sure, not all of the audience is enjoying the routine: some have been targeted, and it takes a special kind of person who can be roasted and take it in stride. (It takes another comedian).

It’s just a joke, after all.

But what happens about halfway through the show is that Robert Downey, Jr. gets up and scolds Gervais for being “mean-spirited,” the all purpose fallback accusation of the weak-willed and intellectually lazy. He then follows this up with a stupid and sexist joke that is far more offensive to women as a whole than anything Gervais said all night, not to mention his own wife, who was presumably seated in the audience, but because it is all in good fun and boys will be boys the tone of the night is changed after that point.

Now people aren’t laughing as much. A superego has been introduced into the room. Maybe it’s best to just not get involved. Maybe it’s better to just not laugh, even if it is funny. Maybe it’s not funny at all. Maybe it’s just mean?

This morning the same thing is playing out in the media and the blogosphere. Gervais’ comedy was originally praised by nearly everyone on the viewers’ side of things — only the Hollywood people seemed upset about anything. And that makes sense, if they were the ones being lampooned. But as the news day continued on Monday, more and more people seem to have decided that Gervais is a big fat meanie.

Funny how that works — being funny, that is. You can be really funny one day, and really mean the next.


I still don’t have the answer to this problem of how to be funny without ever being called mean. There are people out there who are considered funny who are never called mean, but I don’t think they are funny (please cf. Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, etc.)

Anyway in the midst of my dark wilderness I decided to read the book How to Win Friends And Influence People [Ba Dump Bump — that was not actually a joke, but go ahead and laugh, because I do see the humor in it].

I’ve been meaning to read this book for years and have only now got around to doing so. One of the key components — the first, in fact, is “never criticize, condemn or complain.” As you can imagine, my response to this was FUCK ME. But I read the chapter and naturally, it’s quite wise — the rationale is that criticism just shoots you in the foot, no matter how well founded, because nobody will ever see your point, and they will only hate you for it.

Ahhh, Mr. Carnegie shoots and scores!

Most of the book has been this way for me. I totally agree with most of it, as much as this might seem surprising to those of you who are familiar with it. I see the wisdom of it and think it’s absolutely correct. In fact, it’s a brilliant little book to read, for those of you who don’t already hate people. I just don’t see how I can possibly make any use of it. I think I am too far gone. I just don’t know if I can stop criticizing, even if I know it’s a futile thing, and even if I know people will hate me for it.

I think I might be well aware of the fact that you catch more flies with honey, but to pursue that path would be dishonest for me. Because if I pursued that path, I would be doing it just to manipulate people, to get them to do what I wanted, to get them to act the way that I wanted without ever letting on that I thought anything about what they were doing was wrong.

And for me, kicking over a beehive might be disruptive, but it also has a little bit more integrity, because to pursue another method would be to be going after something far more sinister — far more cynical (if that is even possible), because it is hidden and encased in something that makes it look more pleasant than it actually is.

And I wonder if maybe Ricky Gervais is the same way.

Comments (47)

  1. Kathryn
    Jan 17, 2011

    Ricky Gervais was funny.

    Tim Allen took the jibe aimed at him in stride like, as you said, a comedian would.

    Hell, Colin Firth was funny in that very British self-deprecating way in his acceptance speech.

    Robert De Niro was not funny.

  2. Michele
    Jan 17, 2011

    I loved that he introduced Ashton Kutcher as Bruce Willi’s son. Because like you said, Hollywood know’s it’s true and, we all know it’s true but you know,… shhhhh don’t say it outloud.
    What I’ve realized over the last couple of months with my studies and honestly it’s no surpise, is that I value Honesty over kindness. So I can find humor in things that are honest and not so kind, because hey it’s the truth.
    What I do find that there are quite a few mom bloggers on twitter last night whom were ripping the actor/actress to shreds about their appearance and clothing and now about being a meanie. I find it’s disgusting hypocritical that they can do this so openly to a REAL celebrity but god forbid someone point out how some mom blogger is all hoochie mama like it is to have boob and tramp stamp shots on your “mom blog.”

  3. Jan 17, 2011

    The clips I saw I thought were pretty damn funny. And I wondered how the people on the receiving end were…receiving.

    More than one therapist told my ex and I in couples counseling that sarcasm was a form of abuse. I was all, like, “WHAT???? How else am I supposed to communicate, then?” I grew up with a father who was always throwing his sense of sarcastic humor around and I guess somehow it stuck. When things in my marriage went from moderately miserable to truly horrific, my sarcasm was the only way I could actually express myself and save my sanity at the same time. So to be told I was being abusive was just freaking strange to me.

    I suppose there is a line. I’m not sure ripping people apart for the sake of ripping them apart is cool or useful – but I do appreciate good sarcasm and I’ve gotten many a belly laugh from some of the comments I heard Ricky Gervaise make last night…and from reading some of the things you’ve written. I would say on the percentage, more things have made me laugh than made me cringe, but still, those cringe-worthy moments are there.

  4. LC
    Jan 17, 2011

    I thought he was funny but I can understand why it didn’t play well to that particular audience. But it seems to me that the loser is always the person who plays the “you’re so mean” card….being humorless is way more unattractive than the jokes he was making.

    And what did the Golden Globes think they were getting with him anyway? His whole schtick is making people feel uncomfortable in a created awkward situation. Personally, it made the whole thing bearable for me b/c the awards themselves were a veritable snoozefest.

  5. Jan 18, 2011

    I’m sure that both the Golden Globes and Ricky Gervais are enjoying all of this delightful publicity they’ve generated!

    It was genius move of Gervais’ part. His reputation as a near-the-knuckle comedian is far more valuable to him in the long-term than being thought of kindly in the short term. He was made by his edge and his latest offerings have been noticeably lacking in it.

    Having re-watched the Robert Downey Jr. “mean-spirited” bit this morning, it seems to me that he was being dry rather than outraged. Although given his misogyny, I’m happy to be proved wrong!

  6. Jan 18, 2011

    I’ve been meaning to read that book also. Sounds like I would be a hopeless case, too.

    Isn’t the whole concept of human progress based around the idea of criticizing, condemning and complaining?

    I mean, how else is anything suppose to get “better”?


  7. Jan 18, 2011

    Well, that’s why the book is brilliant. The example he gives is with a manager who was having a problem with people at a construction site or something wearing helmets. He’d scold them for not wearing their helmets and they’d do it for one day and then not do it (this was in the early twentieth century, mind you) after that. So then some guy would come in and start asking the workers if maybe the helmets were not comfortable? Was there something they could do to make them more comfortable? Maybe they needed to be redesigned, or allowed for how hot the plant was, because the workers were getting so overheated while they worked? Well, after that, they all wore them, all the time, constantly. All because the guy came in, asked them what they thought, looked at it from their perspective. No changes to the helmets were even made in the end.

    So the idea is: you get nowhere with criticizing, condemning, complaining, no matter how righteous your cause. It’s not that you should abandon the cause altogether, though — it’s that you should reframe it in a way that looks at it from the perspective of the other person. So if I see somebody acting like a douchebag, instead of mocking them, I should try to get in their shoes, understand what makes them act like a douchebag, and then reach out to them in their douchebaggery. Create an “Understand the douchebag” coalition, and that would be the way to go about eradicating the douchebaggery.

    So you see the problem with that kind of an effort, from my standpoint.

  8. Jan 18, 2011

    I don’t know, I have to think they kind of like it. And you’re right — that absolutely is his brand of humor. Secondary embarrassment. He loves that.

  9. Jan 18, 2011

    RDJ’s delivery was dry, yes, but his intent was absolutely to scold him, IMO. The fact that he delivered it in a dry manner just makes it more infuriating, in fact. Uggh. That’s just my thing, though. I hate the “mean-spirited” thing. I get people who don’t like that kind of humor, that’s fine, it’s not everybody’s thing. I can totally respect that. But the person who calls it “mean-spirited,” that’s the person who gets under my skin.

  10. Jan 18, 2011

    Of COURSE they knew what they were getting. That’s why they hired him.

    It’s just like the blogosphere. The people who complain about trolls the loudest will post outrageous stuff…and then say, “OMG, trolls!”

    I don’t follow awards shows and wouldn’t have even known the Golden Globes were on if there wasn’t all this controversy. That’s what they want…attention. They got their money’s worth.

  11. Jan 18, 2011

    The thing about that example is that that manager has a business need: to get the people to wear their hardhats. They have to be worn. So he has to achieve that end somehow. In that case, I agree with the recommended approach.

    Now, do you have a business need to get weenies on the internet to stop being weenies on the internet? Are you the fixer of weeniedom? Because if so, you should employ that same approach.

    But I’m pretty sure “fixer of weeniedom” is not your business strategy.

  12. Jan 18, 2011

    i didn’t watch the whole thing, but i thought RG was pretty funny. and RDJ got a Major Eyeroll / Finger Gag from me.

  13. Jan 18, 2011

    Right, I don’t have a business need to fix the weenies of the internet. But the thing is, if I act like myself, people hate me. So I am doing some reading on the different manners of dealing with things that might prevent people from hating me. This method is not likely to work for me because I think it is ultimately too fake, even if Carnegie maintains that it is not really fake, it’s about “taking an interest” in other people. I think really what it is sugar coating your gripes about other people so that they don’t seem so awful and unpalatable. And I think that this kind of thing happens all of the time. I just don’t think I can pull it off.

  14. Jan 18, 2011

    I would argue that his advice is only useful if you want people to do something they don’t want to do (like wear hardhats). I don’t believe it’s useful in making people like you. So even if you COULD follow it to the letter, it wouldn’t matter, unless you were trying to cure weeniedom.

    When I’ve seen people implement techniques like this to make people like them, it’s only added “and she’s fake and patronizing” to the list of things people don’t like about the person. In spite of the title, it’s not much use for that.

  15. Jan 18, 2011

    That’s probably true. He uses examples of people who ARE well-liked by posterity who do these things (e.g. Lincoln, FDR) but I am thinking that perhaps they did them naturally and that is a different situation. If somebody naturally takes an interest in others, remembers details about people by nature, remembers names easily, that is something that is just a gift, it’s not something they’ve developed through a conscious attempt to manipulate people.

    Though the case of Lincoln is interesting, because Carnegie claims that Lincoln was, in his youth, prone to mocking people mercilessly in print, and that at one point he stopped because of some near death situation (a duel). And after that point he was always seeing the other person’s side of things, and always doing the thing where you are reasonable and all that bullshit. Now if that is true, that is a case to be examined because Lincoln is pretty much universally well-liked and I don’t think people consider Lincoln to have been fake.

  16. drhoctor2
    Jan 18, 2011

    RDJ ‘s take on “mean” is a reaction from a recovering addict. Reality is mean to them in a way the rest of us can’t understand…his argument is invalid.
    The best reaction to Gervais would have been a joke that worked, as you say, that needed a comedian. Roasts end with the honoree getting a chance to rebut after all…
    Scientology is a very scary operation. I don’t care who knows I think that. CULT !!! $$$$ !!!
    Repressed sexual expression !!!! I mean, all the signs, eh ? Clearwater Fla. has never been the same. I will be happy the day it implodes.
    I think damn near everything is funny in one sense or another ..it has gotten me in some awkward situations ..but I’ve laughed so much I consider it a win. I guess Don Rickles would have made Ironman cry.

  17. Jan 18, 2011

    This discussion between the two of you was worth the price of admission alone.

    I do work hard to take other people’s perspectives into account, mostly at work but also in life. I don’t think this makes me fake. It also isn’t 100% natural, though the tendency is in-born. But I have sharpened and learned to use this tendency to my advantage, as any smart person uses any of their natural tendencies to their advantage. Here’s why I make the effort: it works. It provides me with tools I need to diffuse tense situations or difficult people and to be more successful. When I’m at work, I think of this skill as diplomacy. In my personal life, I think of it as empathy. Same skill, but I think I wield it differently.

    I don’t know if it makes me more likeable, though. You’d probably have to ask the people who know me.

  18. drhoctor2
    Jan 18, 2011

    On your take on Carnegie and Freud..I’ve read both and see those points as valuable information. Carnegie, in particular, is really making common sense, mannerly, respectful treatment of other people a business model. Still relevant, in my opinion, even more so when applied to interpersonal relationships.
    People go off topic when they have lost the debate. Turning the point of conversation to definitions of mean is a way out for them. It’s sloppy and Mean is aiming to hurt someone on purpose with an intention to harm. Anxiety motivates a lot of that. We despise the self we see in other people. It’s much healthier to be able to lighten up and laugh things off.

  19. Socks
    Jan 18, 2011

    Oh for Gawd’s sake, stop with this “people hate me” schtick.

    A small group of mommy bloggers may hate/dislike you, but that’s it. Some hate/dislike you because you spoke out and voiced different opinions. Others hate/dislike you because you pushed them too hard. And some just jumped on a band wagon.

    If there were any way to do a proper poll, I’d bet most people don’t hate/dislike you at all.

    This “they hate me, they hate me” is like some skinny girl saying her ass is too fat so stop already. We like you.

    And remember, you can please some of the people all of the time….

  20. Socks
    Jan 18, 2011

    And count me among the people who thought Ricky Gervais was funny most of the time.

    I’m a long time fan although I know his humour’s not to everyone’s taste.

    Also, I don’t think that mean spirited battle is worth fighting as people who don’t like Ricky do think he’s mean spirited. It’s just one of those deal breakers.

  21. Jan 18, 2011

    Tons of people hated both Lincoln and FDR. You don’t get it when you look backward, but if you read contemporary newspapers, you see it. In fact, there was so much anti-Lincoln rhetoric in 1865 that his assassination was not really that big of a surprise…half the country actually tried to leave on his watch, and he only became universally liked after someone shot him in the head and several decades passed. That’s a tough way to get people to like you.

    Plus it doesn’t matter, because you’re not running for president, and watching somebody do that is no fun. Remember when Obama got caught saying that some people cling to guns and religion, and had to backpedal, even though it’s true? Lincoln and FDR had to do that stuff too. All politicians do.

    But Ricky Gervais doesn’t have to do that. He knows who he is, and you either book him for the gig or you don’t. But enough people like his brand of humor that he’s not going to starve. You aren’t going to starve either (unless you try to run for president).

    I’ve had this problem too, always. I’m a prickly person, and I’m snarky. That’s never going to go away. But enough people have liked me that I’ve always done just fine, and the rest can bite me. I never wanted to be prom queen anyway. That job pays crap in the long run.

    I’m not advocating being mean (and I actually didn’t love all of Gervais’ jokes, although I only read about them after the fact). I like snark in private way better than in public. But I hate this idea that anytime you disagree with a popular person or point out something that appears obvious, you’re mean. I’m not sure how anyone can ever have any sort of intelligent debate or critical analysis under those rules.

  22. Jan 18, 2011

    I’m not trying to make this into a schtick, but I see what you’re saying and you’re right, it’s annoying. Sorry, I really don’t want to do that. UGGH. I am just lost right now. I don’t know how to deal with this stuff. I have been kind of floundering. If I could not internalize this stuff I would be fine but I am not good at that. I am not somebody who does that very well. I am hypercritical of everyone else, yes, but that is nothing compared to what I do to myself. So I am sounding like an idiot because I don’t know what to do. But this does sound like fishing for compliments so I need to cut it the fuck out.

  23. Jan 18, 2011

    I’m a recovering addict too, though . . .

  24. Jan 18, 2011

    All I know is that I read the comments on Mom 101’s post and it made me feel like shooting myself. Not literally people. Not literally. Don’t worry.

  25. Jan 18, 2011

    Missed the Golden Globes, and I haven’t bothered to catch up with the Ricky Gervais controversy. But otherwise…I’m with Socks.
    “People” don’t “hate” you. SOME people might. I can’t imagine who has the energy to “hate” their critics, but perhaps some of those whom you’ve criticized do dislike you. Any regular commenters here probably like you. In a way, you work for us–regular mommybloggers and regular readers. If you’re serving the groups you believe are your audience, and you’re not being gratuitously unkind, I don’t think you can fairly be accused of being mean-spirited. Though, naturally, no one likes being the target of criticism. But fair-minded people, even targets, will acknowledge you have a right to look into matters that concern your mommyblogger audience.
    Good for you for investigating the wisdom of Dale Carnegie. I’ve often been curious but never enough to pick up “How to Win…” I have the friends I want to have and influence the people I want to influence.

  26. Socks
    Jan 18, 2011

    Ok, just read the Mom 101 comments and what strikes me is that no one gives any examples apart from the Scientology one. And I’m willing to bet (for the second time on this thread – what’s coming over me?) that they’ve all joked privately TC and JT being gay. (For the record I’m not convinced, at all, either one is gay as I remember all the people who swore Richard Gere was gay, and that didn’t turn out so well did it?) So to deconstruct they think it’s mean to say in public what they say in private even when the subject of the joke is rich and powerful as opposed to poor and downtrodden.

    I will say that Ricky Gervais’ line about Sandra Bullock was tasteless and unfunny. And also, the Bruce Willis line was amusing even though we all joke about Demi and Ashton all the time contrary to all the people who say we don’t.

    I also liked the BOnanza line. And, no, he didn’t say the SATC stars were ugly and old. He implied they need to grow up. And, of course, the Sylvester Stallone joke was great and mean.

    Finally, I though RDJ was smug and unfunny and sexist and Steve Carrell was great — as usual. I guess I just like those Office guys.

  27. Jan 18, 2011

    Even on Mom 101’s post there were several dissenters who thought Gervais was funny. I’m not sure what the point is of asking if 2011 is going to be The Year of Nice. I try to abide by the old journalism saw: “Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” So, yes, let’s be nice to the poor, downtrodden, unjustly accused, starving…But the wealthy, self-satisfied, blinkered and privileged–go ahead and be mean to them, if there’s a purpose behind it. (And if you’re a comedian, do it if it’s funny. That’s your job.)

  28. Jan 18, 2011

    I would bet that a large percentage of those commenters didn’t even watch the Golden Globes.

    This is one of those bandwagon things…like the people who retweet stuff without having a clue what it’s really about. “I’m against meanness.” Well, of course you are. Everyone is. Duh.

  29. drhoctor2
    Jan 18, 2011

    And as gently as possible I say this to you Anna..yes..on the addiction and and the reaction to criticism. What I see as a neutral fact ..”not everyone will like me”..you see as a personal negative. I never think you are fishing for compliments . I do believe you are too hard on yourself and I do think you’ll be just fine as there is much truth in the “stronger at the mended places” philosophy.
    On the other hand , don’t allow too many “other voices” edit you. There is a huge gap between making a valid critique and call people taint faces..if it bothers you I’m sorry I bring that up…but..man, that makes me giggle. A simple “so there” will do, ya know ?
    When people do that to me I raise my arms like touchdown Jesus and yell “I win”..Am I mean because I can support my opinion with citeable fact ?? No. Have I provoked a person intellectually after they have taken a cheap shot at me because they can’t support THEIR position ? Probably. Sometimes I feel wicked smart. I don’t hurt people’s feelings on purpose much but I don’t suffer fools at all. It’s not my responsibility to sugarcoat myself to suit someone else’s delicate sensibilities.
    Constructive criticism, critical thinking, open debate, biting debate.these are all good things.

  30. Jan 18, 2011

    Thanks, sometimes it is hard to tell. Sometimes it is hard to tell if I am serving my audience, or who my audience is, or if they are happy with what they are getting. This is, of course, outside of the few of you who comment regularly and give me feedback. I do get a good sense from you guys but there is a big chunk of people that . . . I don’t know who the hell they are. I don’t know if they are with me or not, frankly. I hope they are, but I honestly don’t know. And also I get kind of knocked off balance and lose perspective when I have these blowouts every couple of months. So I need to try to avoid those from now on if possible.

  31. Jan 18, 2011

    Yeah, I didn’t watch the whole thing either, oddly enough (my husband was watching it, and I was on the computer). I thought many of RG’s jokes were funny, not all, but many. But mostly I developed a nasty resentment for Robert Downey Jr. over this whole thing, which is too bad because I think highly of him as an actor.

  32. Jan 18, 2011

    I didn’t know journalism had a motto like that. That’s interesting. And it kind of seems reasonable to me.

    But also, mostly I just want to punch the opening line of that post — “Gosh I like Ricky Gervais. I love his cynicism.”

    Who the fuck loves cynicism? Even I don’t love cynicism. Cynicism isn’t something you love. It’s something you have because you don’t have any choice. And also “Gosh”? Who the fuck are you? Goofy? What is this? Micky Mouse Clubhouse?

  33. Jan 18, 2011

    I feel like saying I’m NOT against meanness. That post has made me decide that I’m for it, once and for all. I WAS against it, but now I’m totally coming out as a pro-big fat meanie. I’m going to be on the cover of next month’s Meanie Advocate and support Meanie marriage.

  34. Jan 18, 2011

    Sometimes it makes me upset, sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me indignant. It just depends on when you catch me. Sometimes it’s all of those things in quick succession.

  35. Jan 19, 2011

    Hell yes, he was funny! You’re funny, too. Just consider that little book as suggestions for more funny fodder.

  36. Jan 19, 2011

    This Poynter Institute column goes into the origins of the popular line for ACTIVIST journalists (not everyone believes journalists should be crusaders, but you, as a blogger, clearly seem to be in that vein): http://www.poynter.org/archived/ask-dr-ink/1298/afflicting-the-afflicted/

    And the columnist, “Dr. Ink,” has a few good points. One that applies to your work–or one of the themes of your work, or your “story,” or whatever: “We need journalists to get at the truth and to keep watch against abuses of power.”

    When you are at your best, this is what you do–get at the truth and keep watch against the abuses of power. Some in the mommyblogging sphere are powerful but don’t have anyone checking that power, except you. That is a worthy goal, because power unchecked can be destructive and ugly in its application.

    As for your earlier reply (8:28 p.m.) to my other comment, regarding the “blowouts”: Just as a general observation, I don’t think Twitter is always your friend. You are not alone in that; lots of people get into trouble on Twitter. If you think people are talking about you on Twitter–well, they may be, or they may not be, but rarely is it to your advantage to get involved, either way. That’s my 2 cents.

  37. Jan 19, 2011

    Yeah, I kind of felt bad for the Mean after that excoriation. Are the Meanies the underdogs now that it’s 2011 and the Year of the Nice? Because I usually root for the underdog. Also, I’m confused on this point: If you’re Mean to a Meanie, are you being Nice?

  38. Jan 19, 2011

    Totally agree — Twitter is not my friend. I am semi-decent most of the time with being fair in my responses to people with whom I disagree when I allow myself to cool down. On my blog, I am better at doing the thing where you take two breaths and don’t respond. Twitter, it’s much harder. So basically, I have to not do Twitter. Which really, isn’t that much of a loss, because my stream is so big now I cannot really keep up with it and I’ve never found a client that I like.

    Re: activist journalism, I suppose, though everyone jumps on me on that stuff, with the “journalism” moniker. I’ve never actually called myself a journalist, and I don’t have any training, and I don’t even pretend to be unbiased. I’m TOTALLY biased. But do I look for abuses of power, yes. I do that kind of by nature.

  39. Jan 19, 2011

    I think you worry about the meanie thing way too much. I think you are 100% perfect the way you are, and I bet most if not all of your regular readers think so too. Why not do a survey to prove it?

  40. Jan 19, 2011

    I like your points and I always enjoy your analysis. I haven’t watched the Golden Globes (just read the recap on the BBC’s site) but what I read there mostly made me cringe. (I thought some of the stuff was absolutely hilarious, but a lot of it went down like a lead balloon).

    I am very kind and I have spent my childhood being on the receiving end of people’s razor wit and sarcasm and criticism at my expense and it was deeply wounding. So I may be oversensitive about the whole thing and I certainly don’t think anyone should chase Gervais out of town, but I like my skewering more good-natured and softened with a dose of self-deprecation (which maybe Gervais did, I just don’t care enough about the whole thing to try and hunt down all the replays on youtube).

    I’m not against mocking someone – my marriage is partially founded on mutual loving mockery – but it’s okay, because there is a strong relaitonship underneath which creates the safe mocking space – we know we love each other and think highly of each other so poking fun at one another is okay and we don’t pick on each other’s true vulnerabilities. You want to make your partner laugh, and poke at them a little and invite a response back – but none of it is wounding. When it seems specifically targetted to denigrate or wound – there I think mean-spirited is a warranted label.

    If someone were to say “The Armstrong Empire seems Recession-proof since by my count Jon’s spent like a $1000 so far on Heather’s Christmas presents” and be called mean and jealous – well that is indeed a hol heap of bullshit. Unlike say, the speweing of vitriol (a la some of Chicken Licken’s stuff in its heyday) whose only purpose is to blame and guilt-trip…. that is indeed mean.

    I don’t think you are unkind though. Critical analysis might make you unpopular but it doesn’t make you a mean girl.
    I think you also win friends and influence people being exactly who you are.

  41. drhoctor2
    Jan 19, 2011

    It made me indignant also, but in the moment only. Now it’s just my go to insult when I’m thinking …What would an overly emotional debate losin’ no grace having’ self involved insecure ass say. to derail the intellectual discussion/deconstruction when they have clearly lost their minds ? I think “taint face” covers it. Because I’m mean, kind of. I enjoy watching someone stick their feet into it when they’ve blown their own credibility ! I think THAT shiznit is funny. Hoisted on your own petard are ya ?? HAH !
    AND it is like on my mind at random moments..I was going thru my list of why that isn’t even a “good” mean ass thing to say because the Taint is pretty innocuous looking compared to it’s neighbors, sphincter and genitalia ? Taint is just a smooth unpuckered area not unlike your forehead..or something..it’s almost complimentary !! When I say something mean, on purpose ? People cry. Cause, I’m THAT good.
    I don’t read MOM 101 for various reasons but I checked the comments to understand your point of reference and your comment is redacted..Purely curious..Did you delete your comment ?

  42. Jan 19, 2011

    That was my way of indicating that I had nothing nice to say.

  43. Jan 20, 2011

    Anna ~ I’m replying, here, to your comment that is directly above and also below, because it’s not letting me do it there (or I don’t know how to work this reply thing!)

    A) yeah, I had the same thought re/ the ‘People Hate Me’ quip as the commenter above. I’m quite certain there are more people who value you than people who hate you. Remember that: people value you.

    B) if you don’t fundamentally respect The People Who Hate You, WHY do you care what their opinion of you might be? There’s no logic there. NO LOGIC!!! And you love logic.

    There’s so much more but I’ll start with those two points. Mantra for your mirror: “People value me. I love logic.” Say it every morning with an italic voice. 🙂

  44. Jan 20, 2011

    @Daily Coyote, yes the threading only goes a few levels, which is annoying, but if I set it for more it would be even more annoying, which is why I don’t change it.

    Re your comments, A) yes, I know, even as I wrote it I was thinking people are going to get annoyed with this, this is annoying, I am being annoying. It’s not lost on me — the thing is, the thoughts are still going on in my head, whether annoying or not. So, I kind of decided to put them out there anyway because I figured you guys would come and tell me that I was being annoying, and then that might actually be more effective in getting me to stop being annoying than me telling myself that.

    B) Yes, I know that it’s absurd to care if somebody whom you do not fundamentally respect hates you. We are talking about emotional responses here, though, not logic — I seem like a logical person, and in many ways I am, but I also have a very illogical emotional side. I just don’t really show it here that often because it’s stupid and illogical. Also, I think my illogical emotional side looks at people who are fundamentally unworthy of respect and thinks, “How DARE they hate me? I mean, how DARE they?” at first, and then it thinks, “Maybe there IS something wrong with me.” I don’t know. It’s crazy.

    Anyway, yeah, I’m not really one for the daily meditations but probably that isn’t such a bad plan. LOL

  45. Jan 20, 2011

    Replying to Anna, above, I think you’ve hit on a bigger truth (at least for me) in your response to Socks. I internalize criticism as well. I’ve stayed awake all night thinking about (and feeling shitty about) a cutting comment on my blog, *even* when I knew, logically, that I didn’t particularly care what that person thought of me or my actions. I guarantee you that some of the bloggers that you’ve been hypercritical of internalized the hell out of that criticism and maybe floundered too. Maybe lashed out. Etc. Makes me think that that is one way in which the lovely Carnegie might apply to blogging, even if you hate the general idea, in that, it helps to take a moment and realize that the targets of criticism always internalize it and flounder at first. It’s easy to get your knickers in a twist and lash out (I don’t mean that as a criticism of you, I mean that I’ve done it.) when you feel attacked.

  46. Socks
    Jan 22, 2011

    Hey, just wanted to add that I don’t think it’s easy to know that certain people, no matter how unworthy of respect they may be, and, no matter how logical you may be, hate you.

    Although some others may already have made this point, I just wanted to agree with them

  47. Jan 24, 2011

    What? Sarcasm is abuse? That’s bullshit. My whole family does it. My dad & his brother have elevated it to an art form. My husband and I use it and find it funny. We congratulate each other on a good zinger. So I guess it’s only abusive if the person you’re using it against doesn’t like it?

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