Opinion: Suffering Kids Are Not Funny

Filed under: Opinions

Imagine getting pinned beneath your car. You can barely move. You are understandably scared. You yell for help.

Someone calls 911. Firefighters and paramedics rush to your rescue. But a wait minute. This is really funny. Just your legs are sticking out from underneath the car.

While you groan in pain under the weight of the car and beg to be rescued, the firefighters take a few minutes to videotape you for YouTube – all the while laughing at you and telling you what a fool you are for getting trapped in the first place.

This would never happen, of course. You are an adult. You have dignity and rights. You are not some plaything whose misfortune others can use for their own entertainment.

You can thank your lucky stars that at this moment, you are not a child. At least you're not this child, the one who went behind the couch to retrieve some toys. When he got trapped, his parents decided not to help him. Instead, they mocked him for a few minutes while making a video for their own, and the public's, entertainment.

They posted the video on YouTube. Think it's funny? You aren't alone. The video went viral on Facebook, with only a couple of people venturing to suggest that it's a little sick to leave a frightened child trapped behind a couch.

Few people seem to see a problem here. Do a Google search for "laughing at children's pain," and you don't get any articles that talk about the psychology of this behavior. You just get links to more videos of (ha ha) crying and screaming children.

Sometimes it seems things like reality TV and YouTube have turned the world into one giant freak show. There is a whole series of shows labeled "Word's Dumbest" where you can tune in and watch people fall off ladders, run into buildings and generally hurt themselves.

Ha ha. People getting hurt. What fun.

Of course, most of those people are adults who sign all sorts of legal forms to waive their right to dignity for the sake of one tawdry scrap of celebrity.

Children, like the one trapped behind the couch, have no such choice. Neither did the little boy who was still recovering from anesthesia after a dental visit when his parents thought his disorientation was just too cute not to share with the masses. The video, "David After the Dentist," also went viral. Now the boy has become something of a performing monkey at Davidafterdentist.com. Seeing him mug for the camera for all his new video adventures, he apparently loves his Internet fame.

Wonder if the same can be said of the girl who tried to make a video puppet show, only to have a closet door fall on her head? "LMFAO ahhha ahahhha ahhhahah ahhahahha failure of life right there," as one viewer so eloquently put it.

Failure of life? Children getting hurt? LMFAO, indeed.

What are we teaching our children by laughing at their pain and misfortune? For one thing, we're teaching them to laugh at pain and misfortune.

Al Capp, the creator of the comic strip "Li'l Abner," once remarked that "all humor is based on cruelty." His fellow cartoonist Walt Kelly of "Pogo" fame countered that his remark revealed more about the nature of Al Capp than comedy.

Nonetheless, there is much truth in Capp's words. We laugh when Wile E. Coyote falls off a cliff or Homer Simpson causes a nuclear meltdown. Much of comedy depends on us feeling superior to some clueless idiot. But Homer Simpson and Wile E. Coyote are fictional.

What happens when we starting looking for idiots among ourselves and – worse – our children? In essence, we become bullies. Sure it's healthy to laugh at oneself, but it's kind of sick when the joke is on a child, a hapless and helpless victim of circumstances. What we end up teaching is that it's acceptable to laugh at other people's pain. Feel good about yourself by laughing at another's misfortune.

Cartoon violence used to be dismissed as, well, cartoonish. It's funny when an anvil falls on a cartoon character's head, but it obviously wouldn't be funny if it happened to a real person.

Oh, really? Watch "World's Dumbest." It's hysterical. At least you might think so if you grew up being mocked and videotaped when bad things happened because, hey, you were just there to amuse people anyway.

I surely hope these parents are putting aside money for their kids' future therapy visits. They certainly didn't do any soul-searching themselves.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.