Making fun of the mentally ill. February 7, 2002 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Making fun of the mentally ill.What's the craziest you can be and still be funny? Catatonic? Help me out here, I have such a tin ear for this stuff.
posted by luser to Bugs at 1:50 PM (35 comments total)

In MY reality, Harry Hopkins HAS no hat......

But to get to your point, I think it is like ethnic jokes....I can make bipolar jokes, for example, but if someone else starts making jokes calling me a nutcase, i might tend to become a wee bit defensive.

Anyway, we bipolars are a heckuvalot funnier than schizophrenics . But I hear they may be better at math.
posted by bunnyfire at 2:03 PM on February 7, 2002

there's timecube. i only object to threads on such sites because fark seems like the more appropriate place for them. i won't pretend to hold a moral superiority that prevents me from laughing at the productions of people like gene ray, for i am simply not that good of a person.
posted by moz at 2:03 PM on February 7, 2002

Everybody is nuts from some perspective. Everybody's got a problem. I say poke fun scattershot and let the chips fall where they may. You can't second guess how people are going to take things.

The frailty of being human is absurd. Absurdity is the basis of all humor. Discuss.
posted by dong_resin at 2:17 PM on February 7, 2002

The question is how we define poking fun as opposed to ridiculing.

I agree with you completely, Dong, that everybody should be the butt of a joke or two every once in a while so that they don't take themselves too seriously. But there is a thin line which occasionally does get crossed around here.

And then there's a complicating factor: we've all got problems, but some problems are only aggravated by not being taken seriously. Low self-esteem and aggression spring to mind pretty quickly. Paranoia might be added to the list, though I don't have the background in psychology to say for sure..
posted by Hildago at 2:30 PM on February 7, 2002

Laugh at everyone. Spare no one. If your credo is 'treat all equally', then do so.

Being a person that could be poked fun at in a non-PC way, I can tell you it is a welcome relief from the shabby, dewy-eyed sympathy of people who get all moist and outraged at the slightest thing.

Aside from the fact that I think self-estem issues are basically a crock of shit, being felt sorry for is far more demeaning than being made fun of.
posted by umberto at 2:41 PM on February 7, 2002

I agree with you completely, Dong

HA comedic genius.
posted by chrisroberts at 2:42 PM on February 7, 2002

The guy did puyt up a Web site...
posted by ParisParamus at 2:43 PM on February 7, 2002

posted by ParisParamus at 2:43 PM on February 7, 2002

I guess I mostly try to have fun with people as opposed to at their expense. Paranoid schizophrenia always brings out the jokes precisely because it is so frightening. It's a way of reacting to something that is beyond the comprehension of the non-schizophrenic, a way of turning away so we don't have to see it.

Apologies, if I offended anyone with my comment in that thread. I was having fun with the concept of schizophrenia, and didn't mean to belittle the author in particular. Didn't mean to be unsybilized.

Seriously, though, I can see how it would offend some people, and sorry if it did. And for that awful pun.

I'm just sorry about everything in general.

posted by Kafkaesque at 2:47 PM on February 7, 2002

The thing is, the page in question is funny, in a mildly humorous "how can he believe this" way. I found it far more interesting, however. Sure, the guy has a tenuous grip on reality but there are some very odd things happening to him. It would make me think, too.

kafkaesque--don't be sorry. Be sorry for the people who genuinely thought it to ROFL funny.

posted by ashbury at 2:54 PM on February 7, 2002

This post, and most nasty comments directed towards Harry Hopkins' Hat, appear to be based on people believing that this site is real.

Would it be any more acceptable to have a chuckle if we all found out this site was a spoof?

It's like watching 'Scary Movie'. If it were real, we'd all be shocked and dismayed at some psychotic person running around killing everyone. But knowing it's a movie, most people tend to have a little giggle when seeing an ax smashed into the stupid victim's head because it's so absurd.

One can have sympathy for the reality of mentally ill people and still find some of their comments and ideas peculiar, can't they?
posted by cyniczny at 2:55 PM on February 7, 2002

Let me do what I never do for a moment, qualify my point of view by sharing a bit.
I'm clinically depressed to the point of feeling suicidal. The ever trendy antidepressant drugs make it worse, and therapy seems little more than the placebo effect to me, useless as medicine if you're conscious of it. I have yet to find much more of a solution than putting up with it.
I don't know what my problem is, precisely. So far, no one does.
I've found that, the longer I live like this, the less I need others to empathize with me and share my pain. You either live like this also, and understand it by common experience, or you don't.
Go ahead and make fun. I see the absurdity of the situation outside of myself. I dress like Johny Cash, I'm terminally negative, I do all the predictable stuff depressed people do. When people call me on it, I'm right there with them. It is funny. I left taking things personally a few exits back. I may redecorate the wall with my brains at some point, but nothing strikes me as funnier than cartoonishly depressed people, or indeed, the suicidal, or the goofy way it affects behavior.

Most people with real suffering that they can't do anything about tend to adopt this attitude, I've noticed. Best AIDS joke I ever heard I got from someone so ruined by it that it was all they could do to rasp it at me.
It's been my experience that the overly sensitive tend to be the ones who haven't had to deal with anything terribly heavy yet. I'm sure they will at some point, that's the inevitability of life, but just as I don't feel the need to talk down to children, I don't particularly feel the need to pander to needs of the emotionally sheltered. They'll come around.

When I see someone whining about how offensive an obvious attempt at humor is, regardless of how funny it is or isn't, I tend to snark internally "Yeah, well, go get a tumor."
posted by dong_resin at 3:17 PM on February 7, 2002

One can have sympathy for the reality of mentally ill people and still find some of their comments and ideas peculiar, can't they?

Peculiar? Of course. They're not the comfortable norm. It's the laughable part that I have a hard time with.

My mother works in mental health. I've had contact with schizophrenics since I was 5. The joke gets old, and these people really don't get it. We aren't talking about somebody who has a difficulty, we're talking about a desease that the bearer can't control. How many here would laugh at AIDS patients?

Never mind, the post is gone...

If this website was a hoax, then its a troll, and as such, its not worthy of comment. If not, then you're laughing at those you fear, and that's kinda cowardly. Either way, posts like this really bring MeFi down.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:21 PM on February 7, 2002

being felt sorry for is far more demeaning than being made fun of

this line reminds me of that line from Men In Black

"it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"

"try it"

I'd rather be felt sorry for than made fun of, personally. As someone with a very unbalanced and dangerous schizophrenic in the family, my opinion is that you can both not make fun of AND not feel sorry for someone with a mental disability. It's a false choice. Being understanding doesn't equal pitying and finding humor in something or someone doesn't have to mean picking on. Calling schizophrenic web sites "hilarious" as a starting point is not getting off to a great foot.
posted by jessamyn at 3:24 PM on February 7, 2002

As the originator of the post, I really wish that I had worked harder on my phrasing. I was just caught up in my delicious find.

Somehow, when I find a site like that (and I intentionally look for them by Googling terms like "greys reptillians microphone") the human element behind it isn't readily apparent. I DO feel like a cruel ass, but I think that from a purely clinical sense, sites like that are wonderfully absurd. However, thinking about the tortured soul that is compelled to create something like that is sobering.
posted by Harry Hopkins' Hat at 3:35 PM on February 7, 2002

"I may redecorate the wall with my brains at some point,"-dong resin

Dongmeister, if you kill yourself, I will come kill you again. The world will have lost an extremely funny and perceptive MeFi poster and I will have lost one of the few allies I have around here. As Mojo Nixon says, there's no depression a couple of Foghorn Leghorn cartoons cant cure.

Keep on Keepin' on, brother dong.
posted by jonmc at 3:56 PM on February 7, 2002

Keep on Keepin' on, brother dong

I think I read that in a Hallmark card once.

And remember, you could do worse than dressing like The Man In Black, my personal hero.

Oh, and don't take your guns to town, if you know what I mean.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:01 PM on February 7, 2002

dong resin - thank you for that wonderfully frank disclosure. It sheds some light on how those who are afflicted with (nameyourdisease) feel towards those who may walk on tiptoes when (nameyourdisease) is brought up.
posted by ashbury at 4:03 PM on February 7, 2002

dong_resin: one day soon if you're just a tenth as happy as you make others you won't be happy(hey, we're talking 10% here!)but you will be fairly well disposed in a "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" sort of way. Meanwhile, you my hero all the way.

And you're absolutely right. Everything is just as funny as it is tragic. Why focus only on the negative, giggle, giggle, chortle, guffaw? :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:09 PM on February 7, 2002

dong_resin: It's been my experience that the overly sensitive tend to be the ones who haven't had to deal with anything terribly heavy yet. I'm sure they will at some point, that's the inevitability of life, but just as I don't feel the need to talk down to children, I don't particularly feel the need to pander to needs of the emotionally sheltered. They'll come around.

hmmm. the pain I've been through has made me more sensitive to the pain of others, not less so. I've always been very empathetic, so, upon reflection, that's natural.

when I see someone reacting in a malicious or callous way to someone else's problems, I usually think they haven't had to deal with anything terribly heavy yet, and that once they do they'll have more compassion for the suffering of others.

I guess both of our conclusions were wrong.
posted by rebeccablood at 4:35 PM on February 7, 2002

rebeccablood, thank you. That was very well said. But I do have to point out that there is a cognitive association native to depression that does not exist in schizophrenia. Schizophrenics (the real ones) don't get the difference between relations of irony, humor, or maliciousness. They're lost, and self-absorbed is a term that loses all meaning to them or about them. I have sympathy for dong_resin (we share more than you might think). But schizophrenics have a disorder that defies outside judgement, because there's nothing outside about it. Despite what any others might think, this isn't funny. I frequently call my mother's clients "fruits" but it doesn't ring humorous. They'll never get it, and neither will any of us.
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:56 PM on February 7, 2002

well, I must have missed the meeting that drew a connection between funny and empathetic... I didn't get to see the origina post but I can't find anything like "empathy" in the definition of joke.

posted by victors at 5:05 PM on February 7, 2002

I am on rather fragile ground here. So be gentle.....

I always felt that there are two ways people cope with pain/grief/suffering. It can heighten your empathy or it can desensitize you. If one goes through suffering/sees suffering for a very long time, sensitivity can make emotional survival in an otherwise harsh world very difficult. I was reading James Jones' 'From here to eternity' a few weeks back and thought that he articulated this very well. Most people would sub-consciously find a high level of sensitivity a big burden to carry.

Take for example - the city of Calcutta. Among other things - there are beggers with mutilated bodies on the streets of Calcutta. I have seen Western tourists react with horror. Truth is- Calcuttans are a gentle people. But most residents are simply desensitized to that plight. It took a Western woman - Mother Teresa to set up a home for the dying homeless. Or take heartache for example. People learn to cope with rejection in high school out here. I know of many guys in India who never recovered after being ditched by the first man/woman in their lives who they loved and vice versa.

If I may get a little clinical: It really is a function of how much pain are you inflicting on someone, at what dosage, for how long and that person's ability to cope with that kind of pain that determines what happens to him/her. Its different for different people. It also is influenced greatly by the societal framework in which one is brought up.

Humour or sniggering (I am not using those words interchangably) is sometimes a shelter, sometimes a defense mechanism. It is also I guess a function of the extent to which the traditional societal approval of machosomo is unbroken in a society that defines the role of humour in masking cruelty/sadess/pain etc.

posted by justlooking at 5:23 PM on February 7, 2002

Speaking as someone who has intimate personal experience with the subject at hand, I have to say that it is good we are all having this discussion. I commented on the original post and was, well, pissed off. It's not so much the marveling at this person's (if he is a schizophrenic and not just writing a work of fiction) ideations, it was more the wording of the post. It didn't invite any kind of perspective on how abso-fucking-lutely terrifying a psychotic breakdown really is. I have no problem arriving at a humorous take on the subject, except that it does nothing to encourage people to understand what paranoid schizophrenia really is and what it does to people. It's just too lazy and easy to get a har har out of the thing without also thinking about its implications.

Wulfgar! is absolutely right about the obliviousness of people in the depths of the disorder. There is nothing important outside the self. Everything is a potential attack on the self, an attempted annihilation of the person's essence. Schizophrenia sort of encases the self in an impenetrable wall (see also, Pink Floyd The Wall for a not entirely inaccurate portrait) as a defense mechanism. But this is usually at a later phase. The paranoia and irrational logical leaps made on the linked web page are usually associated with an earlier phase, the downward slide into a sometimes inescapable oblivion.

Fortunately, there are ways out, as I can attest. But not without excruciating pain and great expense, and the sword of Damocles hanging for the rest of one's days. I think we all overreacted a bit to the post, and I think Harry Hopkins' Hat sincerely didn't mean any harm. I am just a bit more sensitive about it than I suspect most people are. It’s kind of like picking on soldiers in a war when one is sitting at home, safe and sound. It's hard to imagine what life is like in the trenches.

If anyone is interested in a really interesting and helpful perspective, try reading RD Laing's work, especially "Self and Others". Also, Laing created a cycle of poems called Knots that frighteningly illustrate the swirling thought patterns of psychosis. It's one of my favorite works.

And dong_resin, you rock my world, assless chaps or no.

So do the rest of you for giving this a thoughtful discussion

posted by evanizer at 5:34 PM on February 7, 2002

" sometimes a shelter, sometimes a defense mechanism."

With all due respect, kaushik, humor is a survival mechansim and a weapon. Without my sense of humor, I would have long ago lit out for the Idahoan bunker I often refer to.
Seeing the world as the absurd place it is lessens our sense of persecution, for one thing and deflates our pomposity for another. And pomposity is the root of an awful lot of evil in this world. If humor can puncture my own or anyone else's pomposity than it's doing it's job.
Also, working in a job that brings me into contact with the public, I am often seized by the urge to confront whatever moron I am dealing with and beat him senseless. Instead, I either sling a wisecrack at him or share a joke at his expense later with my freinds.
If dong_resin can use his sense of humor to beat back the horror in his world, than more power to him.

posted by jonmc at 5:34 PM on February 7, 2002

there is a scandinavian playwright (dutch, i think) by the name of strindburg. he is famous for, besides writing (mysogynistic) plays, suffering schizophrenic-like symptoms for a while. he recovered, somehow, and continued to write plays but which were markedly different from his earlier work -- they were much more surreal and dream-like. in case you were interested.
posted by moz at 5:42 PM on February 7, 2002

" sometimes a shelter, sometimes a defense mechanism."

"With all due respect, kaushik, humor is a survival mechansim and a weapon."

Can't it be both? Or all four?
posted by Kafkaesque at 7:06 PM on February 7, 2002

Thanks Wulfgar and evanizer. Here's a link to a story about my second cousin who has schizophrenia who I referred to earlier. His life has had its ups and downs and is currently a hell on earth. As a family, we were never really in a position to make light of his condition because we were too busy dealing with it. On the other hand, the drunks and the anxiety-disordered in my family all get called out because we assume that they have some sort of perspective on their own issues, and if they don't, we think such perspective is attainable.

It's like a compulsion for me, to bring Michael up when people start tossing out anecdotes about schizophrenia, I'm not trying to weigh in on the "that's not funny" side, just sharing a personal story.
posted by jessamyn at 7:09 PM on February 7, 2002

People, there's a lot of love in this room.
posted by ColdChef at 7:49 PM on February 7, 2002

Whoa, I'm more than a little embarrassed by the warmth thrown my way, here.
I'm not suffering or anything, quite the opposite, in fact, but thanks all the same.

rebeccablood, when I typed " overly sensitive", I really should have typed "easily offended", as empathy isn't what I was referring to. When people have a certain amount of hopelessness or pain, their perspective shifts to deal with it, putting things like offense at how they are perceived, or jokes about their situation that might seem insensitive by others waaaay down on the list of what is relevant.
I wasn't speaking of callous treatment towards the suffering, rather about the effect of hopelessness on one's sense of humor and/or sense of decorum.
Gallows humour can't help but show itself in these things.

Neither of us is wrong or right. In fact, I wasn't even told there was a test.

I think ashbury got what I was attempting to put out, as he/she/it paraphrased it all quite nicely.
posted by dong_resin at 8:43 PM on February 7, 2002

"he" will do fine, thank you.
posted by ashbury at 9:19 PM on February 7, 2002

Well, fucking put it on your profile, then!

Sorry I snapped. I'm mental.
posted by dong_resin at 10:08 PM on February 7, 2002

When I see someone whining about how offensive an obvious attempt at humor is, regardless of how funny it is or isn't, I tend to snark internally "Yeah, well, go get a tumor."

if i had a tumor, i would name it dong_resin.
posted by jcterminal at 10:34 PM on February 7, 2002

complaint noted and adjustment has been made. No snapping.
posted by ashbury at 11:42 PM on February 7, 2002

As another person prone to depression etc, I can say honestly there's no way i'd still be around if it weren't for humor. If you take it all seriously, if you continually have emotional empathy for all other living creatures - forget it. It's exhausting to care about things. It's rewarding too, of course, and I am an empathetic person in general, but if I couldn't balance that out with laughter, it would wear me to the bone. I'm saddened enough by the world as it is. Though I'm doing fine at the moment, thanks, so no need to cheer me up :)

Point being, it certainly needn't be one or the other. Empathetic humor is the best kind. You know, those beautiful moments that are both funny and sad at the same time. Those are my favorites.

On a website, plain old silliness is probably the best we'll get of course. Which is important too. I have an "award" my sister gave me when I was 10 & she was 7, which certifies that I am the best sister ever (or something like that), and "achieved excilence in all subjects including weardness, craziness and silliness" (sic - she was 7, give her a break).
posted by mdn at 9:25 AM on February 8, 2002

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