Monday, 14 March 2011

Is the joke on us?

Just a couple of hours after the Japanese earthquake hit my phone started going insane with jokes and comments about the whole situation. Social networking sites were full of jokes about Godzilla and even Shakin Stevens managed to get a mention (bizarrely)

But why do we do this?

Is it just to laugh at others misfortunes or is there a deeper meaning?

After a disaster it has been proved that there is usually a spike in the birth rate. We reach for each other to make us feel alive and babies are usually the result.

Police, Doctors and other people in jobs which bring them face to face with death on a daily basis all seem to have a dark sense of humour. A cynical look at the world or perhaps even a way to stick two fingers up at death.

When people make jokes about disasters or the death of someone famous, most of them would be mortified if someone close to them felt hurt by the joke.

But it doesn't stop people does it?

We have all received jokes, via text, e-mail or by mouth and yes, chances are we laugh.

But is it with humour?

Or because we feel lucky to be alive?

Big Fashionista x x


  1. I really can't appreciate the jokes about Japan - I don't get all militant about it, but I can't laugh at them after seeing the pics and videos of the devastation as I feel so sorry for all the people affected by it. Same thing happens with every major news event though!

    And I do agree with those that work close to disasters/death have a very dark sense of humour.

  2. I'm mighty relieved never to have seen a joke about it. I honestly would instantly block/unfriend/whatever anyone who behaved in that way. And I don't know, thankfully, anyone who ever shares jokes about any kind of disaster. They don't make me laugh. Honestly not being sanctimonious, I just find it repellent.

    Who the fuck laughs at this shit? JOkes about disasters where thousands have lost their lives? Horrific.

    The spike in birthrate stuff is fascinating though, I didn't know that!

  3. I have to say one friend sent me a jokey text and I was, in all honesty disgusted, I just decided not to reply and to delete the text. I fully appreciate that perhaps people whose work brings them into contact with this sort of thing need to develop a coping mechanism, however I don't think my mate sat in the comfort of her own home needed any such mechanism, she just doesnt have the common sense to filter out the crap that arrives by text and tweet. But thats just my opinion and in context based on someone I know, whose crap-filter IS flawed, bless her!

  4. Thanks for comments ladies. It isn't just jokes about Japan. Madeline McCann, Heather Mills, world trade centre. For every horrible horrible thing happening in the world someone out there is making up a joke for it. Whether it is to laugh at adversity or to trivialise something horrific I just don't have the answers. I wish I did. Interesting to see peoples views on it.

    Charlie, there is lots of info out there about it. is just one page. I think it is a comfort thing x x

  5. YOu know what really does make me sick though? This:

  6. This kind of thing always makes me think of when Diana died and a friend of mine told me a joke about it. When I didn't laugh she said 'since when did you give a shit about the Royal Family'? I said I didn't particularly, but I did know what it was like to lose a parent at 15 and felt disgusted at the thought someone would make a joke about it, and I could relate to what those poor boys were going through, and that it was hard enough without the additional crap they had along with it like the media attention and the sick jokes. (The fact I was bullied at school, including the comment 'your mum deserves to die' when she was extremely ill with cancer probably makes me hyper-sensitive about these things.)
    On the other hand I have a good friend who is a policeman and he says when they have to deal with horrific situations each day they do develop a sense of humour about certain things and that is a coping mechanism, not making light of someone's sad personal circumstances.
    Personally I think jokes about tragedy from people who don't need the defense mechanism it may offer some, but from those who are frankly just thick or insensitive - well that kind of stuff makes me feel pretty sick.
    I don't get on my high horse about much, but have strong feelings on this subject...and I know why.
    Great post as always.

  7. After Micheal Jackson died my Facebook page filled with jokes that were really kind of inappropriate, but a really good (male) school friend of mine, once told me that the reason that males, at least, joke about stuff like death, is because it scares them, and making jokes just helps them to deal with it, in a way that isn't dealing with it. I guess it's just a passive way of coping with the idea that we're all going to die eventually!

  8. I do think it's something of a coping mechanism. Much like sometimes in the face of bad news, our reaction is laughter (hysterical perhaps... but laughter nevertheless).

    My paramedic sister has been dealing with death and tragedy on a regular basis for the last two years - that macabre sense of humour is part of the reason people can do those sorts of jobs. Equally important, though, is tempering it with a sensitive, thoughtful reaction where appropriate.

    I think the problem is that sometimes when these dreadful things happen on such a large scale, people lose sight of the personal tragedies and forget that a little sensitivity and thoughtfulness would go a long way.

  9. I think often the problem is is that the individual is detached from the situation, and maybe it's a way of staying detached. For example, with the Japan disaster, it's halfway across the world and so the individual maybe thinks 'I can't do anything to help' and resorts to humour to put a positive light upon the situation. Personally I abhor jokes about things like this, especially after a disaster where everyone's emotional wounds will be fresh and raw. It's just plain insensitive. :( xx

  10. (Sorry, I'm back with more to say!)

    Something Emma said really resonated with me though - about Japan being halfway around the world. I think she's absolutely right, and I think that the fact I have a connection with Japan has made this hit home harder than any of the equally awful natural disasters of the last few years (the Boxing Day Tsunami for instance).

    I was in Japan this time last year, and know first hand what an incredible place it is - plus my brother's girlfriend is Japanese and lives over there. Which is why I'm welling up with tears at the images on BBC News in a way I haven't with other disasters.

    (Really thought provoking blog - thank you!)

  11. Thank you everyone for your comments.

    I agree with you Rachel, even though it's half way across the world the world seems a lot smaller these days with social media, tv, radio and the Internet in general.

    Something like this resonates with a lot of people with connections to the area, a bit like 9/11.

    Some really great comments on the blog today, thank you for taking the time to reply everyone.


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