Cringe worthy

As a preteen, I recall my parents sitting down to a Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis film on TV with great anticipation. I can’t say I found the film enjoyable, but it was only after we’d watched a few more that I recognised my feeling was more than lack of laughter and was actually … discomfort. So I simply stopped watching them.

It was decades before I thought about them again and, by then, I had the capacity to analyse the problem. Even though Jerry Lewis was inviting us to join him in finding it amusing, the treatment being meted out to his character was always humiliating. How viewers were meant to believe Dean Martin was a genuinely likeable character when he didn’t rail against such treatment of his friend was totally beyond my understanding. I felt the same about the films of Norman Wisdom – the British version of the small man, the comic turn we were supposed to laugh at – or with – and take to heart.

I believe I’ve a good sense of humour and have no problem enjoying those scenarios where where a comic shares an embarrassing experience they’ve had with an audience – for they’re in control, they’re the one with the power, they are not being “done to”. For even if the experience, when witnessed, may have been humiliating – they’re adding their own personal humorous perspective to it’s retelling. We’re not watching someone helpless in the course of being humiliated.

For me, when examples of embarrassment = humiliation, I check out – for it makes me cringe deep inside my being.


Do you feel uncomfortable when you see someone else being embarrassed? What’s most likely to make you squirm?

© Debra Carey, 2020

8 thoughts on “Cringe worthy

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  1. Yes, definitely! I think anyone with empathy would feel the same way. The only people I am aware of that find humiliating situations hilarious are bullies and/or sociopaths. Thankfully I have the luxury of no longer having people like that in my sphere.


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  2. It does bother me when I see others being humiliated, even when it’s supposed to be in jest. I tend to stay away from those kinds of movies/shows and people!

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  3. I don’t like mocking humor intended to humiliate so even if it’s supposedly funny to watch someone being made fun of, I cringe. Like Janet, I stay away from people and entertainment [?] like that.

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  4. Janet, yes I think that’s the decision taken by most who don’t find this sort of thing to their taste. I have to say I’d add things like the talent shows where the acts simply aren’t talented. There’s an unkindness on the part of the producers to give those people a platform to embarrass themselves which I find most distasteful too.


  5. Ally, I seem to remember from a discussion over on your site that you’re like me in that you like clever and witty humour – word play and the like. I know the saying goes that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I truly think this type of “humiliation humour” is actually the lowest.


  6. Like you, I hate it when I see someone being humiliated. When I don’t laugh with the others, the question is asked, “What wrong?” Of course, because of how I am, I don’t say anything. Maybe we’re overly sensitive. Maybe we don’t know how to lighten up. I’d still rather be me. How about you?

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  7. GJ, I think you’re right that we’re sensitive, but I’m not sure about the overly part. As you say, I’m pretty content with being me too and I suspect all that being told to lighten up is just a way of those who have a sensitivity bypass trying to shame us into lowering our standards.

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  8. Deb, I’m not sure why, but your comment fell into my spam folder. I’m clearly in the right tribe here for you’ve all agreed with the views I expressed. I’m so glad to hear that you’ve no longer got that type of person in your life – you’ve clearly done great work on your boundaries.

    Liked by 1 person

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