03 June 2012

Oh, Not Funny When It's You

So, some time ago, Star Wars Kinect was released for the XBox360, and it was met with what could charitably be described as mixed feelings, with most of the negative feelings strangely centered on a rhythm and dance portion of the game wherein much-beloved characters dance in well-known locales to popular songs made into parodies by a slight tweaking of key lyrics. "Princess in a battle" instead of "genie in a bottle" is one example.
As to why this has many fans outraged, there's no official answer, but if one were to be culled from the general consensus of the gaming community, it's that Star Wars Kinect is an officially licensed Lucasfilm product. In other words, Star Wars fans can make fun of their beloved franchise to their heart's content, but heaven forbid the people behind it have a sense of humor as well.
I could get into the psycho-socio-cultural underpinnings of this phenomenon, but The Escapist's MovieBob already did, and in reading his analysis, I remembered something from my own childhood that perfectly exemplifies the situation.

It was really hard for me to make friends after I moved to New Mexico in 1991. There's a lot of reasons for this I won't go into, but probably the most important one was that my sense of humor didn't gel with everyone else's. I understand that friends take digs at each other, call each other names, and even play mean little tricks on each other. Really, I get it; it's part of the trust, it's something you can do because of the comfort zone. The thing is, where I saw it as being "part" of the whole "friendship" paradigm, some people saw it as "the whole" and that struck me as just downright conceited. I kid you not when I say that I actually lost a really good friend because I told him to stop calling me a certain name because it genuinely bothered me. For years afterward, I thought there was something wrong with me because I just couldn't take a joke, I couldn't separate "laughing with" from "laughing at." Years later, I got a second opinion. The good news is that there wasn't really anything wrong with me, that sometimes people were just jerks. The bad news is that the number of jerks turned out to be higher than I'd thought.
My 7th grade history class had some class clowns in it. Trouble was, it was a de facto role as they weren't very good at it, as most of their jokes relied on me to be their punchline, whether I wanted to be or not. How exactly they made fun of me or laughed at me or generally had fun at my expense varied and changed almost daily. For about two or three days, though, the fixation was on the fact that I was the only boy in the class who wore glasses. Right away, I thought, "they're really desperate for a laugh." Seriously, the last months 7th grade, a year between us and high school, and I felt like I was living out an uninspired episode of Full House.
Anyway, we were all doing some sort of art project that I don't remember any details of, except that we'd have to stop about five minutes before the bell so we could all go wash up in the bathrooms. So, here's the scenario: everyone walks a little faster than me so they can get there first. When I step in, everyone turns away from the sinks and starts flicking their hands at me so water beads on my glasses, carrying on until I literally can't see and have to take them off to wipe them clean, and the process repeats when I put them back on until I get out of the bathroom, my hair wet enough that I can slick it back.

This goes on for two days. I don't get angry. I don't lash out. I don't confront anybody about it. I don't say a word.  I just stand there and seethe quietly to myself, because it's the seventh bloody grade, we're in our early teens, and flicking water at my glasses to where I can't see is the funniest damn thing in the world to these guys. On the third day, I figure that maybe I'm taking this too seriously, that I'm not having fun with the whole thing. So, I decide to give this "laughing with you" idea a shot. Again, everyone walks a little faster than me to get to the bathroom first. Before I step in, though, I take my glasses off and put them in my pocket. I make sure not to squint, because that would just give them something to laugh about. I walk in, knowing what's going to happen next, and I'm smiling. It's not a toothy, ear-to-ear grin, it's more like a Mona Lisa, at the risk of sounding pretentious. The funny thing is, I'd never felt more confident in my life at that moment. The sad thing is, no one else found it funny, made apparent when they turned away from the sinks with hands at the ready.

Awkward silence.

I'd see some turn away from the sink and watch a smile disappear almost like someone flipped a switch. Instead of knowing nods, playful shrugs, or even indifference, I saw, despite the blur, frowns and eye rolls. I hadn't gotten in on the joke, I'd ruined it. I'd ruined it by not ignoring them or getting angry or annoyed or anything like that. I'd ruined it by wanting in on it and playing along. They weren't making fun of me to be friendly or chummy, they were making fun of me because they were that desperate for a laugh. How dare I, apparently.

Maybe I should have grabbed a fire extinguisher before going in instead.
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