A Word In Your Ear
The Killjoy Effect
by Rob Wynne
annual celebration of gladiatorial conquest and capitalist art known as
the Superbowl was aired last month. During the hours-long telecast, I'm
the Seattle Seahawks demolished the much-favoured Denver Broncos,
providing a sense of civic pride and joie
de verve to
city that hasn't had much cause to celebrate its professional sports
teams in recent years. Well
done, and congratulations to the winning team for their accomplishments.
that's not really what I wanted to talk about.
The day after the game,
as I scrolled through various blogs and journals, interspersed between
the reactions to the game by fans of all stripes are the messages from
the cynically aloof, who write paragraphs to inform us about how they
did not watch That Game at all, nor did they check to see who won,
because they, you see, could not care less about (spit) football.
find this an interesting phenomenon which is not restricted to sport.
If you look at any pursuit which inspires a passionate following,
you'll find a group who defines their superiority to the hoi
terms of The Sort Of Thing I Don't Care For.
admit, I can be as prone to it as anyone. When my friend Joey
asked on Facebook: "Wasn't there some sort of big football game
today?", and with a sly wink and straight face, I replied, "Yes, there
was. Arsenal beat Crystal Palace, 2-0 :)"
a certain sort of tribe recognition at work there, a signal to one
another that we're in that set of people who isn't invested in the Big
Thing Everyone Else Is Doing. When I see articles about the Twilight craze,
I wrinkle my nose a bit and shake my head, having a firm and considered
distaste for a series of books and movies I have not actually read or
seen, nor do I have any particular inclination to do so.
some ways, this is a very natural thing for us to do. No matter how
much we desperately wish it was otherwise, we are shaped inevitably by
our culture, often in ways that we don't immediately comprehend or even
notice. When we do see a
shaping force we dislike, we take a forthrightly opposing position to
it (and thus, are indirectly influenced by it, if only by creating our
sense of opposition.)
like most behaviours, some people take it too far. A sly wink and a
quip insufficient to show they are not part of the madding crowd,
they write bitter essays about their studied indifference to the entire
thing and how they never could see what anyone sees in it anyway. This
both annoys and fascinates me. It fascinates me because what's
strikingly obvious about these little screeds is not that the writer
doesn't care about the subject in question, but rather it is very
important to the writer that you
know he doesn't care. Someone
who honestly doesn't
care about something would simply go on about their day, not caring.
annoys me because while it's ok for one to be archly solipsistic in
one's own blog; that is, after all, what blogs are for, it's positively
obnoxious when it's done in actual conversation. If two people are
having an excitable conversation about a topic of great interest to
them, and you walk up and say, 'Oh, you're talking about $TOPIC. I
never really understood what people see in that. It just doesn't
interest me.", you have effectively a) derailed the original
conversation, which was presumably being enjoyed by the original
participants, and b) focused the conversation on yourself. The people
you've now interrupted may feel the need to defend their love of
$TOPIC, or they may feel they must change the topic, because someone
has inserted themselves uninvited into their chat and declared the
current subject not only uninteresting, but unworthy of the attention
of anyone with more than a marginal level of sophistication.
is a name for this sort of person: a killjoy. Killjoy is a great word,
because it requires no explanation. A killjoy is someone who kills joy.
It is someone who manages to make themselves feel better by holding
themselves above whatever it is that anyone else enjoys, and makes wry
and cutting remarks about the sort of people who like *that* sort of
thing. (One manifestation of this particular personality is the Cool
Hipster, whose primary criteria for declaring something art is whether
or not anyone other than himself has ever heard of the artist. Many
brilliant artists cease to be brilliant, in the Hipster's world, the
moment they actually achieve recognition outside the small and insular
circle of the Hipster and his friends.)
one can certainly have any sort of opinion on any sort of topic that
one wants. It is, as they say, a free country. But the next time you
feel the need to insert yourself into a conversation just to express
your alleged indifference to the topic at hand, ask yourself: "What am
I trying to accomplish here?" If you are genuinely curious as to what
someone else sees in it, perhaps you can have a useful conversation and
walk away with some new understanding about the subject you didn't have
before. If, only the other hand, all you're really wanting to do is
demonstrate how insufferably superior you are to the unwashed masses,
do everyone a favour and just walk away and wallow quietly in your smug
grandiosity. No one wants to hear it, and there's little enough joy in
this world already without someone coming along and draining it from
© 2014 Rob Wynne
Rob Wynne is a musician, podcaster, gamer, con runner, and occasional blogger who currently lives in the Seattle area. In 1997, he helped Dan Hollifield create Aphelion Webzine, and has been on the committee of Gafilk, the Georgia filk convention, since 1999. In 2011, he helped launch the podcast Tadpoolery, a general interest geek-oriented show.
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