There was a post on Stupid Evil Bastard that I quite agree with, referring to a campaign against the youth use of the word “gay” as a pejorative. It’s not a very well thought-out campaign, but I don’t want to talk too much against people on a good cause, no matter how badly directed and formulated their chosen way seems to me.
No, just one small thing. The campaign features posters substituting, among other things, “gamer guy who has more videogames than friends” for “gay” in “That’s so gay!”, apparently to show that that wouldn’t be nice at all.
My first reaction was roughly this:
What the nunchucks? Any gamer, no matter how social, will have more games than friends in a few years! The things tend to pile up, you know?
How many friends can you have — ten? Thirty? Having that many games is easy-peasy (or used to be in my day) and not freakish at all, even though I strongly increase the likelihood of it being freakish by denying it — and it was my brother who had the games anyway!
But seriously, ‘more games than friends’ is supposed to be a slur? You know, don’t you, that this actually isn’t an overblown stereotype generalization like dumb jocks and ditzy cheerleaders?
Show me a gamer with more friends than games — Facebook friends don’t count — and I show you the equivalent of a cheerleader that can’t jump, and a jock that gets winded by the second floor!
My second was this:
Ah, crap. This is supposed to be an insult, and insults don’t have to make any sense. And this is a deep one — not the unfair stereotype (“jocks are dumb”) or the puzzling innuendo (“yo momma wears combat boots”), but the trivial truth (“your jockstrap smells”): it cannot be disputed, and you’ll look like a crashing bore and immediately lose if you admit it and ask why it should be considered insulting.
Like, you know, I just did.
And it adds to its effect because it is of the form “you have more of the inferior, usually material thing than of the superior, usually spiritual or social thing”, no matter whether the things are commeasurable in any way, or incapable of coexistence or negatively correlated, or whether possession of the supposedly inferior one is in any way a bad thing. Like “more money than friends” — that’s a nice trap because it sounds bad, though such a sloppy inequality can mean three cases of BFF, and heaped millions of legal tender.
(Which gives rise to the question of what’s the use of inequalities like this if one subscribes to the sentimental notion that a friend’s monetary value is incalculably great or impossible to measure. But incoherence just adds to the effect; good luck refuting something that doesn’t actually exactly mean anything.)
Nice, and irrational and emotional to the extreme. A trivial truth in a falsely comparative frame. A very good insult.
I wonder if anyone’s ever written a book on the psychology of insults?
Does anyone else react to things like this?