Why People Fight Fun

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

After my last post on fun and how we turn it into work, I had a (fun) brainstorm about many ways turning work into fun affects us and other, related cultural pathologies. Looks like this is going to be a series on fun and the elimination of fun.

I’ll try to enjoy it to avoid an overload of irony.

In fact, let me turn from discussing fun to the more sinister side of “fun control.” When we look at joylessless, and fun becoming work, it leads us to ask “who wants to live in a world like this?” Why is there so much joylessness and sadness? Why do people work to stamp out enjoyment?

There are reasons.

Controlling Fun Makes People Joyless

Fun is about joy. Pure, unadulterated being alive. In many ways, fun is a deep expression of who we are, and having it helps us feel alive.

Fun spills out, gushes out, and it’s not exactly clear or rational. It’s connective and it’s internal. A happy person, a joyful person, is themselves.

If you want to control people, you can’t have that. Joyful people don’t need you and your religion or your self-help book or to elect you. Joyful people are irritatingly independent.

So, crushing fun, getting rid of things people like makes people joyless. Some people may enjoy crushing fun as it gives them a sense of power, but also it makes people more controllable . . .

Controlling Fun Limits Imagination

Imagination is terrifying to people who are control freaks or want to sell us something we don’t need. Fun fuels imagination, it’s about connectivity and uninhibited experience. Fun is independent, and often relies on our minds and feelings rampaging into new areas or powerful and passionate experiences. Imagination of course, makes people unpredictable and gives them the power to create.

So if you’re there trying to contorl people, you want less imagination (or to co-opt it). One way to control it is to control fun things, those things that might inspire, that might cause people to think and feel differently. If you reduce fun, that enthusiasm and joyfulness and connect-the-dots experiences fade and people are less imaginative.

Ever notice how various dictators attack art and creativity? The less imagination people have the more control you have.

Controlling Fun Makes People Manipulable

To lack fun is to lack expression, and when we don’t have it, we seek it. A life without joy is a not a life, and we seek something to enjoy, to feel good about. We seek in, short, to be.

Disipirited people, joyless people, are easy yo lead and manipulate. They have little to live for, but you can give them smething to live for. This gives you power.

Of course some people just enjoy causing misery as well. Again, that sense of power.

Controlling Fun Gives You Power

So if you have a lot of joyless people then you’re in charge. You can control them by providing fun.

You can sell them a war so they feel powerful. You can sell them a fitness regimen so they think they’re attractive. you can sell them a religion and they think you’re the word of a god.

People who are joyless don’t even need real fun or freedom, just something close. Just give them some rush, some good feeling, and they’re yours. Joyless people will line up for something to live for -and if you make them miserable you can then give them something to enjoy.

Must-watch TV and must-play video games seem kind of different, don’t they?

Controlling Fun Lets You Attack Others

People want to feel joy and happiness. They will do what they have to in order to feel alive. That also means its easy to sic them on enemies.

Blame others for their lack of joy and they’ll attack. Claim your enemies are theirs and they’ll lash out. Pick some popular targets and they’ll attack them because they get a rush of power that makes them feel happy for a bit.

Joyless people are easily manipulated into attacking others. Is someone happy going to want to go get shot because of your ego, or rant angrily online defending your bad product? No, happy people are harder to rally against whoever you want to target.

Next time you see someone getting a mob together, ask how they’re playing to disatisfaction – or creating it.

Controlling Fun Serves Existing Power

An important thing to remember is that eliminating fun usually serves existing power structures. Controlling joy and good feelings is a way to stay in power or pass power on. So if you already have a population without happiness, then you can easily stay in charge or hand it off to someone.

Existing power structures will attack joyful things, fun, entertainment, imagination. Those things are always threats – and as they keep popping up, constant threats.

Always look to the current power structure to see wht they attack and who they attack. Be kind of nice if power structures focused on evolving and improving people’s lives instead . . .

Controlling Fun Allows People To Attack Criticism

Finally, and paradoxically, eliminating a sense of fun is also a way for existing power structures to avoid criticism.

Existing power structures want to sell you their fun, their entertainment, their form of satisfaction because that gives them power. Selling people fun provides money and power and control. However, powerful interests that sell you fun often sell you fun that reinforces the existing system.

So when someone critiques what they’re selling, from a religion to a TVshow, that critique is seen as a personal attack by the consumers of that source of fun. They get pleasure from it, and thus they attack and lash back, missing the validity of the critique.

If you’ve ever seen people get viciously angry over a comic book, or seen someone push a thing as a guilty (forbidden) pleasure, you see what I mean. Look how past marketing has acted as if the product is something transgressive and unique (and thus invites critique, which only interests people more)


There are reasons people try to control fun – and those reasons are often power. People without happiness, without fun, are easily controlled and easily sold something.

That of course doesn’t mean anyone selling you something is bad. Not everything someone wants you to buy is to control you (beyond getting your money).

But when you see unhappy people, when you feel joyless, it might help to ask if anyone benefits . . .

Steven Savage