Someone I knew had an awful day at work, and as part of the conversation they brought on Sanrio’s new series Aggretsuko. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a show based on one of their cutsey characters – who is an angry red fox in an awful job who takes out her rage with drinking and singing death metal.
So I had them watch it. I also tuned in, because I’d not seen it and “rage-filled Sanrio character” is something I had to see.
It was kind of disturbing. There’s a poison-blade edge beneath the cuteness, there’s things a bit too true, and if it had been done live action (or even with semi-realistic animated humans) it would have been even more painful and depressing. My acquaintance, oddly, felt a bit better after the whole thing.
Now this is not a review, except I can say “damn that was better than expected and I will watch this.” But it’s about impact, because I saw it affect someone. And it was a show of cute animated characters (albeit in a bad situation).
There are some stories that just speak to us – not about what is good or great, but about what sucks. These are important not as “misery porn” or anything else, but for us to reach out to, to relate to, and to laugh at.
And we have to laugh, because many of these things confront horrible issues that are hard to handle without humor. If you were to take many of the truly relateable workplace dark comedies like “Clerks” or “Office Space” and do them realistically they’d at best be the equivalent of the moral black hole of “torture porn” horror. They’d just be a parade of suffering.
However the comedy aspects, the irony, the dark laughter, is actually what makes things both tolerable but also relateable. The humor lets us go from just the horror to truly see the ridiculousness of it all, while providing a buffer for us to internalize our lessons and maybe feel like we’re not just facing awful stuff on our own. Humor both ads and buffers the empathy we need to feel to “get it.”
Some media and the like obviously would not work with humor – I think it’d be hard to do a funny Lovecraft/weird horror take. Some of the dark things we explore are best explored without humor, with that immediate injection of empathy caused by being terrified or confronted. We need that direct in-your-face connection.
But some forms of horror, only humor truly lets us process them.