“And there’s a reason, incidentally, that we call these moments painfully awkward: The neural pathways that are activated when viewing another person’s social pain are the very same ones that are active when you watch someone withstand physical pain.”
It really was a bad week for Jeb Bush:
To be fair to Bush, when you see “please clap” in its proper context, it’s not quite as bad as a New York Times reporter made it out to be; it’s hard to get a crowd excited enough to spontaneously applaud something as mild as “a safer world.” But the story took flight on Wednesday, likely in part because it fits one of the narratives of Bush’s overall campaign: This is so awkward it physically hurts me.
Melissa Dahl connects the dots for Science of Us, though part of me still wonders about how something like this would play into various iterations of sadism, like, to encourage the incompetent to embarrass themselves.
Oh, right. We’re talking about Jeb Bush, here.
Still, though, know what did it for me? Wasn’t watching the overweight, developmentally impaired kid do stupid and humiliating things on dares so classmates could have a laugh.
It was easy enough to figure that part out, because what did it for me came even earlier: child stars in sitcoms. Seriously. Punky Brewster, and certes I jest not. Watching Soleil Moon Frye get up on the coffee table and do a song and dance bit just crushed me. The hideous, dissonant shiver reaches all the way to middle age; it is a cold and awful memory.
Eighties sitcoms were terrible.
Oh. Right. Jeb.
Image note: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks to an audience in New Hampshire, 2 February 2016. Detail of frame via NBC News.
Dahl, Melissa. “Poor, Awkward Jeb Bush Is Giving People Secondhand Embarrassment”. Science of Us. 4 February 2016.