Sunday, March 27, 2005

Why Don’t “Total Jerks” Ever Die in Tragic Accidents?

The obvious answer to that question is “Because it wouldn’t be tragic, then would it?” But seriously (or not), why are people who died in a fire or car accident or random act of violence always remembered by friends and neighbors as kind, friendly, nice, funny, smart, full of promise, or loving. If their neighbors knew them, they were a pillar of the community. If not, they were quiet and kept mostly to themselves. It’s never the total idiot with the social skills of a donkey who blasts honky-tonk until four in the morning, beats puppies, and cusses out four-year-olds.

Wait a minute. Aren’t these the people nominated for Darwin awards? Darwin award worthy deaths may make the news, but as a “ha, look how weird and/or stupid other people are” story rather than an “ohmigosh, this could happen to me too!” story. The latter type is more commonly referred to as a human interest story in which the news focuses on average people (instead of the famous and infamous). The former type is there to distract the journalists and their viewers/readers from the fact that the news is depressing. They stir some dark humor into an already dark brew, giving some a good laugh and others a bad taste in their mouth.

But I digress. Death resulting from a person’s own stupidity accounts only for some of the jerks who aren’t dying accidentally (or at least tragically). Unfortunately for the gene pool, stupidity does not weed itself out as readily as one might expect. So what else is killing jerks before an accident can take them out of our misery? Well, seeing as how they’re jerks, they have probably made a few enemies. So some jerks are being killed by significant others, people who like sleep, people who like puppies, and parents of four-year-olds. But since jails aren’t filled with members of PETA or the PTA, there must be more to it.

What about not speaking ill of the dead? A simple social rule which may not have been employed by the deceased themselves would only account for the lack of completely negative comments. But adjectives that could go either way are noticeably lacking as well. Words like “interesting”, “different”, “rambunctious”, or “memorable” rarely make the list of adjectives that reporters list followed by the phrase “are just some of the words used to describe X.” Maybe reporters are leaving all of the negative and neutral comments out. That way, other jerks who happened to like that particular jerks can’t call, e-mail, fax, or write them and complain. Or maybe reporters just don’t focus on jerks who die in accidents because, as I said before, it just wouldn’t be tragic, then would it?

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