It’s not funny: Seeing gaslighting in a single Facebook post

It’s not overthinking if it’s important.

I tend to find things funny if they’re slapstick or if they’re satire. Give me absurdity, or give me punching up. Or to quote Molly Ivans:

There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity — like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule — that’s what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel — it’s vulgar.

And that brings us to this little gem that both my sweetie and I overthought the hell out of last week:

I’m using this particular screenshot because it’s worth seeing the thousands of people who bothered to like, laugh, or love this post. Because this relationship pictured is toxic as hell.

I know, I’ve written about ultimatums and boundaries before (here and here), but it’s really because of The Jeffersons that I thought it was necessary to bring up again.

See, there’s an episode of The Jeffersons that has a pretty creepy undertone of gaslighting all through it. Ross Rosenberg does a great job deconstructing it:

An Anatomy of Gaslighting Using a Jefferson's Excerpt. Dysfunctional Relationships & Trauma

…which really calls out the horrible behavior in the “joke” that started us off.

Sure, I’ll give you that the woman does a poor job of articulating what’s going on. And on the face of it, simply dictating to someone else that a pastime that gives them pleasure is a horrible ultimatum itself.

But what came to me was this scene from Mallrats (note: language):

Mallrats (1995) The Breakup

If you can’t watch it, Brodie has basically made sure his girlfriend Rene is unfulfilled because he prioritizes playing video games over her.

So when I saw the above “comic”, I could only imagine Brodie (who kinda looks like the guy in the “comic”, strange how that style’s not changed in 20 years) pulling this kind of weaponized empathic language to make himself out to be the good guy.

Because none of us perform perfectly all the time. Sometimes our brain weasels will take over. Sometimes we’ll phrase something badly, either because we’re upset, out of spoons, or simply because we don’t have the language to say it properly.

And yet this jackass, rather than saying “Wait, what do you mean?”, rather than asking what needs of hers aren’t being met, rather than doing anything, decides that the only appropriate course of action is to berate her communication skills, to berate her needs, and then (threaten to) dump her. Saying that he’s gaslighting her is not exaggeration in the slightest.

Folks, if someone threatens to leave or dump you because you brought up some of your own needs… then DTMFA already.

And that’s what brings me back to the opening sentence of this post.

It’s not overthinking if it’s important.

And the ways we depict relationships in media (including “jokes” on social media) have a huge impact on what we think is the “right” way to behave in relationships. I’m still having to pull crap from John Hughes movies out of my head.

So think about it. And if it’s punching down, don’t bloody laugh.

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