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Article

Two Shades of Cringe: Problems in Attributing Painful Laughter

Lab for Research on Organization and Differentiation, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science, TU Dresden, 01062 Dresden, Germany
Academic Editor: Wieland Schwanebeck
Humanities 2021, 10(3), 99; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10030099
Received: 15 May 2021 / Revised: 15 August 2021 / Accepted: 25 August 2021 / Published: 28 August 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Media and Politics in the Age of Cringe)
This article aims to approach the phenomenon of cringe in four steps: First, from a sociological perspective, the distinction between shame and embarrassment is discussed and a working definition is developed that conceives of this difference as situational rather than essential. In a second step, this distinction will be used to examine more closely how the actors’ self-representation is decomposed in the reality format Wife Swap and what role cringe—understood as “Fremdscham” or “vicarious embarrassment”—plays in this. Third, an explanation for the attractiveness of these formats is offered that draws on the concept of “flexible normalism” and further specifies the latent functions of these formats sociologically. Finally, with a look at current cringe comedy, it is elaborated that the use of cringe as made in Wife Swap is a very restricted and truncated variety of this phenomenon. Cringe in a comprehensive sense, meanwhile, turns out to be a reflexive resource based on an unresolved ambiguity of multiple and often intersecting attributions. View Full-Text
Keywords: shame; embarrassment; cringe; reality TV; presentation of self; social deviation; social theory shame; embarrassment; cringe; reality TV; presentation of self; social deviation; social theory
MDPI and ACS Style

Wöhrle, P. Two Shades of Cringe: Problems in Attributing Painful Laughter. Humanities 2021, 10, 99. https://doi.org/10.3390/h10030099

AMA Style

Wöhrle P. Two Shades of Cringe: Problems in Attributing Painful Laughter. Humanities. 2021; 10(3):99. https://doi.org/10.3390/h10030099

Chicago/Turabian Style

Wöhrle, Patrick. 2021. "Two Shades of Cringe: Problems in Attributing Painful Laughter" Humanities 10, no. 3: 99. https://doi.org/10.3390/h10030099

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