Sunday, November 1, 2009

Don't Get Me Startled

It seems to me that people who surprise or startle (or even tickle in some cases) others are exercising a form of domination that says more about them than any subsequent response. Even good surprises involve withholding information in order to gain power over another -- ostensibly for their benefit, but in truth for one's own. Because every 5-year-old recognizes that it's fun to know something that someone else doesn't, and even even more fun to spring it on them unawares and then indulgently revel in their reaction.

I do however distinguish frightening from startling. Frightening usually means to fill someone with dread or terror, due to the menacing or sinister nature of a thing. Startling is just a base, physical reaction to something unexpected. Frightening takes an understanding of human nature and perception expectations; startling is just jumping out at someone from around a corner. Bad horror movies startle, good ones frighten. I don't think most people make this distinction, and in an attempt to frighten someone just startle them instead.

Combining the two can be very effective -- like that classic internet video that is supposed to be a hard-to-see ghost, but ends up flashing a scary picture of a witch(?) with a loud screeching sound accompaniment. The startle reflex enhances the fight-or-flight reflex for some people; there is no end to YouTube videos of people reacting to it by losing their shit. I found it mostly startling and thus annoying, but I can at least see the point. (By the way, what the hell is up with people who show that to their young children and film their reactions? Doing that to a 7-year-old is borderline child abuse.)

Anyway, long story long, my favorite comeuppance video for the startle crowd was on AHV a long time ago, and I think about this every Halloween:

Then, I saw this one on Failblog recently and realized I may have a new favorite:

Too bad you can't see the aftermath on the second, because as much as the guy in the first one is rolling around hurt, he pulled his punch a bit while that second one landed right on the button. Sweet, delicious, just desserts.

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