Scott Bradlee On Prank-Culture Fatigue

Scott Bradlee’s Musings From the Middle is a must-read (and not just because I’m a Post Modern Jukebox fan). His note, “This is Water: Tom Cruise Edition” makes a really important point I wanted to share/save here. 

As we age, we can see and experience old things in new ways. And it’s important that we do, because it: 

A. affirms our own growth, 

B. gives us perspective on our own growth or lack thereof within the broader culture(s) we live in (ex. friends, family, colleagues at work, the people in line with us at the grocery store, on social media, etc.), and,

C. gives us space to think about what we want to do with our ever-increasing base of “life.”

Scott reflects on his own re-viewing of how Tom Cruise handled getting pranked by thinking about how society has shifted alongside him over the past 20ish years. Here’s the clip if you’ve never seen it. 

Here’s Scott’s take that I’ve been left thinking about since I read it:

…the past 17 years have left us feeling so endlessly pranked — not by reality TV game show hosts, but by Wall Street gambling away our savings under the guise of growth, politicians enriching themselves and their cronies under the guise of governance, and Big Tech stealing our attention and autonomy under the guise of building community — that we now feel a certain kinship with Mr. Cruise post-spray, as he regains his composure and looks the reporter dead in the eye, holding onto his hand so that he can’t slink away. “Why would you do that?” is the question that we wish that we could ask our betters, too.

It does feel like people, in general, are more divided, frustrated, and fatigued from feeling pranked than at least they were 20-years ago. 

It also is a lot to admit you used to think Cruise couldn’t take a joke, but now you sort of admire how he handled himself in a ridiculous scenario. 

It makes us ask how we’ve grown, and how society has grown around us. 

It makes us ask – what can we do about it? What should we do about it? What shouldn’t we do about it? 

We can start by understanding not just the feeling of now, but the feelings that got us here, and the feelings we want to create in the world we’re moving towards. 

To all those cultures and sub-cultures I mentioned above, one thing we can do is intentionally put a thumb on the scale to tilt it back – away from divisive cynicism and anger, and towards, “hey, it’s going to be OK if we can agree we want it to be OK.”

Empathetically asking, “why did you do that” and moving the conversation forward, away from pranking each other, is a good option. 

Go follow Scott. He’s not just making good music these days.

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