The Sadistic Pleasures of ‘Schadenfreude’

There have been many breakthroughs in the various established academic fields that are present in the current civilized society. Psychology, which is considered to be a liberal science, has also contributed a great deal in our development. Like any science, breakthroughs in such fields are recorded in two steps, probing and observing. Psychology has used the same technique while studying individual human behavior; schizophrenia is one of thhave been uncovered, even more have through time. The observations have also discovered the existence of combined or mixed feelings; the most interesting combination of the lot is ‘Schadenfreude’.

‘Schadenfreude’ is of German origin, and is often borrowed by the English Language on occasion. When it is translated into English it means ‘harm-joy’. The combination of the feeling of harm or danger with joy sounds raw, but the proper definition states “Pleasure derived from the misfortune of others”. The term is used mostly in negative connotations, which is understood given the meaning of it. The feeling of ‘Schadenfreude’ exists among us all, it goes unnoticed due to the subtlety of it under our possession. It has been associated with the most infamous villains of our History as well as the most Iconic artists.


When I think of the meaning of ‘Schadenfreude’, and I am told to picture someone who had it at such an intensity, that his mere hatred towards a certain clan caused fatality of their kind in all. After reviewing, probably the world’s worst massacre that we know of, and the person who was responsible for the holocaust, you will agree that Adolf Hitler, is the most relatable to this emotion. The elevated sense of this feeling within him, made his hatred a non-fiction horror story. There have been great artists who have also used this emotion to spread entertainment and laughter.

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, aka ‘Charlie Chaplin’ (April 16, 1889 – 25 December, 1977), who is arguably the most famous comic actor and director of the silent-movie era. He was a revolution to this era of the cinema, his view of using a feeling as negative and dark as ‘Schadenfreude’, and turn it into a comical classic. His films spoke to the common man, they often depicted the lead to be a commoner, one amongst the public, with menial and tedious jobs. The commoner depicted in his films would face unfortunate events in his daily routines, but with comical twists, but also speaking of the events that were ‘hot topics’ at that time. ‘The Dictator’ in which Charlie Chaplin was portraying Adolf Hitler, has been his most famous of all his work, he had paved a new vision in comedy cinema, to show sadistic humour in a way it would be accepted by the audience at large.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were the famous English duo, comprised of the lanky ‘Laurel’ and the pompous and clumsy ‘Hardy’. They were also an integral part of the silent-movie era, alongside ‘Charlie Chaplin’. The unfortunate and sadistic humor was a hit in this era as they made their mark in the same concept, but in a different story. Their stories were famous for their tit-for-tat fights that they engaged in, in the movies and misfortune surrounded them in the process.

Another English born who used similar ways to earn his way to the international stage. Rowan Sebastian Atkinson a theatrical artists who is famous for his role as ‘Mr Bean’, in the popular British television series which was named after the character himself ‘Mr Bean’. ‘Schadenfreude’ is also the central concept of the show, this television series, gave a hint of the typical British comedies. Mr Bean is also shown as a commoner, who is encountered with problems in his daily routines, and tedious chores, but his eccentric and unconventional solutions, often drive him to deeper troubles. The humor depicted in these episodes were far less physical or sadistic, than the ones depicted in the films of Charlie Chaplin.

‘Schadenfreude’ is infamous due to its attributes, it is a negative term by definition and therefore is detested. However the importance of it is ignored because of misconceptions of its negativity. An intense emotion of it is fatal, that was proved not only by the pages in History but also in a recent article, that revealed the murder of man by a newly-wed couple, the reason that the couple stated was for the ‘fun’ of it. Even so its importance should not be judged by its attributes, but its presence and understanding that we possess. The various feelings and emotions make up a personality, which is similar to the essential elements that make up the earth, or the molecules that are brought together to form any given matter, if even one of the elements is not present to support the rest, the structure would collapse. The evil of ‘Schadenfreude’ is as fatal as you make it, it is not necessary to live in cowardice in fear of that, but live in control.

“Don’t reach for the halo too soon. You have plenty of time to enjoy yourself, even a little maliciously sometimes, before you settle down to being a saint.”  – Ellis Peters, Monk’s Hood

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.