Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Self-Deprecation as Absolution

David Sedaris’ tone in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is undoubtedly one of self-deprecating humor.  Sedaris is blunt in his honesty and therefore, not the kind of person to try to disguise the fact that he is not very comfortable with his own identity.  There are more than a few anecdotes found in his book that attest to his feelings of isolation from both his peers, family, partner, and even himself. 
Sedaris’ sexuality as a gay male initially puts a rift between him and his classmates, as evidenced by the description of his first (and possibly last?) sleepover, where he desperately struggles to best maneuver an impromptu game of strip poker with the three other boys in attendance.  His father also kicks Sedaris out of his house because of his disapproval of his sexuality.  It is not only his homosexuality that alienates Sedaris though, as he finds himself somewhat awkward with emotion and intimate relationships.  He says that love stories “are always a danger, as unlike battling aliens or going undercover to track a serial killer, falling in love is something most adults have actually experienced at some point in their lives” and therefore, result in introspection and review of an individual’s own experiences [Sedaris, 137]. 

Sedaris’ first instinct is not to comfort a person about their distress, but instead write it down for others to laugh at.  This is arguably a testament to a very Hobbesian view of humor as an expression of the innate evil of humankind but, it is complicated by the fact that Sedaris does not like that he is this way.  As if in a way to compensate for his unfairness to others, Sedaris also subjects himself and his experiences to the sardonic observations and physical transcription of his books.   He uses his self-deprecation as a means of leveling the playing field and equalizing the power dynamic—somewhat of a wrench in the basis of the superiority theory.  I think his attacks on his own pitfalls provide him with some sort of relief as well; there is a catharsis in recognizing and admitting his own faults.

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