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Dystopias and Tests:
A Case For Nervous Laughter
As quoted from the meme: “dat laugh in [an] exam when you know you’re fucked”.
I don’t know about you but sometimes in the face of adversity, I laugh at my misfortunes. Not a hearty laugh but one that’s a mix of anxiety, exasperation, and uncertainty. With memes being created for this reaction, I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this.
Fiction or not, what it comes down to is a natural response to a really shitty situation. These moments are most prominent under the microscope of SF-F dystopian fiction—the ones with caste-defining tests, morally complex worlds, and lots of death. Not exclusively though. I empathize with characters who have an instinctual need to survive but to continually run around with a stoic game face? Well…that just baffles me.
Surely there’s room for Katniss (Hunger Games) to chuckle while messing up her knot tying or for Thomas (Maze Runner) to smile with frustrated expletives at his repeated run-in with the same stone wall not the exit. Heck, even Bella Swan (Twilight) ought to elicit a few “lol oh shit” when she knows she’s unprepared for her biology test because no-one-ever-studies-in-fiction (granted, she probably gets bonus points for knowing Ed’s gravity defying hair products). But I digress.
Understand this: there’s no formula for “how to react”. You cringe when experiencing pain, your heart beats fervently during excitement or danger, and you might even smile when something good happens but it’s not as if you say, “tell me how I should feel, good body ol’ chap!” These expressions are reactionary (and otherwise involuntarily), and under the grind of stress, it’s disingenuous for protagonists to be so boxed into their heroism and fulfillment of success that they’re presented in a way that classes certain reactions over others to preserve their character structure.
Look, I’m not saying characters ought to [actively] force a laugh while being hammered by fear mongering dystopian governments but of the myriad of behaviours experienced during assessments—from confidence to caution to resilience—somewhere in the smoke of that next breath is a nervous laugh waiting to be heard.
Because after the nth exam of having two options in multiple guess exams appearing nearly identical or straining your hand to write a persuasive and unending case study, it’d be nice to know these quirks reflected in fiction too. That you can laugh at the stress of failure (and death) because you don’t have all the answers or an invincibility complex guiding you along.
But at least you tried. Who can fault that?
This is literally another pointless topic for your brain to gnaw on.
But just to feed my sanity, have you ever nervous laughed? If so, feel free to share your story!
What’s your opinion of tests/assessments in dystopian fiction and the characters who have to go through them? Which one’s did you find unique?
As always, think aloud.
connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter | anotherafterthought // goodreads
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just picture a beginner driver hitting a pylon during a test. I’d inwardly laugh—and think “shiiiiiit”—wouldn’t you?
More importantly, this post is dedicated to everyone starting or are currently writing their exams. I wish you all the best!
11 thoughts on “[Think Aloud] – #25 – Dystopias and Tests: A Case For Nervous Laughter”
I love how all of this discussion was sparked from a meme. Fantastic post! 🙂
Not only from a meme but from personal experience silent laughing during finals LOL. So I empathize with all you exam takers!
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Wow! I never realized that fictional characters didn’t do this because I know I for sure do!
Right? That’s what I’m saying! People definitely do this low-key without admittance to the potential failure for not knowing how to answer a question.
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I still don’t have any explanation for this…
But have YOU nervous laughed during an exam? Or is Jenna a wizard and knows all.
I have to admit… I have never nervous laughed during an exam. It’s usually the ‘oh shit’ face followed by absolute despair. I did laugh during an exam once.. but that was because the exam was 28 multiple choice questions in 2 hours… and everybody finished in 15 minutes (and had to sit there for another 15 because we weren’t allowed to leave in the first 30 minutes).
Oh hey we had that 30-min rule too!
Yeah I think it’s pretty standard so that people actually make an attempt