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Schadenfreude: joy in the misfortune or shame of others. When someone of high station or great accomplishment falls or fails we can feel assuaged in our relative obscurity by knowing that we suffer in less dramatic and public ways. So many joys in life are comparative — and this is one of them.

Schadenfreude is a sophisticated emotion — a combination of jealousy and revenge refracted through the lens of voyeurism. Part of the appeal of schadenfreude is that it takes no effort and involves no responsibility. We experience it like rubberneckers at an accident. In this regard, it is an innocent sin, one that ought not to evoke guilt — or so I tell myself. More… “Schadenfreude TV”

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features a half-hour conversation with a nationally known or emerging talent in the arts, culture, science, or business. She is author of five nonfiction books and six bestselling novels, including Jane Austen in Boca and Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs. Her essays and stories have appeared in The Yale ReviewThe American Scholar, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. Her latest novels are Suzanne Davis Gets a Life and her YA novel, Beatrice Bunson’s Guide to Romeo and Juliet.
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It’s odd how prudish educated people become when the topic turns to consumerism. They’re fine with the raunchiest sex talk, but bring up product talk and they get all fussy and judgmental. We’ve seen some of this in the response to the new Sex and the City movie. All the high-brow types are appalled by the film’s consumerism, but you don’t hear a peep about the sex. As I see it, it’s the sex that’s vulgar and pedestrian and the buying that’s creative and inspiring. After watching the film, I wanted to renovate my wardrobe and redecorate my house.

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features… More…

It ought to be mentioned just once that American Idol is one of the best pieces of culture produced on this planet so far in the 21st century. It is also to be admitted that the century is young. Other things will happen. But I don’t want the people of the future to think that we, the people of today, were oblivious to the things happening around us. In many ways, I’m speaking to them. I’m speaking to the people of tomorrow as one who was here, who saw it all unfold in real time.

American Idol is generally categorized as “Reality Television.” Reality Television is itself a product, essentially, of the 21st century. The idea (so the story goes) was that scripted television, the “situations” of situational comedy and so forth, had become a little tired. Ratings at the end of the 20th century confirmed this intuition. “Reality” was… More…