Group Dynamics

Why is there always one guy who is the target of jokes in male friend groups? by Lisa

When ​you observe most ‍male friend ⁢circles today, you’ll ⁢likely notice a⁢ few common elements: a collection of North Face puffer jackets, a guy⁤ who ‍is ⁣known by his‌ surname (for reasons ⁤unknown), a self-proclaimed movie⁤ buff, ‌a man who dons turtlenecks ​in the heat of July,‍ a fellow who ‌once fancied ⁣dressing like a character from Peaky ⁣Blinders, and a‌ guy who monopolizes‌ the music selection at gatherings. However, there’s another character you’ll likely encounter: the one who⁣ is always the subject of jokes.

This individual is often⁣ the target of mockery,‌ ridicule, and jests more than anyone else in the group. He‌ is the group’s default punchline. All‍ jokes, regardless of their origin, ‍seem to circle back to him. Examples of such characters ⁤can be found in popular culture, such as “cousin​ Greg” ‍from Succession, Will from The Inbetweeners, and the formerly‍ timid coach⁤ Nate⁣ from Ted Lasso.

Being the “punchline” of the group is not the ⁣same as being targeted by ⁢outsiders. This individual plays a⁤ vital role within ‍the group. According to psychologist⁢ Ian MacRae, author of several ‍books ⁢including ‌the forthcoming⁤ Dark Social, having a person who is the butt of⁤ the joke can be crucial for establishing ⁤group boundaries. He explains that this person helps define the limits of acceptable behavior and the repercussions of crossing those limits.⁤ The selection of ​this person often⁢ boils down to status⁣ within​ the group.

Interestingly, this dynamic of one person being the primary‍ target of jokes seems to be more prevalent ⁤in ‌male friend groups.⁤ From personal experience, it’s evident that groups of gay⁣ men‍ can engage in this behavior just⁤ as ‍much as their‍ straight counterparts.

The reason behind​ this ‍trend is not entirely‌ clear. While ⁢there are ‌exceptions (like Ross from Friends), there’s no consensus on why this⁣ is a ⁣stereotype of male groups. Some ​sociologists theorize that hierarchies are gendered. Men are thought to accept group hierarchies ⁣more readily, even if they’re not the “alpha male”. Studies have also suggested that women take longer to establish hierarchies and ⁣are⁣ less comfortable​ in⁣ hierarchical structures. Therefore, the ‍group’s “punchline” might take longer to be chosen in female friend⁢ groups ‍and may change more frequently.

MacRae believes there are distinct differences ⁣in how‌ men and women enforce ⁣hierarchies. He‌ explains that women tend to use relational aggression more, so men might use humor in a constant, targeted way towards one person as a means​ of maintaining the group’s status.

Dan, a 30-year-old from Edinburgh,​ shares with GQ that he⁢ has been the subject of most jokes⁢ in some groups, ⁣but not in all. ⁤He explains that⁣ it’s possible to be⁢ the one who is continually “roasted” in one group, but​ then be the one roasting someone else‍ in another⁣ group. This dynamic is ​evident in Succession, where ‌Tom‍ frequently mocks‍ Greg or junior employees, but becomes an⁤ easy target himself ‌when he’s⁢ with the larger Roy family.

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