“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks” - an investigation of school shooting jokes told by American teenagers on TikTok

Dyck, Brittany (2023) “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks” - an investigation of school shooting jokes told by American teenagers on TikTok. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Ever since the events of the Columbine Massacre in 1999 ushered in a new era of school violence, school shootings have been an ongoing concern for parents, teachers, and students alike in America. The reach and psychological weight of events such as these can be difficult to track. However, a deeper examination of folkloric forms, such as jokes and humorous narratives shared amongst students, may be an untapped resource. Dark and sick humour that is created and sustained by the student population may reveal more about the current state of youth mental health and perceptions of safety in relation to school shootings. This thesis investigates a collection of humour told and spread on the social media app TikTok, with a focus on the jokes told by current students and recent graduates of the American high school system. These jokes are generally characterized by themes of distrust in the school system (including questioning the effectiveness of lockdown drills and other procedures), the inherent “Americanness” of school shootings, and anxiety about future shootings. Taken collectively, this body of jokes indicates that school shootings, and specifically the threat of future shootings, may occupy a larger portion of students’ anxieties than present psychological reports indicate. Additionally, these jokes illustrate the humorous culture that American students have built around the topic, which may be of use to scholars studying other aspects of school shootings for which there is little present data.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/15974
Item ID: 15974
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 146-173)
Keywords: folklore, humour, joke, TikTok, school shootings
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: April 2023
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.48336/Y5KS-7B48
Library of Congress Subject Heading: School shootings--United States; Electronic information resources--United States; Application software--United States; Schools--United States--Humor; Wit and humor; TikTok (Electronic resource); Folklore--United States

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