When the Coen Brothers Meet Sigmund Freud
How Freud’s relief theory of laughter explains some of cinema’s funniest moments.
What would Sigmund Freud have thought of the Coen Brothers? If the famous thinker’s psychoanalytic theories are any indication, he’d have loved the renowned filmmaking duo. But why? In the third installment of our series on cinematic humor, Why We Laugh, we take a look at Freud’s relief theory and how it manifests in some of our favorite scenes. Freud’s theories rely in part on the idea that our subconscious mind dictates our conscious actions- in this case, smiling and laughter- and his relief theory explains that we often laugh and respond to humor as a way of releasing pent-up psychic energy. So, if you find yourself wondering just why you think it’s funny when one of the villains in Fargo puts Steve Buscemi’s character’s body through a woodchipper, you need not be concerned. Sit back and tune in to better understand how there’s a universal (and perfectly acceptable) feeling at work.