Today in class we talked about gossip and the role it will play in Their Eyes Were Watching God. The act of gossiping can be many things. It can be a source of information, a social practice, a cathartic act, a consolation for oneself, a bit of excitement to break up the mundane, more times than not it is an exaggeration, and often a condemnation. The word “gossip” elicits a thrill because it is human nature to want to be in the loop. Hearing gossip about someone else plays on both our need to connect and our need to feel superior to others. It is reassuring to hear of other's’ downfalls because we can be reminded that no matter how crummy our own situation is, at least we are not in that person’s shoes.
I mentioned in class that gossip often says more about the gossipers than the subject of the gossip. An example from TEWWG would be the front porch sitters who were talking poorly about Janie. Another example that came to mind was from the Tina Fey reading where she relayed the story of her cousin judging all of the girls who walked by, saying their hips or nose or stomach was too big or too small. There are also modern examples that we see today. Besides gossiping with peers, which is something we have all done at one point or another, we also read magazines and gossip rags about our favorite celebrities. Famous people are not gossiped about because people really hate them, they are gossiped about because people are jealous of them. We always want what we don’t have, and when someone else has what we want it is easy to look for the negative aspects of that person’s situation.
Deborah Tannen coined the phrase positive gossip, but I don't know if I believe in such a thing. I think gossip always has malicious undertones. To me, positive gossip is not gossip, it is having a normal conversation about another person who is not present where neither party talking has any jealousy or resentment or judgement aimed at the third party. Which, in my experience, does not happen often because, like I said, it's human nature.