node created 2018/12/26
Haha, what garbage did I just read?

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/12/biological-phenomenon-why-wit-works/578842/

The same principle is at work in verbal wit. The English film director Anthony Asquith, for example, once introduced Jean Harlow, the platinum-blond 1930s Hollywood star, to his mother, Lady Margot Asquith, the author and wife of the longtime British prime minister Herbert Henry Asquith. Harlow mispronounced Lady Margot’s first name, sounding the final t, as in forgot. “The t is silent, my dear,” Asquith snipped, “as in Harlow.” Lady Margot isolated and exaggerated the significance of the simple t, just as Tinbergen isolated and exaggerated the herring gull’s orange spot, thereby dramatically enhancing its impact.

Is that a way of saying "she called her a harlot" that went over my head, or did the author not catch that she called her a harlot? Be that as it may, that "quotation" is apparently widely considered to be witty, and I'm not seeing it. An intelligent (nevermind witty) person wouldn't betray their pettyness, cruelty and insecurity like that at "hello". A more sensible world would have long forgotten it as a weak moment of a person who probably had a lot on their plate.

In that article I noticed the setup that could not be cheaper: "platinum-blonde" vs "the author and wife of longtime prime minister".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margot_Asquith

she accused her shell-shocked stepson Herbert of being drunk.

I see. "The author and wife of longtime prime minister" certainly has a different ring to it than, say, "the kind of person that would accuse her shell-shocked stepson of being drunk", even though the later might actually help explain the anecdote, instead of juxtaposing a supposed sophistication with graceless nastyness and as such serving only to further mystify the issue.

Anyways...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Harlow

... yeah. So let's try this again:

A totally different principle is at work in psychological abuse. The English film director Anthony Asquith, for example, once introduced Jean Harlow, the young, beautiful and warmhearted 1930s Hollywood star, to his mother, Lady Margot Asquith, a woman of a remarkable lack of any endearing features, who had developed an especially cruel looking mouth. Harlow mispronounced Lady Margot’s first name, sounding the final t, as in forgot, though she meant nothing by it. “The t is silent, my dear,” Asquith snipped, “as in Harlow.”, marking the beginning of an evening that to the young people felt like trying to have a picnic while being harrassed by a flock of old sea gulls that seemed more intent on shitting on the food than stealing any of it.

They didn't talk back, laughed politely, because it seemed clear Margot was not just unhappy, she didn't even remember happiness, and this was her way to get back at all what that had broken her heart when she was younger. Harlow knew Margot think she meant her, but that she didn't, didn't even see her, couldn't see her, saw only the light playing on her hatred for herself... so Jean came to feel deep compassion for this poor person.

To use the picnic analogy again, she simply decided that they weren't going to get to eat a bite anyway, and that they may as well watch the acrobatics of the shitting birds. For even the ugliest human is beautiful, if you look at them careful enough, listen well enough. What seems ugly, what seems like chaos, is just as causally ordered, that order is just hidden from casual glance. Beauty is symmetric, and that's sublime, but uglyness is complex, and that is sublime too; and sneaking these kind of bald claims into stories is probably what makes writing them so fun.

Later that night, when they were alone, Harlow looked into Anthony's eyes for a long time, finally whispered "Oh Anthony, you told me it was bad, and I did believe you.. but I still had no idea just how bad it was", and made sweet pity love to him all night long, which totally blew his mind.

P.S.: Looking at his bio I realized he was homosexual, which makes that ending unlikely, but also potentially gives the scene a whole other level of oppressive atmosphere. His mother calling a person she literally just met a harlot for being pretty and an actress makes it seem unlikely she would have approved of his homosexuality, so maybe they were relieved she called her harlot, since that meant she had no clue of his homosexuality, and gladly played along. If she accepted her son, why be such a bitch to Harlow... wit? Pff.