For most of us, midterm season is an excuse to frown at each other so we can get some damn work done. That’s only natural when your brain is overworked and sleep-deprived with endless distractions looming in the way. But for some people, life is an excuse to be grumpy. And members of that latter group are probably Curmudgeons.
The media is rampant with people grimacing at the camera. Let’s see who’s who in the veritable pantheon of pooh-poohers. Cult followings swarm both Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation” and Grumpy Cat from the Internet — or just cats in general. In fact, there’s even a Tumblr dedicated to cats that look like Ron Swanson. Coincidence? I think not. Then there’s Simon Cowell, Grumpy the Dwarf from “Snow White,” the dad from “That ’70s Show” — actually, most dads in sitcoms. Ugh, I could snarl on forever, so check out the International Society of Curmudgeons instead. Yeah, that exists too.
So why are their evil eyes ever-present? Well, these cranks are more relatable than any bootylicious diva could ever be. Who wants to act cheerful in the presence of someone they detest? Answer: brownnosers and people on ecstasy. But those aren’t Curmudgeons. No, our archetype keeps it real. They don’t pretend to be happy, which is liberating because they don’t have to construct their actions around others’ expectations. They act how they feel. They make all of their audience’s unfeeling fantasies come true.
And their malcontent with others often provides opportunities for witticisms. There’s a reason why the Curmudgeon is always in comedies. He’s the jaded straight man whose sardonic sensibilities can provide insight into the dissatisfaction of life. Charles M. Schulz was all, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.” Woody Allen’s character in “Annie Hall” professed his feeling that “life is divided into the horrible and the miserable.” And Ron Swanson enhanced many lives with the following advice: “When people get a little too chummy with me, I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don’t really care about them.” They live by a no-nonsense code that lets them cope with life’s letdowns better because they expect them. Aren’t they great?
I’ve even gotten into the lack of spirit. Over the years, I’ve developed a deadpan persona that is really just a thinly veiled disguise for the high probability that I have no dopamine coursing through my veins. One time during my gothic phase in middle school, my teacher asked me to smile. And I told her that I was too lazy to do it — and proceeded to frown at her. Thanks to these pioneers of pout, I can live with myself, kinda.
But we Curmudgeons are not completely heartless. Ron Swanson can’t handle interacting with anyone for an extended period of time. Or the government. He really hates the government. But he’s endlessly supportive of his initially forced BFF, Leslie Knope. I mean, he walked her down the aisle at her wedding in place of her father. He’s a mentor to fellow scowler April Ludgate. And he’s been lovin’ on his latest ladyfriend, Diane — to the point where he let her kids dress the masculine bulk of his body as a princess. See? We’re not so bad. We don’t hate everything — just most things. I have even smiled at teachers on special occasions.