Dark Fun: The Cruelties of Hedonic Communities1

Gary Alan Fine*, Ugo Corte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


While fun is linked to positive engagement and inclusive community, we explore the connection between fun and cruelty, arguing that acts of aggression and humiliation can also provide pleasurable hedonic experience. In this, we extend the sociological analysis of emotions, emphasizing that emotion work that is broadly rejected can be accepted and desired within the boundaries of local culture as long as interactional commitments exist. These acts, requiring the social support that groups provide, rely on a commitment to cohesion. By examining descriptive accounts of gang activity, bullying, hooliganism, political violence, and military brutality, different in degree of hostility, but similar in rejecting norms of acceptable behavior, we formulate the concept of “dark fun.” In these cases that reveal the establishment of hierarchies of power, the ability to make victims suffer establishes the authority of the group, coupled with the low probability that victims will respond in the situation. However, this rejection of consensual norms occurs in sites of emotional heating. What is deviant in the wider society reveals group belonging. To this end, we advance a meso-level theory of hedonic cruelty that draws on features of group affiliation based on collective effervescence, local commitments, and moral ordering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSociological Forum
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • deviance
  • emotion work
  • group interaction
  • hedonism
  • morality
  • power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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