The Hanging Munchkin
Yesterday, at my new job, a bunch of people were discussing something I had never heard of: I learned that a depressed actor, who was a “munchkin” in the original 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz”, hung himself during the production. Further, his body, hanging from a tree, was accidentally captured during the filming and was not noted until the film was released. So, with careful watching of that scene, the hanging munchkin can be clearly seen.
I started this new job two weeks ago. The folks I am working with have worked together for several years and are tightly bonded. I am an undesirable outside in several ways — which I won’t go into here — but I am trying to be patient as I slowly become an insider myself (a process I have done many times).
Outsider Challenges a Bonding Myth
On hearing the munchkin story, I was immediately skeptical and said, “Seriously? That sounds like an urban legend [a phrase most of the other seven workers did not recognize] and I quickly ‘googled’ the story. Indeed it is a myth! There are tons of sites on this, but here is one to start: Snopes.com.
I then said, “Yep, it is a myth, check in out on this site ….”, naively thinking (as I have done many times in the past), that they too would be excited to learn the truth. But my proclamation was met with puzzled, hostile and rejecting eyes. One person looked, and said disappointingly, “Yeah, looks like it may be a legend” but the conversation stopped and no one pursued it further. I dropped it too.
See the obvious religious parallels? I wager most of the folks had no real desire to know the truth. My new colleagues were collectively were OK with turning off their skeptic switch for all the pleasure the Hanging Munchkin Myth offered. Atheists also face such repugnance when they challenge religious myths. But this example shows that the believing-myth-building mind operates well outside of religious circles also. Remember, “truth” is not valued highly, when fun/community-cohesion/identity and such are an alternative. See my post called Sacrificing Rationality: The Tooth Fairy.
Question to Readers: Have you seen secular versions of this phenomena? What is your analysis?