The Pink Panther and Freud’s “On Humour”

A classic comedic character, inspector Jacques Clouseau from The Pink Panther series, is always getting into troublesome or bizarre situations that unravel around him. As someone who prides themselves on being an elite member of the French police forces, Clouseau often causes more harm than good while trying to solve his mysteries. In the recent reboot of this series, Steve Martin takes the reigns as Clouseau, focusing mainly on his outlandish personality traits. Clouseau often has a few more stable characters around him to balance this dynamic out, as Freud explores this comedic dynamic in his article “On Humour.”  

Freud states: “A person adopts a humorous attitude towards himself to ward off possible suffering” or “treating himself like a child and playing the part of a superior adult towards the child.”(1) In the clip shown, I think we can see how Clouseau’s reactions to these situations are quite child-like. From all the bullets falling out of his gun, to the swinging on the door, and then trying to shoot the door down when he cannot get his finger out. It’s all absurd. But he has an air of superiority about him, as he overconfidently tries to solve the problem. Then we are introduced to the characters of Nicole and Ponton, Clouseau’s right-hand woman and assistant. The dynamic which Freud describes as “a single person, who himself adopts the humorous attitude and the second derives enjoyment from it” can be seen between Ponton and Clouseau (and sometimes Nicole) very well (2). Clouseau is the humorous character in which he is almost oblivious to his own ridiculousness, and Ponton is the observer who gets pleasure from witnessing these happenings. I enjoy their interactions based on the soul fact that Clouseau never seems to have a grasp on any situation, and Ponton still follows his lead, knowing full well it could lead to chaos.  


(1) Freud, Sigmund. “Sigmund Freud – Der Begründer Der Psychoanalyse Und Sein »Familienroman«.” Von Freud Zur Humanistischen Psychologie“On Humour”

(2) Ibid.

One comment

  1. Clouseau is definitely a person who assumes a humorous attitude as you argue citing Freud. But I think Ponton instead of deriving pleasure or enjoyment out of his behaviour is rather confused with the absurd reality he is presented with. It is rather the spectator who derives pleasure by the interaction between the rest of the characters and Clouseau.

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