The Importance of Satire
April 3, 2017
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Opinions are a great thing. Everyone has them. But what is the best way to convince someone that their opinion may be toxic? Through satire.
Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices. Particularly useful in discussing topical issues.
Shows like Saturday Night Live can make you laugh at the lighthearted and comical portrayal of political figures. But shows like South Park may leave you scratching your head and even disgusted at their portrayal of our culture. Though satire is common throughout all forms of media, not all of it is intended to be humorous.
Some satire can force people to rethink their opinions, and possible their realities. Take this post for example;
The argument here is, since many people of Irish descent don’t complain about their portrayal in mainstream media, other ethnic groups should follow suit. The response is an example of satire through irony and sarcasm, instead of humor. Instead of breaking down the argument through more arguments, I provide an example of another ethnic group protesting for the removal of a racially insensitive image. By using the same language as the original author, the example adds to his argument, while at the same time echoing the idiocy of it.
The response is insensitive toward black people. But by using the same argument as the original Irish post, people will realize how insensitive the entire post is, therefore turning people off to the concept as a whole. Using exaggerations helps those to realize that the satire isn’t too far from the truth.
In their 2007 titled With Apologies To Jesse Jackson, South Park took on the topic of racism. The episode was in response to the recent racial outbursts during a stand-up routine performed by former Seinfeld star, Michael Richards. With racism being a hot button issue in light of this event, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone ditched the lighthearted approach in favor of a more brash delivery.
The plot of this episode revolved around the character Randy mis guessing a word on the game show Wheel of Fortune. Instead of correctly guessing the word “naggers,” he loses by bringing up the more ominous “n-word.” This slip up causes Randy to be ostracized by the community. He is harassed, threatened and banned from shopping at every store he walks into. Everywhere he would go, people shouted, “Hey there goes that n-word guy!” His son, Stan, was made an outcast as well, as he was trying to justify his dad’s actions to his black friend.
The episode ends with the black friend finally forgiving Stan once he realizes that he will never understand how his black friend must feel whenever the n-word is brought up, no matter the context.
The satire surrounding this episode highlights the effect that insults and buzzwords have on our self-esteem and livelihood. South Park points out that while getting criticized for being a racist might hurt, being the victim of actual racism is even worse. Even though Randy meant no ill will when he used the n-word, words like these still incite a negative reaction from the community that has been historically affected by the word. Kovon and Jill Flowers, who co-founded the organization Abolish the "N" Word, praised this episode, saying it was a good example of how it felt to be called nigger.
The past few years, there has been a resurgence of prank themed videos on social media. The most popular ones revolve around pranks in “the hood.” In these prank videos, the pranksters go into low income neighborhoods and film themselves antagonizing citizens to get a violent reaction out of them. Such pranks are titles as “stepping on shoes prank,” “selling drugs prank,” and “egging cars in the hood.” Almost all of these pranks target black youth, and almost all of them were later proven to be staged, though passed off as authentic.
This led comedian, George Miller, stage name Filthy Frank, to film his own set of pranks, satirizing the original prank videos. In the video, he pranks people by telling them he’s suicidal, yelling racially charged slurs and verbally harassing women. This form of satire is extremely disgusting, bigoted, and offensive. But that’s the point. Miller uses exaggeration to point out how unethical the original prank videos were and how the original pranksters used the premise of the videos being a prank as a shield from potential criticism.
Satire is a beautiful thing. It amplifies the injustices of the world better through humor and irony. It is the easiest way to get opposing sides to consider every point of view. Hopefully it will eventually have all people see the error in their thinking, one meme at time.