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Satire in the Media

Page history last edited by Alex Butensky 15 years ago

Satire in the Media




Any discussion of satire should begin with the word's definition. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the most reputable in the language, "satire" means the following (the definition has many parts, so only the germane ones are listed here):


I. 1. a. A poem, or in modern use sometimes a prose composition, in which prevailing vices or follies are held up to ridicule. Sometimes, less correctly, applied to a composition in verse or prose intended to ridicule a particular person or class of persons, a lampoon.


I. 1. c. fig. A thing, fact, or circumstance that has the effect of making some person or thing ridiculous.


I. 2. b. The employment, in speaking or writing, of sarcasm, irony, ridicule, etc. in exposing, denouncing, deriding, or ridiculing vice, folly, indecorum, abuses, or evils of any kind.


We must understand satire, therefore, not only in the broad sense of ridiculing someone or something, but also in the specific nuance of pointing out vice (either of one person or of society as a whole) through this ridicule. Though my colleagues may differ from me on this, I would not consider most political humor satire, but rather, well, humor. I know this sounds confusing and ridiculous (maybe you should satirize me!), so I'd like to provide some examples to further my point.



This cartoon falls under the category of "humor." Although it certainly has broad satirical elements in its portrayal of Bush's intelligence and foreign-policy decision-making, it does point out one of the "prevailing vices or follies" that the OED mentions.




This cartoon, on the other hand, provides a solid example of political satire. On a surface level, the cartoon is lampooning how Republicans (early in the campaign) criticizes John McCain for bipartisanship and for not being "right" enough. When delving deeper, however, one finds that the cartoon is not specific to McCain, but that it ridicules political parties' disdain for and distrust of bipartisanship. Unlike the Bush cartoon, which would only be successful using him or one of his political cronies, the McCain cartoon would work using almost any political figure that has reached across the aisle, be they a Republican or a Democrat (in which case the cartoon would read "worked with Democrats"), a U.S. President or a county treasurer, an 19th-century icon or a 21st-century politico.


This distinction brings us to what I believe is the fundamental difference between political satire and humor. Good satire, because it points out one of those "prevailing vices or follies," is both universal and timeless. Although it is superficially directed at one man or instance, it can be applied to many different situations all containing the prevailing vice it ridicules, and it is successful in each one. Basic humor, on the other hand, takes advantage of a situation for a quick laugh; it will be neither funny nor understandable ten years down the road.


          Alex Butensky, 10/20/2008 


Both of these cartoons are accurate representations of images seen everyday, meant to poke and prod at the subject matter. Flip open to the middle of any Washington Post and you'll see a two-page spread of these powerful illustrations. The satirical pieces compliment theories and theses, often used to reiterate a point being made within an article. There is no doubt that these drawings influence the viewer. The question we must ask is one that must be discussed with every other aspect of the media: where do we as a society draw the line for the appropriateness of the content? I have noticed that the satirical images tend to be a bit less bitter, meant to provoke negative intellectual thought or poke fun of a factual situation instead of attack a minute character flaw or expound upon a nasty rumor. This, of course, is not always true, but it is a consistent difference nonetheless.  


               -Stephen Roth, 10/21/08


Palin as President

     - A really funny interactive site where Palin is in the Oval Office. This site is updated daily so that it follows the current issues that the public has with Palin. 




These two pages provide further analysis of satire in different forms of media:


Satirical Images in the 2008 Election - Political humor in the 2008 election should not be overlooked. What is the importance of satirical cartoons, videos and images in this election? These images, whether positive or negative, are not forgotten on the first tuesday of November. This page delves into a multitude of images throughout the 2008 election with wondrous commentrary and articles that whet the readers interest.


Election Interviews - This page serves to illustrate and discuss the similarities and differences between the actual election interviews and their parody versions. 


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