Sat-ire (noun): the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.
I think the “political correctness” movement is all good and swell, but if there’s one thing I think it’s taken away from us is the ability to understand satire. Specifically written satire. After all, it is the internet, where people can say whatever they want, with only the fear of retribution coming from an internet mob (but I personally find those pretty scary– giving away personal information of your enemies? Really?).
Young people especially understand shows like the Colbert Report– where Stephen Colbert takes the form of an exaggerated conservative persona to poke fun at Republicans. Those images were constant for me growing up.
However, more recently I’ve noticed the worrying trend of one of two things: people not understanding jokes (or satire), or people using comedy as a poor excuse to be insulting. I do think mainstream comedians get a little too much flack from college students, but on the other hand, sometimes comedians do take things too far. It’s not a crime to be angry and to expect decent standards of humanity. However, I am definitely in the camp of “comedy can help us get over tragedy.” So there’s the obvious comedic efforts, but what about when people are serious but say they’re joking when there’s an uproar?
Remember that “Dear Fat People” video? From that Youtube comedian whose name I can’t remember and don’t care to look up? That video was just plain insulting, and it’s an insult to real comedians to try to pass that piece of trash off as jokes. Hiding behind a retroactive statement like “it was satire” illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the, you know, genuine literary form.
Take that stupid article “50 Ways to be the Perfect College Girlfriend.” It made the rounds of my Facebook friends a few days ago, and made some people really toasty. I’m almost positive it wasn’t intended as satire (intention matters here) and it was published on a frat website. But somewhere in the comments (don’t ask why I was reading internet comments) some poor soul said it was “clearly” satire.
That makes me so mad. No, it’s not, because by nature, satire is obvious. Voltaire’s Candide is satire, Jonathan Swift’s essay on eating poor people is satire. Fifty disgusting expectations for women is not satire (except for the one that tells women to “have an attraction mother” because??? sure, ok). Satire is supposed to be an exaggeration. If people don’t know it’s satire, then it’s either bad or just insulting, which is kind of the same thing.