Social Commentary

Satire

Social critics, commentators, and teachers often say there is truth in satire. By definition satire is based in truth and humor is used to make a comment about a particular subject. Comedy often seems to be more important than the truth when it comes to satire. While it takes a tremendous amount of skill to be a great satirist, it is not always the most effective form of communication.

The important thing about satire is that it is rooted in intellectualism. Confusion is created when interpreting satire because certain segments of American culture embraces anti-intellectualism. In order for satire to work, the receiver would have to be familiar with the source material and references. The likelihood of the comment being understood the first time around depends on the popularity of the subject matter. If the receiver does not understand the subject matter, the point will be easily missed, and as the Joker says; if you have to explain a joke, then it is not funny.

Although satire can open a few eyes, it does not inspire lasting changes in points of view. In order to change a person’s viewpoint, an anvil has to be dropped, and that is hard to do under guffaws. Comedy is meant to distract people from their problems and not necessarily to make them think about critical issues. Embracing comedy as a distraction would require avoiding satire that is polemical. In the end, satire is relegated to a joke with much of the nuance stripped away for mass consumption.

Satire may not be a great agent of social change but it does serve a purpose. Creativity is required for satire to work which is a great way of expanding intelligence. Getting at a truism in a subversive way is probably the only time an audience is exposed to that particular viewpoint. It is such a shame that in American culture addressing polemics needs the mask of comedy. In this country, the only way to speak the truth is as a joke.

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