Satire, then, signals both the sickness and health of a society in equal measure: it showcases the vigor of the satirist and the debility of the satiree. As such, we might conclude, in America, that its abundance suggests a normal balance of destructive yin and creative yang, a human need to view the most vexing frailties of a culture through the liberating prism of lampoon…
The appeal of such a mode of discourse to any vice-blighted age is understandable: it provides another means to editorial ends. And yet, more than merely editorializing, it also demonstrates a capacity for better behavior in human beings — our creativity, our subtlety, our panache. That so many people are responding to satire in the public square, and, indeed, that so much satire is thriving at a center usually held by more anodyne entertainments, suggests our hunger for the better — the better articulated, the better said, the better thought, the better done…
It makes me wonder what happens when the language of argument and the language of ridicule become the same, when the address of a potentate is voiced no more soberly than the goofings of some rube.
Read “My Satirical Self” by Wyatt Mason for the New York Times (link expires in 2 weeks – the article will only be available to TimesSelect subscribers). It’s a wonderful piece. Certainly it bears on our previous discussions of irony and morality.
I side with Mason in my tastes (the Onion, the Daily Show, etc.) but am an earnest enough fellow to wonder where all the lampooning leads us. Some of us actually have to try, and mean it, even if we can also chuckle about our own efforts; those who consume or produce satire exclusively seem to be freeloading off the work of others. Outsourcing the boring things like good governance and meaningful, original art to their neighbors.
The upcoming Sally Ride record is much more satirical than Don’t Let Them Take Us ALIVE! is. As Mason suggests the satire is commentary of itself, as well as tonic for some political and romantic earnestness.
If you have enjoyed any of the following – The Simpsons, The Colbert Report, South Park, Chapelle’s Show – I encourage you to read the article. -h