It’s Supposed to be Upsetting, right?

sat·ire n.
1. a. A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.b. The branch of literature constituting such works. See Synonyms at caricature.2. Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.

Satire is supposed to be upsetting. The point of a satirical piece is that by taking conventional views and setting in them in their most ugly and intrusive light, one by such a relief shows the true horror of such opinion. Whether it be Oscar Wilde showing up the “good manners” of polite Victorian society, or Sacha Baron Cohen showing up the “positive advancements” of the modern-day politically correct, satire has always upset and been upsetting.

I am reminded of a powerful scene in the Kneau Reeves- Al Pacino overacting festival known as The Devil’s Advocate. In it Reeves’s on-screen wife is shopping with the wives of several of his new colleagues. As they stare into the fitting-room mirror, Charlize sees the wives as the monstrous demons they really are, instead of the beautiful girls they appear to be. That is what a good satire does. It reveals the demon inside that none knew or were willing to admit existed.

In this task there are two targets. First there is the active target. In this case the immediate source of the frustration and consternation (think Borat or Lord Algernon). Often times people react negatively to these characters and many times inspire protests. For example the people of Kazakhstan loudly expressed their displeasure with the character of Borat. However this is not the real source and target of rage for the artist. It is the “good values” and “good people” which the character is showing up which is the real target. In playing the character Borat, Sacha Cohen is angrily chastising the anti-semitic and patriarchal views which have found their homes in modern society. A similar study can be made of any of Wilde’s “polite” heroes and heroines. Or for a nightly romp through satire take a gander at Stephen Colbert’s deliriously pig-headed and self-absorbed send-up of our Bill O’Reilly favored news machine on The Colbert Report.

Why say all this and lead with the “offensive” picture from above? Because this picture is as fine an example of satire as has come out recently. Each of the offensive imagines which sets the scene mocks not the Obamas, but the legion of people out there who hold the beliefs implied by the pictures. Michelle as anti-American revolutionary and Barack Hussein as a closet Muslim are characters one can see nightly on the Fox News Network or unfortunately in more than one forwarded you-tube clip sent my way by well-meaning friends and relatives. It’s about time they got the appropriate send-up.

Of course one of satire’s biggest weaknesses lies in the fact that often those actually being mocked don’t get the joke. Hence I have a friend from Knoxville ( a big time Young Republican) who is convinced that Colbert is the greatest conservative of our generation. Likewise, in the comments here you can read as several posters ask why is this offensive if it is just so truthful.

To all who say, “that’s offensive.” I say that’s the point. Seeing the demon in the mirror should be. To those who say, “that’s just good reporting.” I say time to take a closer look in the mirror.


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