Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Lesson in Satire

The PC controversy du jour hinges on the caricature on the cover of the New Yorker (today's graphic). It depicts Barack Obama dressed in distinctly Muslim clothing, his wife in camouflage with an assault rifle on her shoulder, a portrait of Osama Bin Laden on the wall, and a flag burning in the hearth. To me, this is obviously a satirical jab at those who think that Obama is an America-hating Muslim with a militant wife... a sentiment echoed in numerous enclaves of white trash ignorance (OR poll comments, West Virginia exit polls, talk radio-- which I listen to, and enjoy). Last night, on Anderson Cooper 360, James Carville and a conservative talk show host (don't recall his name) sparred on the issue. Carville saw it as obvious satire befitting the history of the New Yorker. The talk show host thought it was a tasteless and failed attempt at a joke... one that needed too much explanation to be funny. Ok, lads and lasses... Here's what you need to know:

There are two types of satire... Horatian and Juvenalian, named after the Roman satirists Horace and Juvenal. Horatian satire is light-hearted and witty... close to parody... like a joke. Juvenalian satire is dark and biting. It is a forceful condemnation of the satirized entity.

Because I find the profound ignorance of large groups of people amusing, I would consider the New Yorker cover to be Horatian... it is a caricature... an obvious distortion and magnification of people's ignorant bias'. If you don't think the "joke" is funny, call it Juvenalian satire. Call it whatever you want... It is not in and of itself offensive. What is offensive is that it is probably an accurate representation of what way too many people actually think.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

And it probably confirms what Joe "Redneck" Blow already thinks about the Obamas.

July 15, 2008 at 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you consistently referenced any other group of people -- especially minorities -- as being stupid country people the way you do West Virginians, you'd rightfully be called a bigoted pig.

Yes, to beat a dead horse, there are racists and stupid people in West Virginia. There also more than your fair share in Western Pennsylvania. Racism doesn't stop at the state line.

Please stop acting as if West Virginia has a patent on the redneck attitude and find some other group to make fun of for awhile, because it grows tiresome.

As for your argument that the New Yorker cover is satire ... if it has to be explained, then it isn't very good satire. The fact that you felt it necessary to explain it speaks volumes.

The line between satire and poor taste is sometimes very thin. This may be one of the times the New Yorker has veered off into poor taste. Just because something is provocative doesn't mean it is clever.

Will people be talking about this? Probably. However, those people whom this is making fun of will not change their opinion about Obama. Isn't satire supposed to make you think?

Yes, this does point out the ridiculous opinions some people have about Obama and his wife, but its offensiveness may outweigh anything else.

Just call me ... Full Stop.

July 15, 2008 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Needing explanation says less about it's satirical value than it does about the relative intelligence of the population... how many people know that Gulliver's Travels is satire?

Using WV as a reference point for bigotry and idiocy is, in and of itself, satire... Stereotypes are useful that way... whether it's true or not, people know what you mean.

Was it Eddie Izzard who said that every country has its sheep shaggers? In the UK, it's the Scotts, in Australia, its the New Zealanders, in America, it's the West Virginians... The bigger issue is that the sheep are whores!

I don't see anything in poor taste with the new yorker's cover... it says NOTHING about Obama... It precisely encompasses most of the false views that ill-informed people have about him. Therefore, is it in poor taste for saying "This is what some people think of Obama" or because some people think that it is saying "This is who Obama is?"

I agree that this isn't going to change many people's mind... But it could... if people were willing to look at that cover for a few minutes... and then watch Obama in person and see how their preconceived notions are not aligned with reality. Introspection and analysis, however, are generally not strong points amongst sheep shaggers.


July 15, 2008 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

If this cover gets people upset, especially Obama, during the campaign season, what will happen if he is elected to office? A sitting President is always the target of satirical cartoons. They show up every day someplace.

The problem with this situation is that some will use any such opportunity to start a war of words regarding race. I sense that many commentators, writers, and people in general, are now walking on "thin egg shells." Despite the need to make legitimate criticisms, people are holding back because of fear. They fear their criticisms will be taken as a racial jab, not on the basis of legitimate questions or criticism.

For better or worse, if Sen. Obama is elected, the open public discourse will be anything but open and public. The tone will be tempered by an overarching fear of being labeled a racist. In some cases, the assessment may be right. But, in other cases the assessments will be invalid because of somebody looking for any opening to claim racism.

This satirical cartoon is one example of my concern. It is easy to claim it to be offensive, as a backdoor opening for racism claims. But, undoubtedly some do not wish to comment about the magazine cover, for fear of being labeled racist.

July 16, 2008 at 6:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Grog, I can't get my identity to work.

What if any of the accusations about Obama were true? What has this country come too? Out of the hundreds of well educated American men in our government, why are we voting for 2 candidates that are clearly not presidential material? One is near his death bed, and he has a middle name that makes me very nervous about some of those accusations.

It’s funny, after I did spell check in Word, I had to add Obama to the dictionary’s spell check. What’s that tell you?? (I’m not sure either, but it all makes me very uneasy.)

July 16, 2008 at 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grog again, I need to proof read my posts better before posting them.
Obama has a middle name that makes me nervous, not McCain.

July 16, 2008 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Grog... If I named my son Assram Manwhore... would that make him gay?

It's not like he picked his own name... I am sure he is like "damn, why couldn't my middle name be "whitey mcFred Jesus"

Why are you "nervous" about Hussein?

It's like the "smith" of the middle east... not a big deal :-)


July 16, 2008 at 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grog shouldn't be so uneasy because his spell-check didn't recognize "Obama." Our O-R spell-check to this day tries to correct "Clinton." What does that tell you? Nothing except that nobody here updated the thing when that name came into common use.

Lou Florian (whose middle name "Ferdinand" may make some people "very nervous.")

July 16, 2008 at 9:43 AM  
Anonymous ... said...

O/R is down.....

July 16, 2008 at 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cover is funny, but I can see why Obama would be POd about it. To balance, why don't they run a cover showing McCain coming out of a Saigon brothel with a baby, which relates to the smear the Bushies tried on McCain when he ran against Bush in 2004.

Grog, names don't mean a thing unless you happen to subscribe to certain Eastern philosophies that say if your life is going badly, it's because your parents gave you the wrong name. (Don't laugh -- Google "Subud"). But it has crossed my mind to start posting John "Hitler" McCain in blogs just to balance things out. And good lord ... look at the last name of our president and the shortened version of the first name of his veep.

Maybe Obama should just pretend that his middle name is pronounced "Roosevelt," like the Monty Python character Raymond Luxury-Yacht, who insists that his name is pronounced "Throatwarbler Mangrove."

Ellipses, "Smith" makes me nervous.

July 17, 2008 at 10:11 AM  

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