I Tried to Write a Genre Guide to Satirical Cosmo Snapchat Articles and You Won’t Believe What Happened

Coming out of my last experiment cycle, I knew I needed to narrow my topic. By deciding to do a vignette collection I spent a lot of time thinking about overarching themes and not enough thinking about the details of each vignette and what specifically I wanted to communicate with them. For this experiment cycle, I had to be more decisive not just about what, specifically, I wanted to communicate, but also what exactly is the topic I’m writing about.

So, I’m going to write a satire in the form of an article similar to what you would see in the Cosmopolitan magazine’s Snapchat story. Cosmo is a casual, chatty fashion magazine aimed at a mainly female audience. The company overview on their Facebook page describes the magazine “a bible for fun, fearless females … Cosmopolitan delivers the latest news on men and love, work and money, fashion and beauty, health, self-improvement and entertainment.”

Cosmo and a few other platforms like Buzzfeed have adopted a “I did ___ for a week and [insanely click-baity result] happened!!” style. The structure follows the day by day drama of “wearing Instagram makeup” or “living like Queen Elizabeth” for a week (both real articles by the way). For my experiment, I’m going to write an article following this structure, specifically, “I went without makeup for 7 days and here’s what happened.”

Satire is both genre and literary device. According to Literary Devices.net, it’s used to expose and critique society. I think we are most familiar with satire as in a comedic, if still political, context (think Daily Show, John Oliver, The Onion, some Saturday Night Live sketches etc.) However, there are several types of satire. Here are two of the most well-known categories:

Horatian: The primary goal here is humor, not social change or critique. Rather, the focus on the absurdities of human life, hopefully offering the reader some personal insight or at least a laugh at themselves.

Juvenalian: Bitter, ironic criticism often full of moral indignation and pessimism. For example, A Modest Proposal is a Juvenalian satire.

I want my satire to be comedic, but it’s important to me to make a meaningful, nuanced commentary on women, makeup, and societal standards. To accomplish this, I will use satirical techniques, listed and described here, to push beauty standards to a logical extreme.

In my research for this post, I’m finding that the most effective satires are the ones that tend to make you uncomfortable. The classic example is A Modest Proposal, but there are others. For example, this article from The Onion, “Wealthy Teen Nearly Experiences Consequence,” is has it’s funny moments, but it’s mostly unsettling when you think about how close it is to reality. This satirical makeup tutorial, Getting a Man 101, is funny more than anything, but while watching it, the viewer, at least the makeup wearing viewer, is prompted to think about why we wear it.

The challenge going forward is definitely going to be finding a balance between the hilariously absurd and the more nuanced criticism of society I hope to make with this piece. Hopefully by employing some satirical techniques and keeping my focus in mind, I’ll be able to keep that balance in check

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