When I first think of satire, my mind automatically rushes towards The Onion newspaper. I think of their snarky articles that, if I didn’t know were fake, would make me concerned for our society. And that’s the whole point- satire is supposed to make you question how much of it is real and how much is made up. For example, my friend told me today that she once was fooled by an article (that she didn’t realize was from The Onion) about how SeaWorld was starting to take elephants and put them in pools until they couldn’t swim anymore. A cruel, cruel thing to trick my animal-loving friend into reading, but it just goes to show how insane some satire topics can be and the big reactions they can create. And even under the layer of darker humor, they still make a point about a relevant situation, like the negative treatment of animals at SeaWorld. During my research I came across some pretty amazing titles of other Onion articles such as “27-Year-Old Lies About Every Aspect of His Life to Keep Parents from Worrying” and “Jesus Christ Sues Catholic Church for Unlicensed Use of His Image” which I found entertaining, and good examples of the humor involved in satire.
Although The Onion is a well-known example of satire, my research showed me a little bit more of what actually makes it satire, and how the genre expands beyond newspaper articles.
When it comes down to it, the whole point of satire is to ridicule or criticize something through irony, caricature, parody, or derision. Even though these can seem mean or rude, another important aspect of satire is that the end product is supposed to be funny. Even if it makes you laugh because it’s so obscene or cruel, if it’s not funny, then it’s not really satire.
The more I researched satire, the more I realized that it is everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Satire lives in the lives of our favorite movie characters, on TV in shows like the Colbert Report or SNL, resides in novels and short stories, and also is present during political debates, just to name a few examples. The Colbert Report (here is an example) is actually a great instance of how Stephen Colbert creates vexations that then attract a bigger, more passionate audience than if he had not included satire within his show. And that’s the thing about satire, it’s supposed to be so brutally honest that it can hurt to take in, but at the same time it’s honest and presented in an entertaining way so that people don’t become too offended.
Usually, this mockery is supposed to lead to some sort of social reform by calling people to action, or simply just to expose a particular topic. Satire was created thousands of years ago, and even back then it was supposed to attack a specific trait or aspect of a person or place. Tim Keck, the co-founder of The Onion, said that satire “is the thing that everyone is thinking about, but that you would never see in an article” or whatever form it is presented in. This can especially be seen in caricatures, as they try to call people to action while highlighting all the issues going on in society- especially regarding politics.
So, as I see it, when starting to write a satire, only a few things are needed before beginning:
- A relevant/current topic
- Mockery masked by humor
- Understanding that even if your joking, someone might still be offended (hopefully no one gets offended though)
Hopefully I can include these (and many other aspects) in my own piece and work to make it both humorous but also honest. Of all the aspects of this genre, I feel that the idea that one can make fun of a subject while also calling for attention and changes to be made to that topic is something very creative and exciting that I am eager to explore. I guess we will have to see how sassy and honest my experiment becomes…