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Author Topic: Is anything off-limits for satire?
Agent 204
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posted 02 August 2008 06:50 AM      Profile for Agent 204   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Recently I was introduced to a British TV show called Brass Eye, by Chris Morris. The show is a spoof of British "tabloid TV" current affairs shows, and often focused on moral panics (crime, drugs, etc). Morris also roped in various celebrities (a la Ric Mercer or Sacha Baron Cohen) to deliver public service announcements that they should have known were bogus. Well, Morris really ruffled some feathers in 2001 when he satirized the hysteria about pedophilia that was sweeping the UK at the time. This Salon article gives you an idea of the world into which Morris thrust his piece of satire:
quote:
Introducing the offending program with the words "Welcome to Pedogeddon," Morris and his team of writers gleefully filleted every media cliché, mob reaction and hysterical misconception about pedophilia that has stalked Britain and Ireland for the last 18 months.

In that time, a moral panic of gargantuan proportions has swept the land. Last summer in the English coastal town of Portsmouth, egged on by English tabloids running a "name and shame" campaign, mobs of vigilantes roamed the streets like medieval peasants. But instead of pitchforks they carried knuckle dusters and baseball bats, and rather than hunchbacks they were seeking "kiddie fiddlers," who existed only in the minds of the mob.

Dozens of people were wrongly accused, and one man, a pediatrician, had to leave the area after some of the protesters were confused by the term and torched his house. The pediatrician managed to keep his name out of the press, for fear that more crime might follow him. Another pediatrician, 30-year-old Yvette Cloete, had to leave her home in Gwent, South Wales after it was vandalized: Cloete arrived home from work to see the word "paedo" daubed all over her walls. Police say "the astonishing ignorance" of local anti-pedophile protestors forced her out.



Ripe for satire, yet for obvious reasons a very sensitive topic. In the fake PSAs, celebrities warned that "pedophiles occupy an area of the Internet the size of Ireland" and stuff like that. At one point he had someone saying, with a straight face, that pedophiles could trigger a child's keyboard to release vapours to make them more prone to a pedophile's suggestion. The person said, "actually, I do feel more suggestible", not realizing how right he was about that.

So what do you think? Brilliant, insensitive, or both?


From: home of the Guess Who | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
Papal Bull
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posted 02 August 2008 07:07 AM      Profile for Papal Bull   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Insensitivity can be brilliant, and given the reaction of certain segments of the British public to this...why the hell not?

Satire isn't supposed to fall into a person's good tastes at all times. Sometimes being revolted, disgusted, offended, etc. is perfectly good for a person. Sure, this is a serious topic, but if you don't humanize an issue in a way that can actually reach people in a meaningful way (ie., intelligent humour, rather than quick-cut edited, graphic heavy scare TV) then that issue's true impact won't be understood. In this case, the impact that was being investigated wasn't the terrible effects of pedophilia on children (one of those topics that would be nigh on impossible to satirize in any meaningful way), it was mocking a dark and "Mediaeval" response.


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N.Beltov
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posted 02 August 2008 08:50 AM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Last year in New Zealand, anti-satire laws were passed that forbade making fun of politicians in their Parliament.

No, I'm not kidding.

quote:
New rules for the filming of Parliament come into affect today. TV channels have been told they cannot show satirical shots of MPs that would denigrate or ridicule them. House leader Michael Cullen says the rules will hopefully prevent the channels from using shots out of context. Dr Cullen has taken a swipe at Wellington's Dominion Post, for showing a photograph of Foreign Minister Winston Peters in Samoan garb last week when he was sworn in as a chief and inviting readers to write captions.

Anti-satire rules passed by New Zealand Parliament

Discussion of the new law made The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last year.

Humorless bastards. Kill 'em all.

This, from The Olive, is pretty amusing as well. WARNING: may cause uncontrollable laughter in those with a sense of humor.

quote:
"We have sent a clear message to the people who keep making fun of us," Ashcroft said. "Keep it up, and we're going to put you away."

Wait! There's more:

quote:
Senator Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) expressed his reservations that the law was not strong enough. "These people are terrorists, pure and simple," said Helms. "We should be able to kill them on sight, but some namby-pambies from across the aisle voted that part out."

[ 02 August 2008: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]


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Robespierre
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posted 02 August 2008 09:36 AM      Profile for Robespierre     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thatcher and Blair should be compelled to host a series of public education lectures in the areas where the ignorant local population became violent. Mr. Thatcher could be used to distribute refreshments.

I think the satire was fine, no need to regulate it.


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N.Beltov
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posted 02 August 2008 09:41 AM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I've dug up an old Soviet-era aesthetics textbook by Yuri Borev that I have. The following is pulled from Borev's book.

Anyway, Borev covers satire under the comic and points out that humour and satire are the two basic forms of the comic "which produce different kinds of laughter." Now humour has a friendly element by virtue of acknowledging the positive in the thing being mocked. Not so with satire.

quote:
But it is a different matter when the phenomenon as a whole is negative, socially dangerous. In that case, humour is not strong enough. Everything rotten is the object of satire, which condems the imperfections of the world in order to transform it according to an ideal programme.

Borev presents satire as a kind of laughing rejection. And that rejection is based on some ideals lurking in the background.

quote:
... "socially loaded" laughter is laughter "ennobled by the presence of an aesthetic ideal, the laughter which rejects certain human character traits and social phenomena and extols others."

If you had no ideals whatsoever, and cared only about yourself, satire would be difficult or impossible. You have to have something, even unspoken, to compare to. But off-limits?

What is off-limits? The sacred? Common decency? The ideals, whatever they are, of the satirist himself or herself? What about someone with no ideals?

Take the example of the fictional character Conan.
The woman who meets Conan the Barbarian and his companion Sabutai mocks them. "Two fools who laugh at death," she says.

I presume she means that they are so dumb that they laugh at their own deaths. In their world, everything is equally worthless. Even their own deaths. But Conan somehow has an ideal of revenge. And when asked about his general ideal in life he bluntly says (earlier in the film) :

"What is best in life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

His companions grunt in agreement. Words aren't necessary in such circumstances. And there is no laughter at all. Except, maybe, the laughter of schauenfreude at the suffering of others.

I don't think there is any satire in Conan's world. It's not off-limits; it's missing entirely.

Borev writes about the anti-satire of modernism in Kafka and Dali and has this to say:

quote:
[antisatire] ridiculed the absurdity of the world from the point of view of an egocentric personality wrapped up in itself. This sort of satire does not study the carriers of social evil. Ridiculed are the results of its existence only, the evil being treated as an irrational element beyond the grasp of the mind.

Satire has a long history ahead of it. I bet on it.


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Robespierre
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posted 02 August 2008 10:20 AM      Profile for Robespierre     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yuri Borev's lecture is great.
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N.Beltov
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posted 02 August 2008 10:43 AM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Borev describes the comic as that which condemns (or mocks) the imperfections of life, purifies and renovates man, and asserts the joy of living. Other than the non-inclusive language, that's a pretty good definition. Contrast that to the magnum opus of E.H. Gombrich called The Story of Art in which the author introduces the reader to his subject with the following

"There really is no such thing as art. There are only artists."


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RosaL
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posted 02 August 2008 10:51 AM      Profile for RosaL     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
But it is a different matter when the phenomenon as a whole is negative, socially dangerous. In that case, humour is not strong enough. Everything rotten is the object of satire, which condems the imperfections of the world in order to transform it according to an ideal programme.

I think this has something to do with my discomfort with a lot of satire. I enjoy it - it's often very clever and funny. But the "programme" behind it is not one I accept.


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N.Beltov
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posted 02 August 2008 11:21 AM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The spirit of satire isn't friendly like humour. The latter acknowledges the positive in the thing mocked. That might be a source of discomfort.

But yea. If your social ideal is a war of each against all, and an Orwellian boot in the face forever to enforce it, then any and all social efforts to redistribute wealth and assist the vulnerable can be depicted as bumbling and hopeless stupidity doomed to failure. We have whole genres devoted to such efforts; take anti-utopian literature for example.

And there's still plenty useful in such works; I'm still a socialist even though I have read Zamyatin's We, Huxley's Brave New World, Orwell's 1984, and so on. For there is also The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake and Cabot and More to read. The remedy to lousy art is better art not no art.


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Agent 204
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posted 02 August 2008 12:48 PM      Profile for Agent 204   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by N.Beltov:
Last year in New Zealand, anti-satire laws were passed that forbade making fun of politicians in their Parliament.

No, I'm not kidding.


What the... ??? New Zealand? That sounds more like something from a dictatorship.

From the link you provide:

quote:
Leader of the House Michael Cullen says journalists should wait and see how the new rules work before getting too upset.

He says they actually allow more flexibility for the media.



More flexibility. Right. And freedom is slavery, and war is peace.

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al-Qa'bong
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posted 02 August 2008 04:01 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
"What is best in life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

Conan's a barbaric plagiarist. I've seen this quote attributed to Genghis Khan.

Q: What's the difference between American dwarves and Islamic dwarves?

A: American dwarves are bigger.


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Robespierre
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posted 02 August 2008 06:28 PM      Profile for Robespierre     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by RosaL:

I think this has something to do with my discomfort with a lot of satire. I enjoy it - it's often very clever and funny. But the "programme" behind it is not one I accept.


Waiting in a traffic jam, we're often forced to stare at a bumper sticker such as the "popular" one on top.

We'll know that the revolution has come when the bumper sticker on the bottom becomes the more popular one.

I'm afraid that traffic jams will always be with us, however.


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martin dufresne
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posted 02 August 2008 07:19 PM      Profile for martin dufresne   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Contrary to irony which actually takes chances on a level ground, satire always requires a position of superiority even if that superiority is wholly in the mind of the satirist. By pointedly laughing at his target, he eludes any assessment of this alleged superiority over the hoi polloi he sets up, and tries very hard to make the point moot by sticking to form, to the sniper's isolation. So the only thing off-limits to satire - by its own design - is community.

[ 03 August 2008: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]


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N.Beltov
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posted 02 August 2008 07:39 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
That's interesting.
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Digiteyes
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posted 03 August 2008 07:11 AM      Profile for Digiteyes   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Satire has played a role in political and philosophical thinking for a long time.

Aristophanes' "The Clouds" probably contributed to the sentencing of Socrates.

Of course people are uncomfortable with satire: it can lead to change.


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Farmpunk
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posted 03 August 2008 09:07 AM      Profile for Farmpunk     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Speaking of Aristophanes. How about Lysistrata? I once saw this play put on by a troupe with hand puppets.

Beltov, I'm curious: what do you see satiricial about Atwood's Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake? Her most satirical work is, I think, Lady Oracle.

I like the distinction you make between humour and satire, too. Biting satire can be a really nasty - but effective - tool. Robertson Davies was good at the humourous type of satire, usually directed against universities and the drama crowds in which he was definitely a member.

Unfortunately, not everyone lives in a Davies novel, where certain foibles can be satirized and the characters accept that they are indeed possible objects of mockery.


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N.Beltov
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posted 03 August 2008 04:34 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Farmpunk: I'm curious: what do you see satiricial about Atwood's Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake? Her most satirical work is, I think, Lady Oracle.

I think I mentioned Atwood in the context of anti-utopian literature. However, her stuff is really distopian I suppose.

I think I made a remark to the effect that we could identity anti-utopian literature as a kind of satirical genre ... but then again, it doesn't always evoke laughter, does it?

quote:
I like the distinction you make between humour and satire, too.

FYI - I got that from Yuri Borev.


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Farmpunk
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posted 04 August 2008 04:31 PM      Profile for Farmpunk     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It's a good distinction, too. Maybe a little academic for my tastes, but it makes sense.

Trouble is that I find some of the distopian stuff really funnny, even if I'm the target.

For my money, the best satirical work that I've come across is Swift's Gullive's Travels. Now that was a mean and nasty satirist that stands the test of time.


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N.Beltov
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posted 04 August 2008 04:44 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Farmpunk: For my money, the best satirical work that I've come across is Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Now that was a mean and nasty satirist that stands the test of time.

A Tale of a Tub, by the same author, is its equal in my view.


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Farmpunk
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posted 05 August 2008 04:12 PM      Profile for Farmpunk     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think it was on my reading list at one point. I'll have to re-seed it.

Did you think Oryx and Crake was funny at points, Beltov? I did.


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N.Beltov
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posted 05 August 2008 04:27 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The book jacket speaks of dark humour. I can't remember much more than that. I think the CorpSeCorps got to me.
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Agent 204
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posted 05 August 2008 04:36 PM      Profile for Agent 204   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Digiteyes:
Aristophanes' "The Clouds" probably contributed to the sentencing of Socrates.

Interesting. I wonder if this contributed to Plato's pro-censorship views as discussed in The Republic?

[ 05 August 2008: Message edited by: Agent 204 ]


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Papal Bull
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posted 05 August 2008 05:28 PM      Profile for Papal Bull   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by N.Beltov:

A Tale of a Tub, by the same author, is its equal in my view.


Eat more babies


From: Vatican's best darned ranch | Registered: Oct 2004  |  IP: Logged
N.Beltov
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posted 05 August 2008 08:23 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Best line from Rendition is a mocking remark from the Douglas Freeman character (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) to his boss, played by Meryl Streep:

"This is my first torture."

She was not amused.


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