Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sharpening the Point of Political Satire

I stumbled across an interesting little insight in an unlikely place - the Q&A section of Paul Farhi's pop culture column for the Washington Post...

Question from a reader: Reportedly Tina Fey will reprise her wildly-popular Sarah Palin impression when Tina hosts SNL this weekend. Which Sarah do you think we'll see depicted-- the Fox, tea party cheerleader or TLC version? (should stress that this TLC is not short for Tender Loving Care)

Paul's answer: This is going to seem like an odd answer, but SNL has been relatively soft on Sarah. Tina Fey's impression is entirely a work of genius, but the satire isn't all that tough. They've basically got her down as a gun-totin', tough-talkin', quasi-redneck. Which is amusing, but ultimately flattering to her and her base. Interesting that Palin, who complains about almost everything the media does or says about her, hasn't protested anything SNL has done (and she even appeared on the show while it made fun of her!). I say, draw a little more blood. That's what satire is supposed to do.
This may, in fact, take Tina's portrayal out of the realm of satire entirely. Sure, satire preaches to the choir, but when it also reinforces the beliefs of the target of a satirical shot - rather than making them uncomfortable or shaking their foundations - then it's spoof, not satire.

That may be a more purist point of view, but since many current and former satire writers took up the mantle because they didn't like what they saw going on in the world, it's a worthy distinction to consider.

So, please ask yourself: When you set out to write satire, are you writing only to entertain the people who agree with you? Or are you trying to change the minds of people who don't?

--Allen Voivod, Editor Emeritus
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Satire pervades the web, seeping into mailboxes and mainstream news like a spilled cup of coffee. It stains and it won't go away.

The Bitter Cup is a collaborative blog for members of HumorFeed, a collaborative of satire and humor sites that has been making trouble since 2003.