Do Americans understand satire?
I recently asked whether or not Barack Obama was born on the planet Earth. Much to my surprise, everyone that answered believed this to be serious. My question now; is satire above the understanding of most Americans? I would really like to know.
When it comes to political statements and questions, many take it way too seriously. Also many probably don't really understand the concept of satire.
I don't think it's a matter of understanding satire, but a sad commentary on how far politcal correctness has perpetrated itself in the American culture. Everyone here is so easily offended by nearly everything these days. Even the schools are afraid to offend the "less than intelligent", so more undeserving students get higher grades because of lowered standards.
I'm reminded of a clip of someone interviewing people attending a rally in DC where they were being asked if they thought Obama was a Keynesian. Of course, all of them quickly became angered because (a) they know nothing about economics, and (b) they assumed the interviewer was trying to question their beloved President's lineage.
I remember that US great, Bill Bryson, once saying that his fellow Americans don't understand irony. If that is so, I doubt that they understand satire.
Of course, that won't be the offical stand, it is too general ;-)
Good Day mortimerjackson
This is a really important consideration. I believe we Americans do have some trouble with this concept. Political satire IS the act of making fun of the powerful in any society, because it is they (the economically, socially, politically powerful) who can best "take the hit," as it were. Their power and wealth are a very soothing balm for them; and they can take immense comfort in the fact that everyone envies them immensely and want to be like them.
Satire IS NOT the act of powerful people making fun of individuals, groups, and communities who are economically, socially, and/or politically marginalized. That is because -- to oversimplify a bit -- they are already beaten down enough by society, to make fun of them (in a top-down manner) is to "rub salt in their wounds." That's not funny, it is meanness!
I mention this because you often get the latter situation, certain people make insensitive statements about marginalized people and they, often rightly, get fired from their positions as news program anchors, radio disc jockeys, etc (positions that give these folks some cultural power).
It is clear that these poweful people had made these remarks under the cover of "satire" because when they lose their jobs they decry our "culture of political correctness." So we often confuse top-down meanness with bottom-up satire.
But to your specific reference, yes, we should recognize your query (Was Barack Obama born on Earth?) as satire, in that it is an extension of the (Was Barack Obama born in America?) propaganda. But you are NOT making fun of Barack Obama; you are making fun of the thinking of powerful, politically reactionary elements in our society who are guilty of spreading that propaganda.
Take it easy.
Satire doesn't work very well when you are surrounded by loons who take themselves seriously. Somebody seriously asking if Obama was born on Earth wouldn't surprise me. So, I don't think it is an issue of not recognizing satire it is just that to be recognized as such it has to be super-sized ridiculous. Regular ridiculous just doesn't do it.
reading a few of the replies; all of which I assume are from Americans, then I really think satire is wasted on them.
Of course we do. That's why we have SNL, Jay Leno and Dave Letterman. We also have President Bush's famous quote: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice.......you fool me you can't get fooled again." :-)
No, they do not. They don't know what satire is and wither equate it to some sort of fast food dish or start thumping their bibles misconstruing it as Satan.
Funny stuff - you can't explain that, right Bill o'Reilley?
Hah! Well unfortunately I think as you found, the answer is that there are too many who don't....!
It's really a mixed bag. Most of us find humor in impersonators and comedians that make us laugh at ourselves. We also choose greeting cards and wear T-shirts that feature puns. However,there is such anger and frustration re. politics and other hotbed social issues these days that we are blind to the clever craft of true satire.
No, but more importantly do americans understand they are satire?
I don't know about the general community but I certainly do. He who is lost on the satire is the ass of the joke.
In general, Americans do not appreciate satire.
Those who do, tend to love English humor and the BBC. Happily, there are a great number of these people. Look at the astounding success of Monty Python in the U.S. as well as that of many other great U.K. comics.
Sadly, many Americans think that the ultimate comic is one who stands in front of a crowd and launches a monologue in which every third word is either 'blankerblanker', or 'blank you', or 'blank my blank' etc.
I HATE those 'blanking' poor excuses for a comedian.
Give me Bill Cosby & Jerry Seinfeld. They are a pair of clean comics who get more laughs per second than all of the 'blanking' 'blankerblankers' put together.
I hope you agree. If not, 'blank you'!
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