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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Monday, September 29, 2014

Satire can keep you sane

        Parody-"Whistler's Mother" painting
   Satire that ridicules America's                       is imitated with a new twist.
tendency to photograph subjects in 
foreign countries.  Here it is turn about.                                  

Some nights when I watch the news, the world appears to be in a terrible mess.  There's new fighting,
cruelty, disease, murder, racism . . . you get the idea.  If you're serious about the well-being of the world and the people who inhabit it, news reports are quite depressing.

Then at 11pm, I turn the tv to the Comedy Channel and Jonathan Stewart's Daily Show.  He takes the events of the news and satirizes them in such a way that they appear absurd.  The show brings me back to reality.  I can laugh at the ridiculousness of the politicians and other newsmakers.  Then I can go to bed feeling rather peaceful.

My first experience with satire was the New Yorker magazine.  My sophomore high school English teacher (thank you Mrs. Cook) brought her used New Yorker's to the classroom magazine rack.  As soon as I finished my classwork, I was reading one.  At that point, I mostly enjoyed the magazine covers and the cartoons.
After college, when I taught my own high school English classes, I bought a subscription to the New Yorker and I have pretty much kept one ever since.

As a teacher, I taught some satirical literary works, most notably, Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal" (1729). The "modest proposal" was for England to kill and eat the babies of the poor in Ireland.  That way they would not be a burden on their parents and would be beneficial to society.   Swift objected to deplorable poverty and conditions in Ireland caused by England's policy of removing all the revenue from the island and sending it to England.  His essay was a very strong statement and shocked my students until I explained the satire and its use.

Like a "Modest Proposal" satire must be extreme and exaggerated or people will take it seriously as some people did with Swift's essay. Though certainly, it was exaggerated enough.  The primo satirical television program has been "Saturday Night Live," though I think the early shows of the 70's and 80's did it best.

Closely related to satire is parody. Parody imitates the form of the original work, but changes the sense of it to ridicule and make fun of the content.  Much of SNL is parody.  Both satire and parody are dependent on irony, which sometimes says the opposite of what it really means.

Without satire and parody, it would be a dull world for me.   

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