Monday, July 14, 2008

Satire (Do You Get It?)

Today, most news networks are covering a "controversy." The editor of the New Yorker magazine decided to run a satirical cartoon cover depicting the presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama as an anti-American muslim with a radical spouse Michelle (depicted with an afro and automatic weapon). All day, the editor David Remnick has defended the cartoon as a satire (more related sites 2, 3, 4); he says it was meant to target untrue internet rumors about the candidate. Many disagree, calling it "tasteless."

Satire is a subtle knife that always has a deadly precision. The problem is that we can end up wounding the wrong target. Politics aside, the alleged satire has caused damage to both the candidate and the magazine. The rumor-mongers are unscathed; maybe even refueled.

I've made some mistakes in satire, too. I wrote a sketch entitled "Dr. Azlenaden" for the comedy troupe Table for Six. I intended to target radical minorities that dabble in reverse racism. The sketch had one good character, but wasn't really funny. It underwent several rewrites before the performance. The final draft was put on stage, and the audience - dominantly white - mistook my intention. I had offended white people...and the radical idealists of my race went unscathed.

If you want to use the knife to attack something absurd or unjust, use caution. It's very easy to stab yourself in the gut. David Remnick is circling the news syndicate, cleaning up his mess, clarifying his original intentions, fighting to keep his job.

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