Tuesday, January 6, 2009

UPDATE: Satire Not Dead After All

I spoke too soon: satire isn't really dead. It's not even resting. It's just a bit ill. In his introduction to Submersion Journalism: Reporting in the Radical First Person from Harper’s Magazine, Roger D Hodge agrees there is a problem, but he identifies it as a mere disease, one he calls "self satirizing syndrome":
The disease manifested itself almost everywhere at once, but the superficial effects were most spectacular in our national mirror: the Media, which absorbed and digested the once proud opposition of the Press and made of it a mere legitimizer of horrors. The self-refuting absurdity of the Bush presidency, with its pretensions to manufacture an imperial reality, parallels the rise of the aggressively oxymoronic genre of “Reality Television,” with all its unintentional ironies. Among so-called news programming, Fox’s “Fair and Balanced: We Report, You Decide” is of a piece with Anderson Cooper’s “Keeping Them Honest” ... More perniciously, the self-importance with which the quality newspapers fawned on George W. Bush and his retainers in the decisive years after September 11, 2001, particularly in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, bears comparison with the bitter satires of G. K. Chesterton and Evelyn Waugh.
Put in this context, Obama's election victory didn't represent the final death knell for satire (as so many commentators seem to think) but the opposite, a day when the world become slightly less ridiculous. If nothing else, the inauguration on January 20 will mean humorists finally having to put some effort into lampooning the president, rather than just pointing and laughing like they can just now.


Tiger said...

Satire to go into hibernation. Our great satirists may lose their edge and craft as they are mothballed for 4 to 8 years. Like cold war scientists - once the infrastructure is gone how long will it take to develop another Daily Show or Colbert? Will they move to sit-coms or perhaps ply their skill in another country?

scribacious said...

In a way I think the opposite is true - our great satirists don't need to switch off just because the C-in-C is no longer a brainless chimp, they need to work harder. There's plenty to poke fun at in the current administration: the sky-high expectations surrounding Obama for one. Then there's Biden, Clinton, Geithner... not to mention the opposition, as people like Palin aren't going to go quietly into the night. Sure, the jokes may be a little tougher to come by at first, but hopefully that will only sharpen their wits - unlike the past eight years they've spent shooting fish in a barrel.