satire n : witty language used to convey insults or scorn; "he used sarcasm to upset his opponent"; "irony is wasted on the stupid"; "Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own"--Johathan Swift [syn: sarcasm, irony, caustic remark]
EtymologyImplied in satiric (attested in 1387) < L. satira < earlier satura < lanx satura, lit. "full dish" < fem. of satur
Altered in Latin by influence of Greek satyr, on the mistaken notion that the form is related to the Greek satyr drama
- German: Satire
- Italian: satira
- Norwegian: satire
- Romanian: satiră
- Plural of satira
Stephen Colbert’s television program The Colbert Report is instructive in the methods of contemporary Western satire. Colbert's character is an opinionated and self-righteous commentator who, in his TV interviews, interrupts people, points and wags his finger at them, and "unwittingly" uses every logical fallacy known to man. In doing so, he demonstrates the principle of modern American political satire: the ridicule of the actions of politicians and other public figures by taking all their statements and purported beliefs to their furthest (supposedly) logical conclusion, thus revealing their perceived hypocrisy. Other political satire includes various political causes in the past, including the relatively successful Polish Beer-Lovers' Party and the joke political candidates Molly the Dog and Brian Miner .
Cartoonists often use satire as well as straight humour. Garry Trudeau, whose comic strip Doonesbury has charted and recorded many American follies for the last generation, deals with story lines such as Vietnam (and now, Iraq), dumbed-down education, and over-eating at "McFriendly's". Trudeau exemplifies humor mixed with criticism. Recently, one of his gay characters lamented that because he was not legally married to his partner, he was deprived of the "exquisite agony" of experiencing a nasty and painful divorce like heterosexuals. This, of course, satirized the claim that gay unions would denigrate the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. Doonesbury also presents an example of how satire can cause social change. The comic strip satirized a Florida county that had a law requiring minorities to have a passcard in the area; the law was soon repealed with an act nicknamed the Doonesbury Act.
Like some literary predecessors, many recent television "satires" contain strong elements of parody and caricature; for instance the popular animated series The Simpsons and South Park both parody modern family and social life by taking their assumptions to the extreme; both have led to the creation of similar series. As well as the purely humorous effect of this sort of thing, they often strongly criticise various phenomena in politics, economic life, religion and many other aspects of society, and thus qualify as "satirical". Due to their animated nature, these shows can easily use images of public figures and generally have greater freedom to do so than conventional shows using live actors.
Other satires are on the list of satirists and satires.
Misconception of satire
Because satire often combines anger and humour it can be profoundly disturbing - because it is essentially ironic or sarcastic, it is often misunderstood. In an interview with Wikinews, Sean Mills, President of The Onion, said angry letters about their news parody always carried the same message. "It’s whatever affects that person," said Mills. "So it’s like, 'I love it when you make a joke about murder or rape, but if you talk about cancer, well my brother has cancer and that’s not funny to me.' Or someone else can say, 'Cancer’s hilarious, but don’t talk about rape because my cousin got raped.' I’m using extreme examples, but whatever it is, if it affects somebody personally they tend to be more sensitive about it."
Common uncomprehending responses to satire include revulsion (accusations of poor taste, or that it's "just not funny" for instance), to the idea that the satirist actually does support the ideas, policies, or people he is attacking. For instance, at the time of its publication, many people misunderstood Swift’s purpose in "A Modest Proposal" – assuming it to be a serious recommendation of economically-motivated cannibalism. Again, some critics of Mark Twain see Huckleberry Finn as racist and offensive, missing the point that its author clearly intended it to be satire (racism being in fact only one of a number of Mark Twain's known pet bugbears attacked in Huckleberry Finn).
Satire under fireBecause satire is stealthy criticism, it frequently escapes censorship. Periodically, however, it runs into serious opposition.
In 1599, the Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift and the Bishop of London George Abbot, whose offices had the function of licensing books for publication in England, issued a decree banning verse satire. The decree ordered the burning of certain volumes of satire by John Marston, Thomas Middleton, Joseph Hall, and others; it also required histories and plays to be specially approved by a member of the Queen's Privy Council, and it prohibited the future printing of satire in verse. The motives for the ban are obscure, particularly since some of the books banned had been licensed by the same authorities less than a year earlier. Various scholars have argued that the target was obscenity, libel, or sedition. It seems likely that lingering anxiety about the Martin Marprelate controversy, in which the bishops themselves had employed satirists, played a role; both Thomas Nashe and Gabriel Harvey, two of the key figures in that controversy, suffered a complete ban on all their works. In the event, though, the ban was little enforced, even by the licensing authority itself.
In Italy the media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi attacked RAI Television's satirical series, Raiot, Daniele Luttazzi's Satyricon, Enzo Biagi, Michele Santoro's Sciuscià, even a special Blob series on Berlusconi himself, by arguing that they were vulgar and full of disrespect to the government. He claimed that he would sue the RAI for 21,000,000 Euros if the show went on. RAI stopped the show. Sabina Guzzanti, creator of the show, went to court to proceed with the show and won the case. However, the show never went on air again.
In 2001 the British television network Channel 4 aired a special edition of the spoof current affairs series Brass Eye, which was intended to mock and satirize the fascination of modern journalism with child molesters and pedophiles. The TV network received an enormous number of complaints from members of the public, who were outraged that the show would mock a subject considered by many to be too "serious" to be the subject of humour.
In 2005, the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy caused global protests by offended Muslims and violent attacks with many fatalities in the Near East. It was not the first case of Muslim protests against criticism in the form of satire, but the Western world was surprised by the hostility of the reaction: Any country's flag in which a newspaper chose to publish the parodies was being burnt in a Near East country, then embassies were attacked, killing 139 people in mainly four countries (see article); politicians throughout Europe agreed that satire was an aspect of the freedom of speech, and therefore to be a protected means of dialogue. Iran threatened to start an International Holocaust Cartoon Competition, which was immediately responded to by Jews with a Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoons Contest. Although not really satirical, the response to Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses from 1988 was similarly violent; Khomeinei responded with a fatwa, death sentence, for the author, resulting in a 10-year breach of Irano-British diplomatic relations and a continued threat to the author's life.
In 2006 British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen released Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan a "mockumentary" that satirized everyone, from high society to frat boys. Criticism of the film was heavy, from claims of antisemitism (despite the fact Cohen is Jewish), to the massive boycott of the film by the Kazakh government; the film itself had been a reaction to a longer quarrel between the government and the comedian.
Satirical prophecySatire is occasionally prophetic: the jokes precede actual events. Among the eminent examples are:
- Lee, Jae Num. "Scatology in Continental Satirical Writings from Aristophanes to Rabelais" and "English Scatological Writings from Skelton to Pope." Swift and Scatological Satire. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1971. 7-22; 23-53.
- Jacob Bronowski & Bruce Mazlish, The Western Intellectual Tradition From Leonardo to Hegel, p. 252 (1960; as repub. in 1993 Barnes & Noble ed.).
- Theorizing Satire: A Bibliography http://www2.oakland.edu/english/showcase/satbib.htm#Classical, by Brian A. Connery, Oakland University
- Bloom, Edward A. . "Sacramentum Militiae: The Dynamics of Religious Satire." Studies in the Literary Imagination 5 (1972): 119-42.
- The Modern Satiric Grotesque. Lexington: U of Kentucky P, 1991.
Theories/Critical approaches to satire as a genre:
- Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. (See in particular the discussion of the 4 "myths").
- Emil Draitser. Techniques of Satire: The Case of Saltykov-Shchedrin. (Berlin-New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1994) ISBN 3110126249.
- Hammer, Stephanie. Satirizing the Satirist.
- Highet, Gilbert. Satire.
- Kernan, Alvin. The Cankered Muse
The Plot of Satire.
- Seidel, Michael. Satiric Inheritance.
- Entopia: Revolution of the Ants (2008), by Rad Zdero.
satire in Bosnian: Satira
satire in Bulgarian: Сатира
satire in Czech: Satira
satire in Welsh: Dychan
satire in Danish: Satire
satire in German: Satire
satire in Estonian: Satiir
satire in Spanish: Sátira
satire in Esperanto: Satiro
satire in French: Satire
satire in Galician: Sátira
satire in Croatian: Satira
satire in Italian: Satira
satire in Hebrew: סאטירה
satire in Georgian: სატირა
satire in Latin: Satura
satire in Luxembourgish: Satir
satire in Limburgan: Satire
satire in Hungarian: Szatíra
satire in Dutch: Satire
satire in Japanese: 風刺
satire in Norwegian: Satire
satire in Occitan (post 1500): Satira
satire in Polish: Satyra
satire in Portuguese: Sátira
satire in Romanian: Satiră
satire in Russian: Сатира
satire in Sicilian: Sàtira
satire in Simple English: Satire
satire in Finnish: Satiiri
satire in Swedish: Satir
satire in Turkish: Hiciv
satire in Ukrainian: Сатира
satire in Chinese: 讽刺
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