Satire is an amusing writing that is used to criticize mistakes in the society in a sarcastic or ironical manner. It efficacy depends on the audience’s ability to recognize the disguised irony. Since the ancient times, satire has been utilized in penalizing weaknesses in the society with the aim of correcting vices. Its origin credited to the Greeks, who are thought to have been using it in their criticism of conventions of the time. Although there were noted Greek satirists, satire acquired its distinctive literary tradition from the Romans (Mason). According to Lisa Colletta’s Political Satire and Postmodern Irony, satire serves as a means of exposing the deviation between reality and the visible aspect of a situation. In the same regard, a Dialogue on Satire News and the Crisis of Truth in Postmodern Political Television by Jones and Baym indicates that in addition to exposing this reality, satire helps in establishing the truth in manner that journalism fails to facilitate. To guarantee that the audience realizes the true scenario in the society, some satirists choose to dramatize a set of circumstances. For example, Wyatt Mason’s My Satirical Self adopts the challenges that a section of the society faces and presents them in a dramatic form. This paper assesses these three readings in an endeavor to establish the efficaciousness of satire in the society.
Majority of the audience view satire as a pastiche of amusement with no other purpose than the invocation of laughter. However, according to M. Abrams, satire is not merely comical as it, in fact, uses laughter as a weapon. With satire, laughter is a means to an end as it is meant to inspire thoughts that helps recognize the true situation in the society. This view is affirmed by Masons’ My Satirical Self where he notes that despite laughter, the audience should strive to establish the meaning of the dramatized situation. Colletta’s Political Satire and Postmodern Irony backs this up with an argument that laughter is a vital ingredient as it acts as “an antidote” to boredom in “hyper-partisan” political debates (Jones and Baym 282). Laughter, according to Colletta, sets the tone that facilitates democratic exchanges to take place. Erstwhile satirists such as Archilochus and Aristophanes had a similar view. Their wide-ranging creativities, some of which are exhibited to this day, were at times highly critical. Satire has been refined and handed down through generations due to its effectiveness in cultural criticism. Presently, there are various sources of satiric pleasure, including the broadcast and printed media as well as the internet (Jones and Baym 278).
Satire has been a valuable tool in influencing cultural changes as it focuses on the lives of the intended audience. Its effectiveness was especially noticeable in the ancient civilizations as entertainment and publications were not as diversified as they are at the present. Satire flourished, especially during the Roman Empire, and it became an indispensable means of demonstrating initiation and imagination (Mason). Among the Roman satirists included Gaius Lucilius, whose verse satire compositions present outspoken perspectives on a variety of disciplines; Juvenal; and Horace. Horace’s satiric creations endured to influence subsequent writers who consider them as ideal verses. He was a calm and self-controlled satirist who preferred to express his disapproval of such lunacies as sexual extremism and other uncivilized behaviors with a smile, thereby winning more audience due to his entertaining content and postures. In the contemporary settings, satire is being used to influence sentiments. Banking on this knowledge, several government officials have their questions scripted and revised such that satirical elements are incorporated to make their speeches influential. Political Satire and Postmodern Irony affirms this by quoting The Colbert Report which referred white house as a “No Fact Zone” (Mason). However, the official’s satire has been ineffective as awareness of satirical construction replaces its meaning.
Despite the critics’ arguments that modern societies have nothing to do with, for instance, the manner in which Aristophanes expressed disapproval of the casuists, its longevity is assured. This is because it is the satirists who remind individuals that they are straying from their moral uprightness. In many instances, satire has served as a harbinger of the consequence of an error in the society. Therefore, in addition to entertainment, satire urges individuals to confront the evil that they commit. This is far beyond the impact of journalism, which simply uncovers the atrocities being committed by others in a way that does not necessarily induce behavioral change (Jones and Baym 280). Satirists dispute the notion that individuals’ convictions are always right, and this sensitizes them to act appropriately so as to scale down the damage that misbehavior causes the community. Humanism and integrity are two qualities that make satire effective in forcing the audience to reflect on its own shortcomings in search of improvement.
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Irrespective of their audience, the persistence of satirical verses indicates that societies have been progressively acquiring their freedom of expression. For instance, criticism exhibited in Mason’s My Satirical Self is an assurance that the writer wishes for a freer society. To emphasize this, character Nick note that they “need freedom… and choice” (Mason) in a guised manner that guarantees the writer a chance of denying his intensions incase a formal objection to his claim is raised. Irrespective of this possibility, satire is fundamentally based on a set of ethical motives which are employed to judge behavior. Consequently, a satirist should evaluate the possibility of change before constituting his piece of art as disregarding this would make satire “self-referential” (Colletta 859).
In the past, critics have been using satire to express their reasoned judgments regarding the affairs of the society. Although several evaluators have questioned its efficaciousness, satire has been committed in attacking injustice and vices after judging them against the expected moral standards (Colletta 863). The advantage is that audiences are able to judge the truthfulness of an expression based on a set of facts that they recognize (Colletta 867). Mason, in his My Satirical Self, expresses the irony that the Arabs shouldn’t judge America by her action by her words by alleging that the torture they endured shouldn’t inspire the believe that the United States is bent to inflicting pain of them. In this case, satire helps in expressing a prejudgment wittily; as everyone’s expectation is that the Arab judgment would be contrary.
Beyond its usual amusement, satire has proved to be a hopeful genre as it facilitates advancement and “betterment of societies” (Colletta 860). Satire is designed to make vices repulsive so that they can easily be expunged from individuals as well as the society that is being criticized, regardless of the object of attack. Its criticism is conveyed through wit and laughter, which is, paradoxically, constructive. On many occasions, satirists have affirmed that they aim at correcting follies through enlightenment. They argue that satire as an art, which used to mirror the society with a view that rationality of human beings would help them recognize the magnified faults; and consequently labor to correct their ridiculousness. Satirists do not hope for society perfection; rather, they wish for a behavioral improvement whenever they feel that morality has been abandoned by the society. In this case, they help contain dilapidation in a civilization, as individuals reverse the course of decay. Nevertheless, most satirists insist that they can only deter and not reform. This is because, even though satire is intended to be corrective, it only guarantee to expose hypocrisy and vice (Jones and Baym 285), and the consequences of such vices. The satirist goal is only achievable if his work inspires response from the audience.
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Satire is not always corrective. At times, artists compose works with the intention of attacking foibles which are easily changeable. For example, if a satirist realizes that he cannot inspire men to get rid of egotism and jealously, he may choose to endeavor in making them despise their undesirable attitudes and eventually resist them (Colletta 857). In regard to this objective, a satirist may opt to ridicule man’s necessity for food as well as other needs that are basic in life so as to help him correct the view about himself, appreciate his limitations, and in effect reduce his pride. Based on this argument, satire can be seen as an instrument for maintaining standards, reaffirming values, and necessitating reform. Satire is exhaustively concerned with virtue, morality, and justice in a manner that compares to several universal ethical viewpoints.
Hindrance to Effectiveness of Satire
One of the principal drawbacks facing satire is that it is an art form that is widely misunderstood, and this reduces its effectiveness (Colletta 856). Many individuals consider it as absurd and vulgar. Observers argue that it sometimes point to so many directions that is becomes difficult to find something to laugh at. For example, despite being among the most brilliant satirical productions, South Park is widely criticized for its content. Most critics do not understand its subject matter, and considers it to be a morally reprehensible program, which is at times lacking in illustration. Although satire is a well grounded logic, the manner in which it points out to errors in cultural norms is ineffective. Nevertheless, some satirists seek to achieve their goals “by shocking” their audiences and this is why George Meredith’s An Essay on Comedy has likened it to the beak of a vulture (Colletta 860). In essence, the reason behind this is that it is highly topical, a context which makes it applicable to a place and time, thereby reducing the size of its potential audience.
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Lastly, despite the fact that satire is widely misunderstood, especially as a result of post modernity, it will remain an inspiration to change in the society; and although it is unlikely to guarantee immediate change, its tenacity will not be hindered. Indeed, it has never been the satirists’ goal to win the attention of societies en masse; they have merely desired to air their concern regardless of the size of audience believing that suppressing criticism would contribute to the detriment in the society.
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