Monday, September 26, 2016

Satire is Tricky

I'm sure many of you have watched Hillary Clinton's bit on Between Two Ferns by now. If you've been under a rock, you can check it out here.

This gif helps to capture a bit of the general feeling of the bit...

What fascinates me about this is not so much Zach Galifianakis, or the fact that she actually did the show, or even anything that she said or did. I'm fascinated by the fact that as many of my die-hard-conservative friends posted this as my oh-so-left-leaning friends. Why would both poles be so apt to share this?


Malcolm Gladwell has a fantastic podcast that I highly recommend entitled Revisionist History. I binge-listened to it while walking my dog in the last weeks summer. It is really, really great; full of good stories, and fascinating social commentary, and while it's intellectually stimulating, it's not really highbrow.

The last episode of this first season is entitled "The Satire Paradox." Gladwell explains that satire--really good satire, especially--is tricky to pull off well. If it's too well executed, it's too easy to be misconstrued. Some people might think you are actually in favor of the person/policies/politics you are skewering. If you soften it, people don't get the joke. (You really should give the episode a listen. It's an eloquent exploration of this idea with lots of interesting examples to illustrate.)

The gif above might be a perfect example, actually. Is Galiflanakis making fun of Clinton? (Yes.) But is she in on the joke? (I sure think so.) Democratic friends find it hilarious, because Clinton is being self-deprecating enough to be in on the joke. But my Republican friends find it hilarious, because Galiflinakis is making fun of her...or at the very least, the absurdity of our political situation.

 Today I saw a bit online from Galiflanakis where he said he would not have Donald Trump on Between Two Ferns.

I think I understand where he's coming from.

Satire is tricky.

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