Over on the home page, I audaciously and arrogantly declare… the state of our satire is weak.
A lot of folks will attribute this to Hollywood’s fear of mocking Obama; certainly something odd is going on when Saturday Night Live greets Obama’s second inauguration with a sketch in which the ghost of Martin Luther King Jr. is obsessed with Beyonce, Michelle Obama’s bangs, and Twitter hashtages, and Obama is the straight man.
But I think it’s a bit more than that. Satire’s purpose is to mock those in power who deserve it, and our most prominent satirical voices have a hard time mocking those in power they agree with… and are meandering around, looking for new targets with a palpable sense of desperation. Couple that with the ubiquitous attempts at satire in our culture, and it’s nearly impossible to generate really stinging, memorable examples of it today.
When everybody’s getting mocked, there’s not much consequence to the mockery. The audience becomes conditioned to just letting the microwave-worthy instant satire wash over them and moving on to the next topic, because they intuitively sense that the figure wasn’t chosen for any particular trait that deserves the mockery.
The older notion of satire as a tool for addressing some wrongdoing or social ill may be falling apart before us. We don’t hold many of our national political or cultural leaders in high regard, and yet somehow they keep on with business as usual. Some of the egos attracted to political power have proven that no amount of ridicule can deter them.
As I conclude, “In a real world that increasingly resembles the Onion’s satires, the Onion is superfluous.”