Satire Isn't An Excuse For Bad Writing
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Politics and Activism

Satire Isn't An Excuse For Bad Writing

To the Creators who cry "satire."

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Satire Isn't An Excuse For Bad Writing
Doug Robichaud //Unsplash

We can all agree that there is an epidemic of garbage content at Odyssey. I’d be happy to chat all day about whose fault it truly is, but first I’d like to address a common excuse that I’ve seen writers throw around when they are challenged on their flagrantly unsupported, grossly ignorant, vitriolic, articles where the tenets of the English language go to die: “It’s satire.”

Let’s unpack that.

sat•ire /ˈsaˌtī(ə)r/ (noun): the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues

Satire highlights the absurdities of whatever it seeks to critique. It exposes and criticizes foolishness and corruption in all of their many forms. It takes for granted that the audience is intelligent enough to be in on the joke and therefore it finds no need to shout its ideology down their throat. When a Creator writes something controversial, offensive, and argumentative and backs down from challengers by claiming their article is satire it further emphasizes the Creator’s complete ignorance of the genre.

Now, let’s give the Creator the benefit of the doubt and say that their article was satirical and we are all simply missing the point. Even so, Postmodern literary criticism teaches us that the author’s intent doesn’t really matter when it comes to understanding a text–what matters is how the text is interpreted by its audience. This is especially true when it comes to comedy. The concept of “funny” is in and of itself terribly precarious. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition of funny is as follows:

fun•ny /ˈfənē/ (adj): Causing laughter or amusement; humorous.

From this, we can see how “funny” has nothing to do with intent and everything to do with results. If you tell a joke and it gets no laughs, it wasn’t funny. Maybe in a different setting with a new context and a different delivery it could be funny, but until then, it isn’t.

When you’re writing satire and the overwhelming majority of your audience doesn’t get the joke, then that is your fault. Either what you have written is not satire, or what you have written is so deeply rooted in hatred, anger, ignorance and bigotry that your audience can’t see past it to find any kind of comedic relief.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Satire can definitely offend plenty of people, and sometimes they aren’t getting the joke. But if an author is vehemently unable to take criticism and rather than seeking to explore the nuance of a topic with their readership falls back on their heels and cowers in the wake of the so-called attack on their feeble attempt at comedy, I find that the audience is almost never to blame. If something you’ve written has caused virtually universal offense to all those who have read it, it’s your doing.

Ellen DeGeneres in her special “Here and Now” teaches another good rule of thumb for how to successfully execute a joke: “We should both be laughing.”

Satire is artful.

Satire is nuanced.

And most importantly, satire is comedic.

If you’re telling your audience that your article is funny but none of them are laughing, your article might be a joke for all the wrong reasons.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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