Satire in Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff Is Just What the Doctor Ordered to Help Fix America

Satire in Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff Is Just What the Doctor Ordered to Help Fix America

Sean Penn uses the oldest form of political dissent to speak up to power

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Where would literature be without satire? From George Orwell to Stephen Colbert, satire has carried us through every era of American history with cunning honesty.

I see satire is a form of social progress. As a college student, and attentive reader of the constant news cycle, I often rely on comedy as a way to digest and reflect on what it means to be an American today. The Colbert Report, SNL, Key and Peele, and Seth Meyers have safeguarded America's sense of humor by exposing truth through wit and subtle satire.

Satire is a tool to move stagnated conversations forward and disrupt the rhetoric commonly used to discuss sensitive topics. It steps outside the bounds of "political correctness" to reveal the absurdities that other forms of literature are too polite to discuss. That's clear in Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, Sean Penn's debut novel uses satire to take a good, hard look at the America of present.

The novel follows Bob, an average blue-collar American with a second life as a skilled assassin. Penn highlights the ironies and shortcomings of American society through the everyday trials and tribulations of Bob's not-so-average life.

Penn doesn't hold back with his commentary. It may be pointed and crass at times but his dialogue is necessary, especially considering the hefty topics he takes on and the caricature he paints of America's current political system. His work looks at issues with a wide lens and peels away the societal norms that protect them.

Social commentary is grounded in the ability to see and recognize the absurdity of one's cultural counterparts. That's absolutely necessary in today's society. We've spiraled into an ego-driven, shallow, social-justice-warrior version of what it means to fight for freedom and democratic ideals. Social media exacerbates this. It's a safe place to express outrage without action and feeds into a culture that encourages personal branding instead of personal development and substantive individual thought.

Never before has American culture relied so heavily on the power of the individual and cultivating that image to the extreme. "Branding is being! Branding is being! The algorithm for modern binary existentialism," Penn writes in Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff. Yet never before has the individual in American been so cowardly and unwilling to step away from the noise. Bob Honey does just that. It consumes the noise, digests it, and spits it back at us in the rawest form. In many ways, Penn calls America out on the funny-business that's gone on under the table for far too long.

Sean Penn isn't shy. There's satire dripping from every passage of his work – biting criticisms for a system he knows all too well. Satire allows him to express this in a way that's engaging and different. It gets people's attention in a way that any other form of prose can't.

The problems of our society are rearing their ugly heads in everyday life. Violence, xenophobia, and inequality are rampant. Too many are willing to tweet about it and then forget. But 140 characters is not enough to express nor capture the outrage that we all should be feeling. Like any other form of expression, getting down to the nitty-gritty of what's wrong with our society requires creativity. In the case of Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, it seems satire is just what the doctor ordered – a cure in the form of an average Bob. "His ability wasn't brandable, but it was Bob. Bob Honey."

We are bound by ideals, values, and beliefs that are the bedrock of American culture. At some level, society relies and thrives on that uniformity. But there would be no progress if writers and thinkers were not bold enough to challenge those norms. It's those ideas, expressed creatively as humor and satire, that will ultimately shape the society we become.

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A Step By Step Of How Your Thanksgiving Will Actually Go

Every year we think it will go differently, and yet...

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It's pre-Christmas, and it will be a day of stress, love, and wonderful food.

1. You wake up to the sounds of a parent slamming pots and pans on the counter top

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It is time. The day has begun and your mom or dad will start yelling for you any minute.

2. You finally make it downstairs and you're assigned your tasks before family arrives

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There will be the "Make this table," or the "Dust the entire house because your cousins are coming and they won't notice but your aunt sure will. Oh, and please stay out of the kitchen." You know, the usual.

3. You try to eat breakfast and lunch but honestly you can not WAIT for dinner tonight and the smells coming from the kitchen are overwhelming

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What are we celebrating again? I'm just excited to eat.

4. You rush and make your way to the grocery store at least once (maybe twice) because your parents can't leave the kitchen

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"You would think mom wouldn't forget anything for tonight, but I guess it is pretty easy to forget gravy when you're making a million other dishes," you think to yourself as you try to defend the forgetfulness.

5. You spend a few hours feeling bored as you wait for your family members to arrive because you still aren't allowed in the kitchen and you find yourself watching that one "Friends" episode to kill some time. 

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Football or "Friends"? Honestly I should ask my mom if she needs more help but I'll just keep watching this.

6. Your family finally arrives 

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It is suddenly overwhelmingly loud and you now get to talk about your life for the next few hours. Food cannot come soon enough.

7. Hours and hours seemed to go by but dinner is finally ready

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At llllaaaassssstttttttttt, my dinnnnnnneeeeerrrrrrrr will be mmmmiiiinnneeeeeeeeee!

8. You have to sit through and listen to either heated debate or six conversations at once while you eat 

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Honestly, I'll just keep quiet and enjoy these mashed potatoes for their deliciousness.

9. You get one look from your mom and suddenly your busting the whole table

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But hey, there are worse things in life. For instance, I'm not even toughing that turkey carcass I don't care what my parents say.

10. It's round two. You've been waiting for that pie all day 

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There's this cool thing called a dessert stomach where you have more room for dessert than you did five minutes ago. Isn't that great?!?

11. Your family slowly starts to leave, and the food coma starts to settle in 

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It's been a great meal, even if there was some arguing. At the end of it all, it's still been a great thanksgiving.

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Let's Stop Pretending Busyness Equals Fulfillment

I don't have time to write this article.

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Recently, a friend from another college told me she was idly considering adding a minor to her major. It made me laugh, because here at NYU, minors are more or less not optional—likewise with double majors. When someone asks you what you're studying and you answer in one word, they blink at you, waiting for the rest of your list. (Or, if they're less subtle, they say "That's it?")

One of the best things about being an NYU student is the opportunities. As part of a massive institution, we have access to virtually endless academic resources and extracurricular organizations. As part of New York City, we also have access to virtually endless jobs and internships, plus virtually endless recreation and entertainment options. Anything you want to do, you can do here—times ten.

It's so easy to bite off more than you can chew when the buffet looks this good.

I spend most days rushing between classes, homework, and extracurricular commitments, feeling guilty when I stop long enough to eat or sleep. That's probably not an unfamiliar feeling for most college students. But New York moves at a hyper-fast pace, and NYU is, as they say, in and of the city.

Even while I spread myself as thin as possible, I worry I'm not spreading far enough or fast enough. Everyone around me always seems to be doing more, and with less stress. I'm falling behind, with my one major and my sparse resume.

These days I am ruled by checklists, moving from task to task as efficiently as I can while maintaining a baseline level of human sanity. I'm no robot, but I try to embody the robot mindset: output, output, output. When I conquer one job, another rises up to take its place. I dream about upcoming student council events and job interviews.

And on some level, I'm impressed with myself. I like that I have figured out how to become part machine, that my breaths are budgeted to the second, that I have no time to stray from productivity. I feel like a heroine in a movie, striding around at top speed, barking orders at my subconscious instead of an office full of subordinates. High-powered. Deliberate. In control.

Except that I'm also falling apart. Every day feels I'm like fixing leaks in a boat only to find more, and no matter what I do, rushing back and forth with buckets and duct tape, I'm standing in ankle-deep water. I'm not going to drown. But the threat is still there. The water is still rising.

Everything I do is half-done, without my full attention, much less my full abilities. I'm constantly apologizing for not turning projects around fast enough. I'm embarrassed by my own work. I hand everything over with a disclaimer that I should have done much better.

The thing is, this was supposed to be temporary. Every week, I look at the uphill climb ahead and swear it's the last week like this because next week I won't have this event or that essay or this midterm or that friend coming into town.

But although the roadblocks change, the road is always blocked. I'm always busy. And I'm always stressed because of it.

But busyness is a mark of adulthood. It's how you interact with other adults: You compare burdens with everyone you talk to and feel bitter smugness when yours are bigger.

Maybe it's because we associate being busy with being fulfilled. If you're constantly working, constantly being productive in measurable and society-approved ways, you're never sitting alone in a dark room, wondering what you should be doing with your life. Your life is already booked up.

I remember being in a college adjustment class when my academic advisor asked how many of us felt guilty during our free time. Almost every hand in the room went up.

It's a hard mindset to shake, that life is a race and we have to run it at top speed. We glorify busyness, worship it, cultivate it and use it as proof of our own worth.

But my nerves are frayed. My mind is fried. I don't want to do this anymore.

I don't want busyness. I want balance. I want to feel fulfilled because I am doing a few things that matter, not because I am doing a lot of things. Quality, not quantity.

But I'm just a college student. I'm staring down a great big ocean of possibility, and I've got a lifetime of learning how to swim without sinking. It takes a little practice.

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