I am an intellectual elitist.
I am an intellectual elitist.
I should preface this post by saying that 1) I recognize that Alex has made sincere attempts to rectify the situation, and 2) As a result of this, and also the internet’s ever-revolving news cycle, this post is barely necessary at this point. Still, I think it’s worth looking at this from a more academic perspective, especially now that emotions are cooling on all sides of the debate.
Dear Alex Day,
Satire is tricky business, and it can go seriously awry with even the smallest misstep. I think your problem is simply a matter of poor aim.
I’ve dabbled in satire over the course of my career as a writer and musician, and the results have been mixed. One of my more successful projects was a collaboration with my friend Ben. We grew up in the same small town and ended up going to the same large university, and over the course of four years as roommates we worked together on a number of fun projects.
One such project was a fake activist organization called Environmentalists For Dragon and Unicorn Protection, or EFDAUP. The goal of this project was to lightly poke fun at the activist community in Amherst and Northampton, Massachusetts, by creating a parody of a typical collegiate activist organization. We didn’t want to seriously insult anyone, because we were actually part of the activist community we were satirizing. We enjoyed going down to DC to participate in the World Bank and IMF demonstrations, we happily rallied to support Ralph Nader’s candidacy for president, and we loved being part of discussions about alternatives to harmful pesticides and so forth. It’s just that we noticed a lot of collegiate activists were in it not just for the cause, but also for the competition. Certain activists claimed ownership over causes, belittled the efforts of newcomers, and generally lorded their superiority over everyone else. And we thought that was silly.
So we created EFDAUP. Our primary action was creating informative flyers about dragons and unicorns, as if they were real animals in danger of extinction, and pitching their cause as the most important and crucial environmental issue of the day. Pretty straight-forward satire.
Now, here’s where aim comes into the picture. If we had applied an Alex Day approach to our project, then our primary action might’ve been to construct life-sized models of dragons and unicorns and then destroy them in public. Which would’ve made absolutely no sense, and it would’ve confused and probably offended a lot of people, including any dragons and unicorns who happened to be watching.
The thing about your viewers, Alex, is that they are not dragons and unicorns. They are real people with feelings, and you have to take that into account when using them as characters in a satire. Is your satire effective if it triggers feelings of insecurity and inadequacy in a certain subgroup within your viewership? Is your satire effective if it makes misogynists and fat-shamers feel like their hatred and aggression has been validated? Is your satire effective if you have to explain to everyone that it’s satire?
No, no, no.
Of course, there is plenty of room for edgier satire that makes people feel uncomfortable. But the point is to make people feel uncomfortable about society’s inherent power structure, or the misdeeds of government, or the follies of humanity in general — with the intent that you’ll spark intelligent discussion that might lead to positive changes in the world.
If your satire only serves to make women feel uncomfortable about their bodies, then you need to reexamine your approach.
Amanda Hess, Teenagers Hate Facebook, but They’re Not Logging Off
Hess cites new Pew Study, Teens, Social Media, and Privacy by Mary Madden, Amanda Lenhart, Sandra Cortesi, Urs Gasser, Maeve Duggan, Aaron Smith. Facebook has become a social obligation, and has been colonized by disapproving, ever vigilant adults.
And talk to you without being judged.