satire (the end of it)

between the dead baby jokes, racist stories, and sexist comments, my group of friends is pretty hard to understand. for us, every bit of it is satire. the anti-semitic jokes come from my friend who is deeply in love with the daughter of a rabbi (and strongly jewish herself). the sexist comments come from the guys who head to marches for women’s rights and are NOW members. while our weekly thursday party in college was called ladies night, we all understood it as a joke. sure, by senior year it was a pick-up party for both sexes, but we named it sophomore year, when it was 9 guys getting drunk and watching cartoons of talking fast food.

so meeting us now is a bit like jumping in mid-conversation. without the history, none of it makes sense. this happens in all conversations, of course. wandering around town, i pick up bits and pieces of conversations, and its not uncommon to hear just the wrong thing at just the wrong moment, and really start to wonder. especially if you have strong expectations.

on a related note, reading through pharyngula today, i found out that one man’s satire is another man’s reality. i think there is actually much more going on here than is discussed. way back, i wrote an article on hell houses where i inappropriately cited a satirical site as a real hell house (i can’t find the old article). the satire, to me, looked entirely believeable as authentic. it was just one step further than everything else i’d read. at this point, reading the real stuff about hell houses, i was too shocked. it looked like nothing was outside the realm of possible anymore. [i’ll admit, i was also being a lazy writer and should have source checked the article – the fault really is mine, but even my editors and peer reviewers thought it was authentic, which says something about the universality of being blindsided by something so alien .]

i imagine something like this happened to this pete fellow at march together. a bit worse, since most of us know what the onion is. [side note: maybe he’s too close to it, but why not say “honest mistake” and move on? (he didn’t)]. i just wish the whole affair was a bit tempered. as-is, comments are like pointing at a train wreck and laughing.

but this just keeps happening. my college roommate and i have a longstanding debate about Maxim. i think its satire. i just can’t read that junk at face value. he thinks its offensive. i read the articles and laugh, because they’re preposterous from my point of view. i understand that people read them seriously, and i haven’t got a clue what the editor thinks, but its not the material thats offensive (to me), its how people read it that bothers me. if everyone read it and laughed, i’d be quite content. (he thinks its inherently offensive, and that i’m not actually reading it and laughing, but that at some level it reinforces my latent sexist worldview – even though he accepts that i’m a feminist. its a complex argument, with a very different idea of thinking, as i understand him).

i can’t claim to have insight from The Book (of erdos) that locks this one up, but pieces keep falling into place. in college, the super-self-involved theatre crowd became obsessed with the notion of “post-ironic”. not being in the conversation (and thinking they were all pompous jerks anyway), i mocked the very idea of the term. but thinking it over, its a workable concept. more than a few people i know date the death of irony sometime around when henry kissinger was awarded the nobel peace prize. its not just that the joke can’t be topped. we’re just too shocked. most english classes shrug off swift’s a modest proposal. today’s cheers and jeers starts with a letter about the flag and i can imagine it stated earnestly. or this liberty with a cross statue, which is the sort of thing used to mock someone, not something they go and build themselves. same deal with the homosexuality conversation referenced below.

the size of the shock betrays the real cause. when the premises of perspectives radically differ, and when they’ve been developed in isolation from other conversations, satire is effecively DOA. i wonder what other forms of communication are killed too. (abrupt ending, i know, but this is an unwieldy post as-is)

—-

two notes:
(1) the same is pretty much true of contemporary art. unless you trace the conversation the artisitic community is having with itself since WWI (debateable starting point) –> the present, it really looks like senseless garbage. ‘postmodern’ authors are in the same boat (i think).
(2) nothing about this means to say i don’t think some premises belong exclusively to yahoos.

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