Satirical Takes on Uncomfortable Incidents, and Other Dumb Adult Truths
|Amy Widdowson||Aug 18, 2016|
So swimmer Ryan Locate wasn't robbed in Rio, as he and some of his US teammates claimed, but didn’t report to the police? Or he was, but his story kinda changed? And now his aquatic teammates are stuck in Rio after being hauled off their flight by the authorities? But Lochte got out, despite a Brazilian judge asking for his passport and issuing a search and seizure warrant over the robbery report? So Lochte went straight to Matt Lauer? This whole thing seems like a really bad buddy bender movie screenplay. Also: things my autocorrect has changed L O C H T E to in this itty bitty paragraph: Locate, Loathe, Illuminati.
Speaking of humor, because that last paragraph was absolutely hilarious: I’ve been listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s new podcast “Revisionist History,” which I’ve enjoyed, for the most part. The final episode of his first season was released yesterday, entitled The Satire Paradox. Gladwell discusses whether satirical takes on controversial political figures and issues actually normalizes them instead of sharpening public criticism as many satirists aim to do, thus diffusing the negative potency of the subject and, in Gladwell's argument, causing more harm than good. For instance, he discusses how the “Colbert” character made both liberals and conservatives laugh, but for opposite reasons: libs thought he was making fun of conservatives, and conservatives thought he was making fun of liberals.
In particular, he goes after SNL and their portrayal of Sarah Palin. Following a fawning intro of the topic - he calls Tina Fey a “comedic genius” - he explodes with a biting take down of what he calls a “toothless” portrayal. Essentially, he argues that by making her a caricature, the portrayal actually softened and humanized her, misdirecting attention to her outward quirks, and not her frightening lack of experience or policy opinions. He chastises Fey and SNL for allowing Palin on the show, so that she may benefit from Fey’s charisma.
It’s heavy handed, and the button he delivers at the end to draw a direct line to Trump made me actually say “oh come on” outloud on BART, but I admit that I have had a similar discomfort with the degree to which humor is being relied in this election as a way for us to collectively turn away from glaringly scary realities. We’ve been doing it since Trump descended from high on that elevator. I do it every day in this email, trying to find some little LOL or giggle to, in Gladwell’s words, sugar coat the batshit crazy reality. Like the above, where it may prove that three American athletes representing their country got wasted and made up the whole thing, or not, potentially setting off an international incident in a poverty-stricken, corrupt country,
So yea, once again I leave you with that thought unfinished, because I am late and need to get my butt to work. But if you haven’t been reading Dan Rather’s takes on this election through his Facebook page, I encourage you to start, and to start here.