YTAH's Weblog


Malice Aforethought: It’s SATIRE, You Bastards!

Posted in rants,satire by YTAH on July 16, 2008
Tags: , , ,

The wonders of ColonizationThank the colonialists, apparently.

Okay, so I don’t know if anyone knows, or cares, but some local columnist got fired from his cushy, well-paid job at a glorified tabloid for this supposedly bigoted thing he wrote, about how everyone on this continent has colonialists to thank for the wonders of electricity, telecommunications, democracy, and all the other wonders of our marvellous society. [Can I make a colon-isation joke here? Wait, I probably already have. Nevermind.] Now I’m not going to defend the guy, or anything, or blether on about how the newspaper is undermining press freedom, or bitch about the inconsistency of giving someone you know to be bigoted a platform to express their bigoted selves and then fire them because of how they’re, you know, bigoted. After all, I don’t read his column – certainly didn’t read the one he got fired for – because I don’t read their shitty paper, because it’s basically The Sun with more stories about rugby, and without the blaring headlines butchering two languages simultaneously. (This newspaper’s headline when the Americans invaded Iraq? “Sharks beat the Stormers”. Swear to god.)

The only reason I was even vaguely aware of this is because someone I know had to write an opinion column about the guy getting fired. They, in turn, regularly get bitched at by readers who impugn their journalistic credibility. Now, let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that the aforementioned readers are visiting some other badly-designed site instead of this one; let’s also ignore the fact that these bastards who complain about his writing can’t spell, or form a coherent sentence; and let’s forego the possible comparisons with U.S. “shock-jocks” like Howard Stern or that guy who got fired for saying black women had nappy (i.e. curly) hair, shall we? None of these things is particularly new. What interests me is the fact that none of these people seem to realize what an “opinion” column is. Look it up, fuckers. You obviously have lots of opinions – not that any of them are your own – so you should at least have some notion of what that word means.

Rhodes salutesComedy fascist? I think not.

Something disturbing has happened to the Internet and the press in the last couple of years, something I like to call “sincerity”. Personally, I blame the Wayans brothers, and their god-awful “comedies”. I hold them responsible for taking the sting out of satire, for which crime they should be forced to listen to emo bands for the rest of the sun’s natural life. But they’re not the only ones to blame. Most contemporary satire is pretty inoffensive. Often it goes no further than parody, which is generally handled in a grab-bag manner rather than with any kind of discipline. So rather than being a sustained attack on a clear and well-established target, it devolves into an almost friendly ribbing – like a blustering army general who discovers you committing some fuckheadedness and promptly morphs into your kind old granny, and then offers you tea and cookies – instead of ten years in a military prison.

But satire should be wielded like a scalpel. Even if it isn’t targeted at you, it should never try to convince you that you deserve to escape unscathed, and it should never leave you feeling entirely comfortable. At best, you should feel lucky that you’re not the one in its sights. So that toothless, good-natured movie parody, trying its best to be winning while it pokes Gentle Fun™ at a series of unrelated blockbusters – the one that tries so hard to convince you that it really likes all the films it makes fun of, that everyone involved with the project is actually just a really nice person, and that it means no harm or insult to anyone involved in any of the movies it mentions – that film is as far from satire as it is possible to get. Calling Scary Movie a satire is like putting a bunch of over-buffed walking steroid-commercials on TV, handing them some padded toys, and calling them “gladiators”. You know what their life expectancy in the Coliseum would be? 0.2 seconds less than a He-Man doll.

In the Coliseum…

Satire doesn’t want to be your friend. It’s never met anyone it liked. It wants to punch you repeatedly in the face until you agree to its demands. And if you don’t like that, then fuck you. Because satire has no manners. If you offer it cookies, it will bludgeon you with them until you stop moving. It’s fuelled by anger, not love – and unlike love, or patience, or any of those wasted emotions, it’s not well-behaved, it’s not well-meaning, and it sure as fuck isn’t good-natured. It’s volatile, hurtful, jealous, pompous, arrogant, selfish, and quick-tempered, and let nobody tell you any different. Satire is the brat at the back of the class who pokes fun at the retarded kid, trips the crippled kid, and then goes home to throw stuff at his mother’s favourite vase. So don’t expect him to help any old ladies cross the road. If you see him approaching your grandmother, you may want to take evasive action. But don’t keep him on too short a leash unless you want your kneecaps bitten off. It wants to kick your teeth in and make you say “Thank you sir”, because satire, quite frankly, is an unmitigated bastard. It harbours no forgiveness, only wrath. It means you harm, and it harbours grudges larger than the Titanic. It makes mountains out of molehills and then scales those fuckers like it’s nobody’s business but Hillary’s. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can fucking kill you.

Above all, satire is not to be trusted. It’s the drunk uncle who plows into the brandy at weddings and starts going off about women who don’t know their place, and people from other cultures, races, or countries who fail to be subservient. And if you agree with everything he says, then you’re as ignorant as he seems to be. Because that guy isn’t really your uncle. No-one’s met him before, and though you’ve been introduced to him, no-one knows his name. But by the time he leaves, a fight has broken out between the members of your family who share his racism, and those who share his misogyny.

Cruci-fiction

At best, satire likes to think that it can pierce all pretences at civilized behaviour and reveal people as they are, beneath all those manners. Satire is a funhouse mirror, holding up a distorted view of your world, and in its warped reflection – if you really want to, if you have the courage to look hard enough – you can see yourself. Be careful, though, because it’s never a pretty picture. You won’t like what you see. And if you think my posts so far have been nasty, you need to read more, starting with the Romans. Now those guys knew how to have a good time.

But now, since this column has been singularly devoid of any humour, I shall leave you with a fine illustration of what I think of when I think of satire. It’s a poem by this guy called Bob Flanagan, who I mentioned in a previous post. Please note, this is not for sensitive viewers. But then you already knew that…

“WHY?”

Because it feels good; because it gives me an erection; because it makes me come; because I’m sick; because there was so much sickness; because I say FUCK THE SICKNESS; because I like the attention; because I was alone a lot; because I was different; because kids beat me up on the way to school; because I was humiliated by nuns; because of Christ and the crucifixion; because of Porky Pig in bondage, force-fed by some sinister creep in a black cape; because of stories of children hung by their wrists, burned on the stove, scalded in tubs; because of “Mutiny on the Bounty”; because of cowboys and indians; because of Houdini; because of my cousin Cliff; because of the forts we built and the things we did inside them; because of my genes; because of my parents; because of doctors and nurses; because they tied me to the crib so I wouldn’t hurt myself; because I had time to think; because I had time to hold my penis; because I had awful stomach aches and holding my penis made it feel better; because I’m a Catholic; because I still love Lent, and I still love my penis, and in spite of it all I have no guilt; because my parents said BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE, and this is what I want to be; because I’m nothing but a big baby and I want to stay that way, and I want a mommy forever, even a mean one, especially a mean one; because of all the fairy tale witches and the wicked step mother, and the step sisters, and how sexy Cinderella was, smudged with soot, doomed to a life of servitude; because of Hansel, locked in a witch’s cage until he was fat enough to eat; because of “O” and how desperately I wanted to be her; because of my dreams; because of the games we played; because I have an active imagination; because my mother bought me tinker toys; because hardware stores give me hardons; because of hammers, nails, clothespins, wood, padlocks, pullies, eyebolts, thumbtacks, staple-guns, sewing needles, wooden spoons, fishing tackle, chains, metal rulers, rubber tubing, spatulas, rope, twine, C-clamps, S-hooks, razor blades, scissors, tweezers, knives, push pins, two-by-fours, ping-pong tables, alligator clips, duct tape, broom sticks, bar-b-que skewers, bungie cords, saw horses, soldering irons; because of tool sheds; because of garages; because of basements; because of dungeons; because of The Pit and The Pendulum; because of the Inquisition; because of the rack; because of the cross; because of the Addams Family playroom; because of Morticia Addams and her black dress with its octopus legs; because of motherhood; because of Amazons; because of the Goddess; because of the moon; because it’s in my nature; because it’s against nature; because it’s nasty; because it’s fun; because it flies in the face of all that’s normal (whatever that is); because I’m not normal; because I used to think that I was part of some vast experiment and that there was this implant in my penis that made me do these things and allowed THEM (whoever THEY were) to monitor my activities; because I had to take my clothes off and lie inside this giant plastic bag so the doctors could collect my sweat; because once upon a time I had such a high fever my parents had to strip me naked and wrap me in sheets to stop the convulsions; because my parents loved me even more when I was suffering; because I was born into a world of suffering; because surrender is sweet; because I’m attracted to it; because I’m addicted to it; because endorphins in the brain are like a natural kind of heroin; because I learned to take my medicine; because I was a big boy for taking it; because I can take it like a man; because, as someone once said, HE’S GOT MORE BALLS THAN I DO, because it is an act of courage; because it does take guts; because I’m proud of it; because I can’t climb mountains; because I’m terrible at sports; because NO PAIN, NO GAIN; because SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE CHILD; BECAUSE YOU ALWAYS HURT THE ONE YOU LOVE.

[Originally posted on africans.co.za on Wednesday, April 16, 2008.]

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