2. Randy Newman - His Entire CareerFor many of you (who have lived completely wasted lives or perhaps had the misfortune/benefit of being born after the great singer/songwriter boom of the 70s) Randy Newman's name might only stir memories of Pixar songs like You Got a Friend in Me. And while I'm glad you dodged the James Taylor/Dan Fogelberg/Gilbert O'Sullivan bullets of yesteryear, your unfamiliarity with Randy Newman, well it just makes me sick. Go stand in the corner for ten minutes. (I'm sorry, I have to be that way, baby, but daddy just wants what's best for you. You know that).
Through his 40-plus year career, Randy Newman has written some of the most brilliantly sardonic and inspiring songs in pop history. And if they were more famous, I'm sure I could have found more idiots online who misinterpreted them and attacked him. But many of his best songs weren't huge hits and the folks listening to his stuff in hip coffee house and dorm rooms pretty much got it. Which unfortunately leaves me with Short People - one of Randy Newman's biggest hits and certainly a big stirrer of controversy, but not one of his finest works of satire.
In it, our narrator sings emphatically that short people have got no reason to live.
What Did Morons Think Was Going On?
Randy Newman is calling for a height-based Holocaust. He despises short people and wants them dead. Randy Newman allegedly received threats due to the song and a bill was even introduced in Maryland to ban the playing of the song on the radio.
What's The Actual Point?
Not a hell of a lot. The backlash got so bad that when some suggested the song was really satirizing the foolishness of any racist beliefs, Randy said, "uh yeah, that's it." More recently, however, Newman clarified that to him, he was merely singing about a "a lunatic." How do we know the narrator/singer is a nut? Because he wants to kill all short people! Isn't that obvious?
But do yourself a favor and check out Rednecks, Sail Away, and My Life is Good. Great songs that I'm sure pissed off some people somewhere because people just can't understand that the narrator/character of a song is not necessarily the same thing as the artist singing. The unreliable narrator and all that. In Sail Away we hear a slave trader sing to an African about the great life he will have in America where everyone drinks wine and sings about Jesus all day. In My Life is Good, Randy scolds his child's teacher for having the nerve to criticize Newman's son when Randy's famous enough to hang out with Bruce Springsteen and do really good coke. (I have to imagine it really confuses some people when you're singing as yourself and still not necessarily portraying yourself). And my favorite is Rednecks, sung from the persona of a southern segregationalist who doesn't know his "ass from a hole in the ground." Nevertheless, Newman uses this same character to effectively criticize urban poverty in the North also adversely affecting American blacks, thereby creating a song that attacks two sides of an issue simultaneously . Truly great, but, of course, you just think of him as a guy who writes loves song from a cowboy doll to a spaceman. Damn it. Get back in the corner. Nah, never mind, even Newman's OK with his best stuff being obscure or he wouldn't have said this: "to write indirect songs with characters that aren't yourself as the narrator is not the best way to achieve commercial success. I mean, irony, who's got the time?"
1. Brass Eye Pedophilia Special -- Chris Morris
Many readers shamed me in the comments of the last satire column for omitting this UK TV special from my list. In my defense, all I can do is humbly bow my head and say, "Piss off, Limey. I'd never heard of Brass Eye. I'm an American. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!!!!!!!!!" Yeah, sorry about that. The readers were totally right and I put this entry first to make amends.
In 2001, satirist Chris Morris did a series of segments on British television in the form of a news program raising awareness of the dangers of pedophilia. In doing so, he enlisted the help of celebrities and news personalities to deliver ("unwittingly") completely false and somewhat functionally retarded public service messages.
What Did Morons Think Was Going On?
With an indignant outrage not exhibited by Brit politicians since Gandhi had the nerve to march to the sea and make salt, Parliment members threw stones at Chris Morris. Beverley Hughes described the show as "unspeakably sick." David Blunkett said he was "dismayed" by it. Tessa Jowell, asked the Independent Television Commission to reinstate censorship to ban similar programs. Newspapers like the Daily Star heavily criticized the satirist and the Daily Mail called the show "unspeakably sick."
What's The Actual Point?
Well, I've never met Chris Morris, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say he never intended to go on national television and give aid and comfort to people so vile that they usually get murdered in prison by rapists and serial killers who find pedophiles too sick to live. The show is mocking the moral panics that news shows create for ratings. News shows that sanctimoniously shake their head at pedophiles like its any accomplishment to be a better person than the worst people in the world. Shows that actually exploit the horrors of pedophilia for their own ratings gain and distort information surrounding the important issue to up the ante of the program's sensationalistic appeal.
For some reason, all the embeds of Brass Eye have been disabled, so watch a lovely sample here.
Oh, and the best part of this entry? The newspapers mentioned above who criticized the show's supposed perversity completely put their foot in it. The Daily Star ran their story next to a separate article featuring a photo of then 15-year-old singer Charlotte Church's breasts, and the headline "She's a big girl now". And the Daily Mail ran their story next to a picture of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, then 13 and 11, in their bikinis.