4 More Satirists Attacked By People Who Missed The Point
So a couple of weeks ago, inspired by the Rubberbandits and my contempt for most of the internet, I decided to write a column about satirists who had been misunderstood and attacked. I chose five because it's a nice solid number and, let's face it, I don't get paid by the word. But I also thought five was plenty considering how no one would care about the article. Well, I was wrong. Not only was it one of my most popular pieces, but some bright people pointed out stuff I missed. So here I go again, naming four more satirists who had to take crap from people who quite simply missed the point. Oh, and one more thing. Whereas my last column was pretty much a college essay, repackaged in the Cracked format, this is more of a drunken free-for-all, desperately clinging to the Cracked structure to avoid the sucking vortex of my self-indulgent rambling thought process. Enjoy!
4. Bret Easton Elis - American PsychoIn 1991, Bret Easton Ellis released American Psycho. Maybe you read it. Or maybe you saw the movie with Christian Bale, thinking it was some sort of Batman prequel. The novel follows the exploits of Patrick Batemen, a young New York City business exec who discusses Huey Lewis music and fashion as easily as he murders women and coworkers.
What Did Morons Think Was Going On?"Moron" 'is not really the right word, but famed feminist Gloria Steinem took umbrage with the novel, trying to block its release due to its portrayal of violence towards women. Bad Bret Easton Ellis you mean old woman hater.
What's The Actual Point?Well, as was obvious to anyone who read the title of the book, it wasn't called, Bret Easton Ellis's Guide For Treatment of Women. Instead, the title was a little more subtle: American Psycho. Bateman is not a role model. He is a vapid, self-absorbed, violent, and delusional, um, what's the word? Oh, right! PSYCHO. Ellis is skewering the narcissistic, competitive, hedonistic mindset of the 80s yuppie by drawing it to its hyperbolic conclusion of cold-blooded murder. And even if you missed all that, it's still a story about a psycho. Did anyone give Stephen King crap for Pennywise's violence towards children? Furthermore, Batemen murders a male coworker in the novel so his violence is not merely directed towards women. Did Steinem have a problem with that? No? OK. But my favorite part of this entry has to be the fact that Gloria Steinem's stepson is none other than Christian Bale who played the title role in the 2000 film. Isn't that awesome? And you thought you gave your step mom a hard time by getting that tattoo. Bow to the master. (BTW, I just realized Bale played Bateman and Batman. Cool.)
3. Borat - Sacha Baron CohenIn 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen made a mockumentary starring his character Borat Sagdiyev, a journalist from Kazakhstan. In it, Borat butchers the English language and hates on Jews, gays, and women while travelling the U.S. to learn lessons about our culture.
What Did Morons Think Was Going On?The movie took a lot of criticism and frankly, I can't really argue with all of it. Yes, if you're one of the 312 people from Kazakhstan, I could see how you didn't like your country portrayed as a bunch of racist, misogynistic, backward rapists. Fair enough. I could explain that Sacha is only adopting that persona to get the supposedly civilized people in America to lower their guard and say all the truly awful, hateful things that are just below the surface of their false civility and sophistication, but that doesn't really matter if you're a Kazach. I hear you. Well, I don't really hear you, because as a Jew, you'd probably never speak to me, but still I empathize. (Man, I am NOT helping).Instead, in this case, the morons would be any of the Jews who took offense to the alleged anti-Semitism in Borat. Borat speaks of the Jews as money-hungry, shapeshifters, responsible for 911, and that upset some people.
What's The Actual Point?As a member of the tribe, let me say it's a "shonda" when my peeps don't get satire. After all, wasn't it the learned Rabbi Maimonides who argued for a 5th section of the Talmud in which each passage in the Torah was analyzed as a work of pure divine sarcasm? (No. No it was not. At all). In any event, Sacha Baron Cohen is not anti-Semetic - and not just because he's Jewish. I mean, look at Philip Roth. (Yeah you heard me, Roth. I know you read Cracked and I'm calling you out. I don't care if you're 90, you're toast. Just ask Updike. Oh what's that? He's dead? Yeah, that's right).Yes, Borat is a Jew-hater, but his anti-Semitism actually serves as a statement against religious hatred. In one scene we see Borat's completely childlike and unwarranted fear from an old Jewish couple (seemingly the sweetest couple ever) running a bed and breakfast. When he throws money at two bugs that he believes are the transmogrified Jews, the only joke is at his expense.And Borat's shining hour has to be the segment from Cohen's Da Ali G show in which Borat leads a group of southern rednecks in a rousing rendition of his country's anthem "Throw The Jew Down the Well." Tells you a lot about America that a decidedly Arab-looking man like Borat can walk into a redneck bar in the wake of 911 and be embraced fully. Why? Because who can't get behind some good ol' fashion Jew hating? Sacha Baron Cohen dressed as an Arab and singing about murdering Jews gets a warmer embrace than he would dressed as his Jewish self singing satirical songs about the then Bush administration. So the real point of Borat is not to beat up on Arabs or Jews, but to show the hate that sits below the surface of the "good guys." A hatred that can be brought out with the mere catalyst of an outlandish cultural stereotype like Borat.Go to page 2.
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
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 MorrisMany 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.
Check out the first installment of Gladstone's Notes from the Internet Apocalypse this Thursday! In the meantime, read Gladstone's article, "5 Famous Artists Who Didn't Create Their Signature Creation," only in the new Cracked.com book. Gladstone's site, Twitter and Facebook.