5 Satirists Attacked by People Who Totally Missed the Point
Writing online has taught me many things, but the one overriding lesson has been that the internet hates satire. Specifically, the more caustic forms of satire that rely on the reader to be an active participant with the good sense to know that everything is not what it seems. For those members of society who simply lack that capacity, satire becomes an exasperating, offensive, and even humiliating experience. And with those feelings, the satirically-impaired lash out against the artist, often accusing him or her of the very behavior that is being satirized. Isn't that awesome? No. It's kind of a depressing actually, but here are five of my favorite examples where the target just seemed to miss the point.One editorial note before we begin: The Onion and South Park are not on this list. Both are fine practitioners of satire, but I couldn't find an example from them that fit neatly into our theme. After all, morons who actually believe Onion stories to be true usually just get outraged by the events rather than hating the paper. South Park has certainly pissed people off, but those who were angered were typically the people being satirized. When South Park satirized Islamic militants for threatening death at the depiction of Allah, and then received death threats from Islamic militants, no one missed the point. These following satirists, however, were confronted by those who simply didn't get it.
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan SwiftJonathan Swift's 1729 Essay A Modest Proposal (Full Title, A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public) is arguably the greatest piece of satire in English literature. In it, Swift addresses Ireland's poverty, overpopulation, and starvation by proposing a simple solution: eating the babies of the poor - after proper compensation to the parents, of course. First, Swift notices the problem:It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags. Then proposes the solution:[The children], at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.
What Did Morons Think Was Going On?Allegedly, many people reacted in disgust to the notion of both cannibalism and infanticide because, apparently, killing babies and eating them is sort of a bad thing. Indeed, public reaction was so intense that at one point Swift's patronage was also purportedly in jeopardy of being lost for proposing such savagery.What's The Actual Point?A Modest Proposal skewers both apathy to the suffering of children and the wrongheaded and convoluted social programs in vogue at the time that purported to address the plight while seemingly oblivious to the realities of human suffering. By proposing cannibalism and infanticide, Swift stirred an immediate horrified reaction in any reader who wasn't, y'know, into murdering and eating babies. But after that immediate reaction, an active reader probably then had another thought: why if I'm so horrified by the notion of murdering children, am I content to let them slowly starve to death from extreme poverty? But, like I said, those were just the thoughts of active readers. Those not passively accepting content. Rest assured, there were plenty of people in 1729, half-reading the essay while raping their indentured servants and muttering the 18th century's equivalent of "fail."
The Life of Brian by Monty PythonLegendary English comedy troupe, Monty Python, stirred considerable controversy with their second movie, The Life of Brian. In it, Python tells the story of Brian Cohen, a young Hebrew who is worshipped, mistakenly, by a group of people who think he's the Messiah. Brian is well-meaning, but clumsy, and ultimately crucified by the Romans.
What Did Morons Think Was Going On?
Damn Monty Python to hell for mocking our one true Lord and savior Jesus Christ, the King of Kings! Yep, Python faced extreme wrath from religious quarters for their mistreatment of the Lord. Numerous countries such as Ireland and Norway banned the film outright for years. In a famous moment (for British television anyway) Mervyn Stockwood, the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, debated John Cleese and Michael Palin on air, likening the Pythons to Judas, and claiming they would get their "30 pieces of silver" for the film.What's The Actual Point?
In all this commotion, many people apparently forgot to notice that Brian is NOT Jesus. Indeed, the two opening scenes of the movie make this point painfully clear. The three wise men initially show up at the manger next door to the baby Jesus'. And later,(as shown above) we see the real Jesus, respectfully portrayed, and watched by Brian in the distance. Instead, Python were satirizing the trappings of blind religious zeal such as the scene where a group of zealots perceive a lost sandal to be a sign from the divine. The movie also mocks the easily duped Romans who engage in savagery, and the highly fractured state of the Jewish community at the time. One thing the film does not mock, however, is the teachings of that famous guy from Nazereth. Accordingly, it seems those good Christians who vilified Python not only forgot to turn the other cheek, but didn't even wait to be struck before throwing the first stone. Yeah, I mixed two biblical metaphors. Sue me. At least I didn't, y'know, throw hateful and baseless accusations at comedy legends.
The Make a Realistic Wish Foundation Skit by The ChaserOn June 3, 2009, Australian Sketch group The Chaser did a skit in the form of a commercial for the Make a Realistic Wish Foundation. Instead of taking dying children to Disneyland or arranging celebrity meetings, this organization offers more realistic gifts like free pencil cases because, let's face it, these kids are going to die anyway.
White House Correspondents Dinner Appearance by Stephen ColbertStephen Colbert doesn't quite belong on this list. Not because he isn't an amazing satirist. Hell, I'll go on record right now and call Stephen Colbert the greatest living satirist --not only on Earth, but even on the inhabited moons of Rylos 7. No, the reason Mr. Colbert is different from the other entries is because while his satire has been misunderstood, that misunderstanding got him a ticket to the White House correspondent's dinner. In 2006, Colbert took his faux Bill O'Reilly-esque persona and expertly dissected President Bush just feet away from where he was sitting.
What Was Actually Happening?Well, as was a surprise to no one who had even a basic grasp of satire, Colbert took the opportunity to eviscerate Bush under the pretense of praising him. It's deliciously painful to watch Bush bristle at the barbs he suffers. So painful that some of you might find it hard to believe that Colbert could have been booked in error. That someone could be surprised that this former Daily Show alum would use comedy to lambaste the sitting Republican President. You might offer that Colbert was merely invited as a sign that President Bush had a sense of humor about himself. Well, to you I say yeah, that sounds like Bush. That's probably why they had Colbert back. Oh, wait. They didn't. They had these guys the next year...