satire, race, and gender OR it’s all kant’s fault

tyrone, in the post below, made this comment:

Thanks for posting–love the video and while I agree with the creators of the piece, the third guy does have a point about satire. Even my college students don’t get it. I’ve taught George Schuylers hilarious BLACK NO MORE three times–and three times the students just sit there, stonily trying to dissect the “serious” message of the novel. If you have to explain it…

thanks for commenting tyrone! one thing i’ve been thinking about–from discussing magee’s “their glittering guys,” the New Yorker Obama cover, and from these more recent videos–is the idea of a subjective universal experience of satire. this aesthetic idea is embodied in a comment by the READ A BOOK creator on CNN:

“kids understand satire.”

if we know the work of art is satire (either thru our own perception, or from others, or from the creators themselves)–then we know its purposivityness and should think it’s funny and critical. and we should all have the same experience of the satire because we all understand satire. and, if you are offended by the satire then let me explain once again that it’s satire and once you know it’s satire you will not really be offended.

what this kind of universalizing aesthetic fails to take into account is that people have different affective responses to satire (and to any aesthetic form)–responses tied to race, gender, class, education, etc.

a woman of color may understand that the READ A BOOK video is satire, and she may still be offended by its portrayal of women, etc. or she may not.

and as tyrone mentioned, not all kids understand satire. and i would add, not all kids–even those who understand satire–experience it the same way.



One thought on “satire, race, and gender OR it’s all kant’s fault

  1. jose garcia villa.

    to complement your approach of using subjectivity to critique this kind of satire, i think there’s also an approach that could be based on notions of objectivity. i’m thinking of the idea of collateral damage, in that the women and minorities depicted in negative stereotypical ways in these kinds of satirical pieces are being placed objectively in positions of compromise and literal damage; even if the goal of the satirical piece is to trick things around and turn the negative image around against itself, the piece still goes there in terms of the negative depiction and asks the subjects so depicted to absorb the collateral damage of the satire, possibly even in a demanding patronizing way to accept this position of compromise/sacrifice because aren’t they the ones who will ultimately be rescued by the satirical meaning, even as they are absorbing the damage of the literal meaning? this is, i believe, where the true offensiveness lies.

    just a vague, messy sketch of something i’ve been thinking about lately.

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