"the collateral damage of the satire"


the previous post simply attempted to de-centre the idea that satire–particularly racialized and gendered satire–creates a subjective universal experience once its purpose is understood. i want to instead think of satire at the crossroads of aesthetic difference.

in the commentional, pam powerfully articulates how a differential subjectivity might experience racialized and gendered satire:

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.


what do you think? agree? disagree? something to add?

thanks for commenting pam!!! i hope you are well 🙂



3 thoughts on “"the collateral damage of the satire"

  1. thanks craig (and congratulations on your book!)– looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on "satire at the crossroads of aesthetic difference," as i too feel this expresses the core of what these kinds of discussions seem to want to get at, but rarely achieve, esp. in the mainstream press where the dialogue seems to stay at the level of who gets the point of the satire and who doesn't, without really getting to the larger questions of what the satire is doing culturally and what are the various complex cultural conditions that make it possible for a particular instance of satire to arise in the first place, and whether the satire is intended to spur the viewer/reader/audience toward some kind of political action or mobilization of conscience/consciousness, or whether it is intended simply to point at & mock the cultural conditions at hand without necessarily advocating an ethical/political position, perhaps also revel in the muck of these conditions and use them as a platform from which to propel its aesthetic effects to the furthest, most outlandish reaches imaginable.

    in the most extreme cases of this last species of satire, i think it's safe to say that the "social ill" that's being lambasted by the satire is relegated to secondary importance; that the primary goal of the satire is to extend its own reach as an aesthetic object, and the "social ill" with its attendant critique merely serves as an excuse and justification for how far the satire is able to go aesthetically.

    i'm all for the aesthetic object extending its own imaginative reach, and the phenomenon described above could certainly be called *something*, but i question whether it deserves the name "satire," which in my mind places aesthetics in service to the social critique, not the other way around.

    it may come down again to that old question of indeterminacy, and the contemporary postmodern condition of being confronted with too many competing positions, all of them ridiculous in some way, all of them bankrupt in some way, and the disgust and anxiety of the absurd that occurs as a result. the right has responded to this by re-imposing top-down fictions of paleo-morality and "cultural values," while the left has seen fit to embrace the "complexity" of the real, with often paralyzing results.

    one way out of the paralysis seems to be to attack the tyranny of positionality itself; this could be seen as a kind of postmodern meta-leftism (and i think the bet video, with its complex, layered parodies of multiple conflicting positions, partakes of this strategy). but here's where i worry that meta-leftism runs the risk of collaborating, unwittingly or not, with certain fascist tendencies that champion the aesthetic good above all others.

    of course where i'm trying to go with all this ramble is back to the project of the avant-garde, and the ways in which this project has both celebrated and reneged on its partnership with the project of the left. historically, run-ins with the cultural intractables of race/class/gender have tested the avant-garde's claims to political radicalism and relevance, and exposed some of the ideological contradictions at its core. maybe that's why these issues are so embarrassing & untouchable, and why so many people who still believe in the politicized substance of the avant-garde feel compelled to revisit these issues and work out some kind of deeper underlying resolution that goes beyond trans-communal diplomacy and multicultural window dressing.

    ugh, this went way longer than i meant it to.

  2. I agree. In many ways this is a response to a residual conversation from the last century. So what comes next?

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