Satire is one part irony, one part sarcasm, and two-fold powerful like the god everyone fights over as the world burns. Oddly enough, much like god, satirists create highly contested forms; on one hand, they hold full ownership of their art, and on the other, the art takes a breath of fresh air and declares ownership of itself, usually in the form of forest fires. But all parts, and hands, and similes aside, civilizations oldest tool for coping with society’s shit-end of the stick, without laughter, whether it be corrupt mad kings, government, social injustice, or the frailty of culture, is still grossly misunderstood. The tragedies of Charlie Hebdo illustrate the disconnect of the satirist and the forest fires of mob mentality as art becomes the dreaded Frankenstein monster of our nightmares.
Before I learned to love satire—Juvenalian brand classics like Brave New World, 1984, Animal Farm, Naked Lunch, American Psycho, and A Clockwork Orange — Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ of the same strand, assigned for high school English had high-school me as confused as most people when they come across The Onion for the first time. Satire isn’t taught, it’s assumed. And we have all heard what assumptions make of you and I. For a cynic like myself, satire is dreamy. It draws upon the condition of the powerless by illustrating and skewering the evils and decadence of the powerful.
Satire isn’t taught, it’s assumed…
In A Modest Proposal, Swift purports that greater society should start eating the children of poor working class families to cure the nations poverty. In Brave New World, society is described from the perspective of its most mundane citizen and highlights the ‘savage’ who is new to the scene, but most human of all. Unlike the written word and famous works of satire, which demand literacy, in today’s heyday, the political cartoon is cannon, reaching far and wide across literacy gaps.
Handala holds a special place in my heart in the realm of visual satire because it speaks volumes about integral issues that shape the future of my motherland and who I care to be. And this personal Charlie Hebdo favorite of mine, about Islam and the Daesh, because once you get past the Prophet being drawn in a picture (which is going to happen, and doesn’t alter Islam from happening despite popular thought), it hits the nail on the head regarding the current tension. But in the age of the internet and the wake of globalization, I can’t help but feel like the butt-end of the cosmic joke.
With rampant Islamophobia reaching new highs and the beginning of Trump’s America, this video satire ‘The Real Housewives of ISIS’ aired and I begrudgingly admit that I laughed. The clever mismatch of the real housewives’ genotype with the extremist Islam phenotype is clever, appealing, and capitalizes on the booming business of making model minorities menacing. To the typical American, it affirms their war on terror typology, ‘not all terrorists are Muslim but all Muslims are terrorists’ and the age-old docile Muslim woman stereotype — it goes the whole eight foot chain, 40 virgins, and suicide bomber route while highlighting the rubble of the Middle East’s most current conflict, Syria.
My feelings are all over the place with this one. Hijabi women are highly visible and are targeted, brutalized, and fetishized for white savoir complexes around the world. The women who starred in this video were women of color, a silver lining in the battle of representation, but only because they are viewed as ‘representing’ themselves? The video highlighted the complex role of social media and the issue of jihadi defection and propaganda superficially, and left an unsatisfactory ambivalence pertaining to the victims of the Daesh. I find myself glued to this video, analyzing the content and the comment section endlessly, like a circle presupposed.
The blurred lines of satire will do that to you.