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Democracy Through Satire Essay

2043 words - 8 pages

2008 was an historic election year. Beyond the president-elect being the first African-American to be elected to office, the election was more heavily consumed by the media and by the general public than by any before. Through all sorts of different mediums, including the internet, television, and print, the campaigns and the media pushed information on the public. One of the largest ways this was done was via the art of satire. Satire, as defined by the dictionary, is, “The use of wit to criticize behavior.” Both political parties in the 2008 election had their share of material to make fun of the other’s candidate. Many critics of satire find it to be a waste of time, one which often masquerades as valid news.
This brings to mind Steven Johnson’s idea of a “sleeper curve” from his book Everything Bad is Good for You. In short, a “sleeper curve” is a term Johnson borrowed from the film Sleeper, where a man, frozen in 1973, is unfrozen in 2173 and refuses to eat cream pies and hot fudge on the premise that they are bad for him, even though they are proven to have nutritional merit by 2173. The “sleeper curve” refers to the idea that many things considered “bad” have benefits.
How can satire apply to this “sleeper curve” in the case of political satire? Simply put, satire is more interesting to a broader spectrum of people than almost any other form of communication. By creating satire, comedians can generate interest in the political process, something that otherwise would not compel many Americans. Of course, there are more benefits to satire than that. It not only creates interest, but it also brings a new or different viewpoint to light.
Nothing shows how satire can create interest better than the overwhelming acceptance of Saturday Night Live’s (SNL) portrayal of the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Tina Fey, Sarah Palin’s Saturday Night Live lookalike, was featured in several wildly popular skits. For many people, Tina Fey was the only Sarah Palin they knew. What can be made of this? Some argue that the political process does not need comedic intervention and that all that belongs is the facts. But perhaps, satire may help to explain the record-setting voter numbers this year, and the almost unbelievable interest in the political process this election year. Especially in the weeks just prior to the election, the Saturday Night Live comedians found ways to poke fun at both sides, though the most popular skits involved Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Tina Fey’s lines were often silly and exaggerated, but in reading both the transcript of the skit and the actual events, Tina Fey’s script matches reality very closely, to a point where it becomes a little weird.
Several skits were presented on Saturday Night Live. The most popular and well known were “Fey and Clinton,” “Katie Couric Interview,” and the “Vice Presidential Debate.” For each of these, there were many references to actual events in the campaign, as...

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