The Medieval Times

The student news site of Cabell Midland High School

The student news site of Cabell Midland High School

The Medieval Times

The student news site of Cabell Midland High School

The Medieval Times

The State of Satire and Modern Humor

Stan Kelly

In today’s ever-changing political landscape, how can we be sure of what is real, and what is a joke; what affects us, and what doesn’t?

Our modern society is defined by current, dominating issues in a sense that grips all aspects of life; some maybe too much. There are those who argue our quality of life is deteriorating, yet I propose that there is hope. As humans and citizens, we must rely on basic methods of change to incite positive reform. One of the most popular ways we can induce change is through humor.

However, even comedy itself is in jeopardy, as cultures of oversimplification continue to nullify meaning. If we do not emphasize the importance of satirical perspectives, we may altogether lose our most efficient method of political critique and render the world worsened for it.

First, we must understand humor’s origins. Humor is loosely defined, more objective than definite; what one person may think is funny can vary to another. Though generally, humor is perplexing in the sense that our emotional response is based on a reaction to that which is unexpected or “amusing.”

Often you may find yourself still entertained when you know the punchline, or prone to laugh when a situation is serious. These instances are testaments to humor’s spontaneity, and relative significance based on context.

Needless to say, comedy has come a long way from “why did the chicken cross the road?” Today’s humor is more or less defined by an unspoken understanding, a culture asserting that everyone must share a mutual knowledge of certain concepts to “get” a joke. Bottom line: our patience is thin, and no one wants to have to explain.

On the other hand, there also contrastingly exists humor so superficial, so ambiguous yet simple, that relatively anyone can understand. Modern cultural developments have arguably been detrimental in shaping the humor we know now, reducing it to a state that is especially absurd, far from any true wit or hilarity; I could show you a picture of a vague, blurry image, and there’s a decent chance you would still laugh.

In essence, all humor relies on cultural and political context in developing a weighted relevance. Trends change, and things that were funny last year may be entirely irrelevant today. As reflected by our contemporary comedy, the state of the world seems to be headed in a terribly steep direction—where we are unable to effectively confront societal issues; where people no longer understand satire and begin to confuse us with the enemy.

Perhaps the best way to circumvent this future is to fight fire with fire. Egregious headlines replicate egregious realities. Satire is our best weapon.

People often use the word “satire” interchangeably with the word “comedy.” In reality, satire differs from traditional comedy in the regard that is used to effectively criticize or ridicule (often publicly) the vices of people in the context of current issues through “humor, irony,” or “exaggeration.” Sarcasm is the most common form of satire in today’s society; the act of saying the opposite of what one truly thinks, highlighting the innate incapacities of something.

The nonsensical, blunt humor of a platform such as TikTok has gradually and subtly combined with its more wholesome, good-natured content, to an extent that we can no longer discern the truth of what is a joke and what is not, creating one wretched, Frankenstein mishmash.

A recently prominent trend on TikTok comprises of “live” users replicating AI or NPC-like mannerisms. Streamers are “gifted” monetary “reactions” including “roses, cowboy hats,” and even monumentally expensive assets such as “the universe,” which is generally exchanged for $562. The person going live will respond to the gifts in the same, repetitively monotone manner, like that of an in-game character.

Such comedy is captivating in a “so bad its good” sense; almost like a car wreck—you can’t really look away.

However, we all know we should really be averting our eyes. These types of critiques are not effective, because no one can truly achieve a significant demographic amongst hollow, zombie scrollers on TikTok.

In reality, any satirical advance on the platform is thwarted from the onset. Almost immediately, these jokes appear “too real” or too “close to home,” enough that they induce a different, more emotionally off-handed response. We don’t want to have to think and face reality. The degeneration and deterioration of media humor is why the most effective satire is often the most misunderstood.

More prevalent satire exists in the press: “The Onion” is one of the most prominent “spoof” satirical news sites, whose legacy extends back even to the 80s. However old the company may be, it still relates to topical political issues.

For example, in light of the recent tragedy in Maine, the Onion relapsed a notorious installment criticizing the U.S. government administrations response or lack thereof regarding nationwide shootings. The article in question is titled, “’No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” identifying a recurring motif amongst mass shooting incidents.

Not only does this article make note of a political misstep, but it also criticizes it in a tone that is effectual, something that is a current national concern.

Much more influential is the Hamas invasion of Israel; the Onion also released appropriate commentary: “‘The Onion’ Stands with Israel Because It Seems Like You Get in Less Trouble for That.” This article successfully condemns the alienation of media in supporting the “obviously victimized.”

Another satirical news site: Babylon Bee. Sporting the phrase, “fake news you can trust,” Babylon Bee, rests its confidence in the power to stimulate the public and political audiences alike.

An article such as “Public School Libraries: Then Vs. Now” voices irreverent concern for the state of public schools by utilizing hyperbole to detail the “over-liberalization” of libraries: “Then: Sweet old lady librarian. Now: Sweet old lady librarian with a beard named Jeff.”

There exist other, less blatant forms of criticism. Hard-Drive News focuses more on the comedic aspect of satire than legitimate reform, through the lens of video gaming.

A recent headline declares, “Nintendo Teases Pokémon Red (Taylor’s Version.)” Taylor Swift’s domination of media culture cannot be understated, and Hard Drive has chosen to interpolate her legacy with that of an equally monumental franchise: Pokémon.

So, while these advisements are personal and individual, no matter how trivial they may seem, this satire can still be productive and funny. Not that all humor must relate to cultural or political issues, but at the very least we can attribute a greater degree of humility and dignity to our humor.

Today’s culture has recently begun to lose perceptions of effective humor and forgone it for quicker, less analytical comedy, so devolved in its own right it’s unable to be translated from earlier decades. Through the development of traditional “memes”—quicker variations of understanding humor—we have lost a taste for conventionality and have resorted to other, ineffectual methods of humor, in part to our decreasing attention spans.

In an age of efficiency, we have progressively become more and more speedy at interpreting information: our comedy is no different. Crowned by buzzwords and zip-phrases, little is left to the imagination in developing our own generational lingo in respect to our culture.

Ultimately, as our sense of humor begins to deteriorate as a result of contemporary cultures of oversimplification, we must take a stand against simple-minded, basic humor in pursuit of wittier, more effective satirical critiques as a device by which we can promote political change for the creation of a better, more peaceful world.

Stan Kelly
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