By: Rodrigo Pedraza
I think that Political Satire/Humorous Political Commentary plays a large role in our contemporary popular culture. I say this because today a growing number of people are beginning to get their national and international news from shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher. In fact some of my friends solely get their television news from these types of shows. Shows like these play a large role in shaping the national political discourse because of several reasons: 1) These shows are funny and entertaining thus drawing in a younger demographic and shaping their young impressionable political minds, 2) These shows also are not very long, just 30-60 minutes of analyzing and commenting on the day’s events, 3) They have gained so much of a following and respect that big name political figures have begun to take notice and sometimes make guest appearances on these shows.
These satirical news shows use logical reasoning and arguments concealed in very funny show segments/sketches/bits/jokes etc… Every night from Monday through Thursday these shows take recent news stories that the large network news shows have been covering (or in some cases have not been covering) and point out the various fallacies of of what the story is, why it is being covered, and how it is being covered. An example of this comes from The Daily Show: Recently I was watching The Daily Show and the story that was being covered was about how Mitt Romney strapped the family dog to the roof of his car during a road trip to Canada. This story then diverged into when Barack Obama used to eat dog meat when he was a little kid in Indonesia. Jon Stewart then points out the media’s obsession over this “dogfight” between the Romney and Obama campaigns about who is better with dogs, and how the media loves any story that enables themselves to be distracted from having to cover actual news stories such as the two wars we are still involved with, hunger problems, global financial problems etc…
While The Daily Show satirizes network news like CNN, NBC, CBS…. The Colbert Report satirizes opinionated news networks like the Fox News Channel, and takes it to a much exaggerated level of parody. He is trying to point out how extreme, illogical, and non-sensical their viewpoints are, and how when analyzed through a lens of humor concealed logic, these viewpoints would not be taken seriously if it were an average person espousing them on a street corner and not someone with a nice haircut and suit sitting in a New York studio.
These political satire shows fall under the third definition of popular culture which is “mass culture.” While these shows attempt to satirize and poke fun of the mass media/culture, they too are also part of this mass media/culture. The hosts of these shows are nationally and internationally known since their shows are broadcast all over the world. Their shows are brand names now that are so beloved and respected that even if their aim is to not be a part of the mass media/culture, they are because they influence millions of people, and their production companies sell ad space alongside the actual shows. These shows would be considered politically manipulative but they would not be considered to be generating passivity or brain-numbing influences on their viewers because they actually bring forth brain-stimulating stories and sometimes even invite their viewers in a call-to-action.
Yet for these shows to criticize and satirize the mass media/culture that they see as incorrect and misguided, they must join that which they disagree with because there is no other platform upon which they could stand to get their ideas and viewpoints out and into the public eye. I think that these shows sort of act like the jester in a king’s court, in that they are allowed to say whatever they want and poke fun at the errors of the political elite without themselves getting into any trouble. Thus I propose that Political Satire/Humorous Political Commentary be used as a topic of inquiry for the class to explore further and in greater detail.