Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why the New Yorker Cover isn't Good Satire


Here is how David Remnick, the New Yorker editor who approved the cover illustration of 'scary' Barack and Michelle Obama in the Oval Office, defends the illustration:
“The cover takes a lot of distortions, lies, and misconceptions about the Obamas and puts a mirror up to them to show them for what they are.

“It’s a lot like the spirit of what Stephen Colbert does — by exaggerating and mocking something, he shows its absurdity, and that is what satire is all about,” Mr. Remnick continued.

His explanation fails. It fails because it is impossible to amplify the smears and scare-tactics being used against the Obamas to the point of satire - you simply can't get more outrageous than what the right and the bigots are already saying about them. The image on the New Yorker is right in line with this image (via Pandagon):

You can't joke about race by being more over-the-top racist than the 'actual bigots' when there are still people being violently attacked because of their race. You can't successfully satirize sexism by portraying violence against women. And you can't satirize the hateful rhetoric being used against the Obamas by merely repeating it.

Yet, Remnick still insists that he shouldn't have put the edition's title "Politics of Fear" on the cover, saying "Satire doesn't run with subtitles." Mr. Remnick, with all due respect, when Stephen Colbert - who you hold-up as the example of how good satire is done - does The Word... what do you call that?

BTW... Here is Colbert's response:


Oh - and go read Kandee's thoughts on this cover... I've already told you twice, now - don't make me tell you again...

UPDATE: Oh, and I wrote about a new Massachusetts law that is good news for same-sex couples here, and about Title IX and science here.

5 comments:

Casmall said...

Great post-You're absolutely right-on about why the NYer messed things up. They aren't taking things to an extreme to make a rhetorical point. They're just repeating what Fox news says on a daily basis.

DJ Dual Core said...

Last night on All Things Considered they read an angry letter from a listener who thought they were too hard on the New Yorker and too easy on satirists targeting President Bush.

That is like saying to our kids "Be supportive and respectful of bullies. Then, if you see anybody trying to make friends with a popular kid go tell 'em they're ugly."

Habladora said...

Jon Stewart thinks I'm wrong, and while I still maintain that this cartoon is terrible, his take-down of the media's hypocrisy (here) is genius.

Kandee said...

"You can't joke about race by being more over-the-top racist than the 'actual bigots' when there are still people being violently attacked because of their race." - DEAD ON!

Renee said...

You can't successfully satirize sexism by portraying violence against women. And you can't satirize the hateful rhetoric being used against the Obamas by merely repeating it.
Exactly the point. I had one commenter on my blog justify this as saying it worked because there are elements that true. To assume that everyone will "get it" is wrong. All the New Yorker did was perpetuate lies and misinformation to make a profit.