Satire must rank among the most misunderstood genres. So often, books and memes and shows that are merely snarky or rude are labeled as ‘satirical’. My guess is this is an attempt to make them seem clever, or less mean.
Good satire, says Carl Hiaasen, comes from anger. ‘It comes from a sense of injustice, that there are wrongs in the world that need to be fixed.’
Satire is also often confused with parody. While both satire and parody are funny (or at least, are intended to be!) they are quite different in their aims.
Parody vs. Satire
Parody is about imitating the style of something or someone in an amusing fashion. Think Weird Al’s songs, or movies like Scary Movie, or books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Satire is about exposing social problems. It criticises powerful individuals or institutions through humour, irony, or ridicule. It is a form of social criticism which lays bare corruption and vices. Think Gulliver’s Travels or Animal Farm.
The right target
Importantly, good satire aims at those who hold power. While a satirical work may take aim at a single institution or individual, it is usually as a metaphor for society. Highlighting the areas we could all improve upon through the illustration of one person. Even though satirical works, like parody, aim to make the reader laugh, the ultimate goal is to make the reader think.
A philosophy of ethical satire
Carl Hiaasen’s quote describes much of why I write. A sense of injustice. Of wrongs in the world that need fixing.
This is the philosophy that informs almost everything I write – fiction, and non-fiction.
Satire, to me, is about pointing out real flaws in a powerful individual, group, or institution.
Not attacking the weak.
Not spreading misinformation.
Not tormenting or abusing.
But attempting to make the world a better place.
By inviting readers to consider the world from a different perspective.
By learning – and having fun along the way.
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