Can someone explain satire?

At school our next topic in English will be satire… i have only had satire explained me to me in a really basic way before; making fun of human’s follies.

Can someone give me some clear cut examples and a bit more of an explaination?

“A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.”

Or: “Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.”

For example: Being There, starring Peter Sellers, is the story of a man (Sellers, as “Chance the gardener”) who is “mentally challenged”. He’s been taken care of by an older gentleman all his life, and knows nothing of the outside world. When the man dies, Chance is thrust out onto the street and into the World. He is involved in an accident and is taken into the home of a wealthy and powerful individual. The people he meets are clueless about his retardation and see him instead as profound. The film points out the foibles of the world of “power and money”, portraying the rich and powerful as too gullible to recognize retardation even when it stares them in the face.

Politics is an easy target for satire. In Moon over Parador Richard Dreyfuss is a dead ringer for a dead dictator. One scene involves the island’s “election”. There is a poster of the dictator’s face on a blue background and the same poster right beside it with a red background. Two locals are talking about how they will vote. One says he is thinking of voting Blue this year, while the other says he is going to vote Red – completely ignoring the fact that they are voting for the same man. (You can make your own comparisons between the Republicans and Democrats.)

Or you could come up with a story about a country bumpkin who manages to become the leader of a richa and powerful country. The Bumpkin could have “handlers” who try to keep him from embarassing himself and the nation, but the Bumpkin will always come up with a way to thwart them.

South Park is also a good source of satrical comment on today’s issues. (Well, it used to be – It’s a bit uneven of late.)

Satire is used to attack a position. Take war, for example. Catch 22 is a satire on the military and war in general. In war, nonsensical things happen. Catch 22 takes these nonsensical occurances and attitudes and turns them into standard operating procedure, thus showing the absurdity of war. Or pick greed. Or capital punishment. Or whatever. Satire is skewing the perspective to make the issue you are attacking seem absurd.

I’ve got to get some caffiene…

My Art of Satire professor definied saitre as: “making vice look ridiculous.” In this literature class, we struggled all semester with whether or not there was an implied virtue that complimented each attacked vice, which this definition would imply the existence of. Most of the semester he shortened the definition to “making fun of something you don’t like.”

Please watch “The Producers” for a simultaneous lambasting of both Broadway’s denizens and the Nazis. One of satire’s most potent features is irony. Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” exploits this fact in spades.

Many cartoons are based on satire. The first that came to my mind was Lil Abner, but that goes back many years. More contempory examples would be Doonesberry and Wizard of ID

Satire is what closes on Saturday night.

Read Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal-the classic, definitive satire.

Tom Lehrer wrote satirical songs, which are in many cases extremely biting. “So Long, Mom, I’m Off to Drop the Bomb” and “Folk Song Army” are topical examples. “The Wienerschnitzel Waltz” and “My Home Town” are satires of certain kinds of songs and the attitudes they embody.

“The Old Dope Peddler” deserves a special mention. Lyrics and comments here:

A reviewer said “Mr. Lehrer’s muse is not fettered by such inhibiting factors as - taste”. LOL!