Satire is a form of humor, and is considered the cruelest form of comedy. Satire points out the folly of people, organizations, institutions, and ideas.
Often, satire will use fictional counterparts
of real people as characters, as a parody
of Real Life
. However, a satirical work can also use original characters to explore the foibles or ramifications of an organization or course of action.
Satire often relies on current events, which raises a danger that it won't be appreciated in another era. The poetry of Pope and Dryden satirized English politics of the 18th century, but few would appreciate the humor now. The best satire can still be appreciated on its own merits even after the thing it's criticizing fades from consciousness. Occasionally, a piece of satire regains relevance in similar circumstances; for example, satire aimed at George Bush I
(or, perhaps more justifiably, Richard Nixon
) can often be easily applied to Bill Clinton
; 1990s barbs at Bob Dole were recycled in 2008 to target John McCain.
The Roman poets Ennius and Lucilius are considered the progenitors of the genre, though almost all of their work has been lost. Latin satire was generally delivered in verse, like most literature of the time. It was considered the sole branch of literature native to Rome and there was no Greek equivalent, though some Greek comedy, such as Aristophanes
, had elements that we would consider satiric. Horace
, Persius, and Juvenal
are perhaps the three most famous Roman satirists, ranging from good-natured (Horace disposing of a dreadful bore) to savage (Juvenal's condemnation of sodomites pretending to be philosophers). They are for the most part preoccupied with urban life, morality, and how other people suck.
Literary convention divides satire into the Horatian (good-natured, almost affectionate
, light-hearted, and more likely to view the target as foolish rather than evil
) and the Juvenalian (contemptuous, abrasive, scornful, and outraged, relentlessly mocking a target often regarded as outright evil).
See also Parody
, Meta Trope Intro
. Compare Deconstruction
, as a lot of satire incorporates elements of it.
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Anime and Manga
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei makes dark commentary on general shallowness, escapism, otaku and society in general.
- Kino's Journey basically does this Once an Episode as Kino travels from one city to another. Notably one episode has a democracy where only a single citizen is still alive, all the others having died because of their absolute belief in majority rules.
- Superflat is a Po Mo art movement that was started by Takashi Murakami who was inspired by Hideaki Anno. It sometimes satirizes many aspects of Japan (particularly things sparked by Anime) such as consumerism, the prevalence of Kawaisa, Lolicon, and Fanservice along with the Otaku subculture that is the driving force behind all of them. However, since certain artists associated with Superflat are lolicon otaku themselves, it could also be seen as a form of self-parody. Furthermore, it should be noted that not all Superflat works are satirical in nature - Superflat Monogram, by Murakami and Mamoru Hosoda, for instance, is merely a Louis Vuitton commercial.
- Dada was a Po Mo movement that was a satire of modern art and post-WWI malaise.
- William Hogarth
- James Gillray
- Honore Daumier
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a Deconstruction/satire of Victorian era fiction and values.
- Especially the album "The Blue Lotus", which references the Chinese-Japanese War in the 1930s.
- "The Broken Ear" is a satire of the Gran Chaco War in South America.
- Suske en Wiske
- Tom Poes
- Robert Crumb
- Transmetropolitan: An excessively Juvenalian satire of American consumer culture, Politics, Journalism, Television, Religion, Cyberpunk writing, Utopian futurism and the future in general.
- Not Brand Echh had satires of many MarvelComics comic book heroes as well as a few other companies' characters.
- Judge Dredd is a satire on zero-tolerance policing, with a main character who is a Judge, Jury, and Executioner in a Crapsack World and a decent amount of Black Comedy.
- Lily And The Art Of Being Sisyphus is a hilarious and exceptionally well-made satirical mockery of popular conventions in Harry Potter Fanfiction, the Harry Potter fandom, and the universe of Harry Potter in general. Of special note is the relationship between the Mundane and Wizarding worlds- which is sharply deliniated in the source material and most fanfiction. In the protagonist's eyes there is no divide, and a significant element of the humor stems from everyone around her being unable to pars this.
Films — Live-Action
Live Action TV
- The Daily Show satirizes modern US and global news events, as does the Spin-Off, The Colbert Report. Whether their satire is Juvenalian or Horatian depends on the subject: Fox News Channel? Juvenalian (particularly when it comes to Glenn Beck). Barack Obama? Horatian. George W. Bush? Are we talking 2001-2006 or 2006-2009?note The rest of the media? What are they saying now? Etc., etc., etc.
- Yes, Minister satirized 1980s UK Governmental policy and decision-making. Generally Horatian with occasional dips into Juvenalian territory.
- ...and its Spiritual Successor The Thick of It now satirises UK politics in the 21st century. Purely Juvenalian.
- Veep, Trans Atlantic Equivalent of The Thick of It, is, despite coming from the same crew, surprisingly far less Juvenalian and even moves into Horatian territory, with the politicians and staffers mostly being overworked or likably incompetent rather than scheming sons-of-bitches. It helps that there is no clear equivalent to Malcolm; the Invisible President's messenger to the VP's office is possibly the saddest schmuck in the District (and the District is full of schmucks).
- Brass Eye satirized the reporting methods of 90s UK news media as well as wider social and political issues. Out-Juvenals Juvenal himself.
- Frontline satirized Australian current affairs programmes in the 1990s.
- Have I Got News for You. Fittingly for the editor of Juvenalian satirical magazine Private Eye, Ian Hislop's contributions are toward the Juvenalian end of the scale, while Paul Merton tends more toward the Horatian end when he isn't making plays on words or indulging in surrealism and flights of fancy.
- MadTv: This took Mad Magazine, and put it our television screens in the form of a sketch comedy show.
- Mock the Week
- Ugly Betty satirizes the fashion industry. Horatian.
- Bewitched continually satirizes American conformity, consumerism, and racism. More or less Horatian, per the standards of the day.
- Royal Canadian Air Farce satirized Canadian politics and current events and just about every other aspect of of Canadian life in its long run. It was something of a forerunner for Canadian television and influenced the CBC in particular for a number of years.
- Another Canadian series, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, was a satirical presentation of current events and was shown in a news format. It was known for having strictly Newfoundland performers and a particularly eastern perspective on things.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus
- Spitting Image: satirizing politicians and other celebrities of the day.
- That Was The Week That Was kickstarted the British television satire boom of the 1960s. Juvenalian.
- The "Really!?! with Seth (and Amy)" skit on Saturday Night Live. Constantly points out the absurdity of celebrities or politicians by comparing their actions with how the same actions would affect ordinary people. Typically Juvenalian, although Tina Fey's "Really!?!" to Greece on her first guest appearance in 2008 was more disappointed than nasty.
- Van Kooten En De Bie: Dutch comedic duo satirizing Dutch society from 1964 until 1998.
- The plays of Aristophanes had elements of satire in them.
- Jonathan Swift A Modest Proposal. One of the most Juvenalian works ever produced.
- Edwin A. Abbott's 1884 novella Flatland is a scathing dissection of Victorian class structures, of biological racism and eugenics, and of misogyny.
- The works of Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Rabelais and Voltaire.
- Some of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are satires of government, religion, and other things, often with the assistance of parody and pastiche. Typically Horatian.
- Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote satirizes nearly all of its contemporary examples of literature and theater and ridicules them; also a Juvenalian take of Spanish society at The Cavalier Years.
- The Confidence Man has characters that are satirized expys of 19th-century authors.
- Forrest Gump (the novel, but not the movie) was a fairly biting satire of Americana from the '50s to the '70s. The novel was more Juvenalian, the film being Horatian.
- Its sequel, Gump and Co. was a less-biting satire of the '80s and '90s, including a light dig at the original novel's film adaptation.
- Many of the works of Mark Twain are clear examples of satire — most famously, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (protestations to the contrary on the back cover notwithstanding).
- Andrew Martin's novel Bilton is a satire on lifestyle journalism, involving a rude and alcoholic Marxist intellectual who works at the Daily Globe, a newspaper so swollen and fatuous that it has a supplement listing all the other supplements.
- The Devil's Dictionary, satirizing a wide variety of topics (and Juvenalian to the core). Notably contains an entry on "satire" teeming with sarcastic disdain for those who don't get satire.
- Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock is mocking the hubbub that sprang up when a friend of his cut a woman's lock of hair. Long story short: hair gets cut, war erupts. Very obviously Horatian (the targets of Pope's satire were his friends, whom he thought were making a mountain out of a molehill).
- Tom Sharpe's Wilt, while primarily comic farce, is also a bitter satire on academic bureaucracy and the heirarchy within colleges and universities. The theme is more deeply developed in the later books of the Wilt series, but Sharpe, a veteran of the unglamorous end of British higher education, makes some pretty trenchant points about what education should actually be for, and lays into the sort of people who let ambition, or wooly thinking, or vested interests, get in the way of delivering education to the people who arguably need it most. the Ipford Technical College is there primarily to provide vocational trades education and continuing education to adults who missed out earlier in life: its Principal misses the point entirely and is wasting the budget trying to get the place one step nearer becoming a university, for his personal prestige. Despite the fact this is not what it is intended to be and it is far more effective doing the job it was built for. Interfering politicians, Ministry of Education bureaucrats, political extremists, trendy teachers, ridiculous or grandiose "Mickey Mouse courses" and others who get in the way of the purpose of education are also mercilessly hammered.
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: Very Juvenalian, the novel satirizes Imperialism: The Nautilus itself is a parody of The Empire - a Oddly Small Organization that manages to be a NG Osuperpower, their members only consumes sea products and speak only their own language, but we never know any of them, nameless masses. The only one who matters is Captain Nemo (the Emperor), who claims a entire continent on his name and constantly crosses the Moral Event Horizon for no other reason because he can. The three prisoners personify the attitudes about The Empire of the conquered nations: Aronnax is the high class, who tries to get all the knowledge he can from the Empire, Counseil is the middle class, who passively accepts his loss of freedom as something inevitable and doesn’t want to make a decision without the approval of the high class, and Ned Land is the lower class who rebels constantly and uselessly. However, after seeing Nemo’s Kick the Dog moment with his Weapon of Mass Destruction, the three classes agree that Nemo’s empire is as bad as any other.
- The Manchurian Candidate (the original novel) satirized Red Scare politics of the 1950s and Mc Carthyism in particular. Extremely Juvenalian.
- Beauty Queens is a satire of the media, consumerism and gender roles.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory satirizes parents who coddle and indulge their children, and the spoiled brats that said children become (embodiments of gluttony, greed, pride, and sloth), with a contemptuous, Juvenalian approach as the brats meet a variety of blackly comic fates. The Serious Business of the Golden Ticket hunt and its media coverage come in for gentler, Horatian satire, especially in adaptations. The 1971 and 2005 film adaptations dial back the aggressiveness of the satire with regards to the brats. But the 2013 stage musical not only updates two of the brats to satirize vapid modern celebrity (Violet) and parents who try to excuse a child's downright malicious behavior (Mike) but tightens the screws — several of them suffer karmic Death by Adaptation.
- Punch was a ground-breaking British magazine in the 1800's, including satire of then contemporary society and politics.
- The pornographic magazine Hustler uses satire to express Larry Flynt's beliefs and opinions. Almost always Juvenalian.
- The articles in Private Eye are mostly Juvenalian satire...when they aren't hard-hitting straight-up exposés of real wrongdoing. Sometimes articles do dip into the Horatian (particularly the Prime Minister parodies, which are usually too ridiculous to be truly stinging).
- Al Capp's Li'l Abner is a brutal but comedic satire on society and culture.
- The Dilbert comic strip is a satire of the corporate world. Mostly Horatian.
- Calvin and Hobbes contains a variety of satire. Most often Calvin himself acts as satire of narrow-minded self-centeredness of people or the shallow ethos of the consumer society, sometimes other things. His father's behaviour is often satire of certain kind of parental behaviour. Both of them sometimes offer satire of hobbies taken too seriously (bicycling for Dad and chewing gum for Calvin). And there's more.
- On his radio show, Howard Stern will satirize any number or things he doesn't care for, most notably the hypocrisies of Media WatchDogs.
- Absolute Power, a BBC radio series was a satire on spin-doctoring in modern politics, and media manipulation. The Sound to Screen Adaptation shifted its focus: still satirizing media manipulation, but more in the context of the nature of celebrity.
- Brian Gulliver's Travels is a six-part Setting Update of Gulliver's Travels on BBC Radio 4. It updates the satire to be about 21st century Britain, giving us, for example, Sham, the land of alternative therapies.
- The Web Game developer Molleindustria has specialized in making satirical games with relatively simple gameplay.
- Several of Ralph Bakshi's animated feature films are heavy on satire, particularly Coonskin.
- The Simpsons is one huge satire of late 20th and early 21st century Western society.
- Family Guy, often in the most controversial sort of manner.
- The more recent seasons of South Park usually use satire as their primary source of humor.
- Futurama frequently satirizes aspects of modern life, from our waste and consumerism, technological evolutions to our short-sightedness to relentless and irritating evangelists.
- MAD: Its a spiritual and satirical successor to Mad TV, in the form of an animated sketch series.
- It even had the nerve to ridicule James Cameron's: Avatar.
- Invader Zim: It’s done an excellent job with poking fun at Human Life in the Far-Future, from the most technological of devices and gadgets, to the futuristic of food and drinks ever consumed.
- Even the aspects of daily life in the far-future have devolved into a tortured mockery of itself. In a most Juvenalian manner.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: This show mocks and laughs at American Retro Pop culture, also old fashioned media censorship policies.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation, the direct to video animated film of the series, jabs its toes further into Summertime Activities, such as water fights, boating, including a car trip to a satirical Disneyland Park, Johnny Depp in the form of a skunk cartoon, and even the late 1980s horror films Friday The 13th & The Hitcher.
- Pinky and the Brain
- Looney Tunes pokes its cartoonish fingers at early 20th Century pop-culture, both American & Foreign.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show
- Beavis And Butthead
- TJ Omega has his Plastic Addict series which does this of the bad toys he reviews during them. He's repeatedly pointed out that they're not to be taken seriously and are meant to be entertaining.