Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The fine art of satire .. and going way past the line

For the record, I'm a rather big fan of satire, and I was fairly certain there was nothing left in the world that would offend my sensibilities. And I certainly never thought it would be the rather urbane "New Yorker" magazine that would be the culprit. (That "South Park" joke about the woodland critters searching for someone with AIDS to piss in the eye sockets of Strawberry Shortcake, for example, still just makes me laugh out loud every time I see it.)

Just in case you (mercifully, I would think) live in a realm that's not invaded almost constantly by the buzz of 24-hour news, I've included a picture of the magazine cover that - I will admit - made me laugh for a second before it made me just want to vomit.

Now, I try to keep politics out of this as much as possible, but I'm on the record to anyone who knows me as a pretty big supporter of Barack Obama, having given his campaign a rather sizable chunk of my time already and planning to offer plenty more before this rather fascinating race comes to a close.

And I'm not really sure where to start in criticizing the "New Yorker" cover by artist Barry Blitt. In discussing it at work yesterday (and the fact that I work with very literate and often very funny people almost makes up for the fact that I'm paid on the scale of a 16th-century peasant), the thing that struck us as the most offensive - among many things to choose from - was the way they made Michelle Obama look like Pam Grier in "Coffy."

My bottom line beef with the caricature, however, is that it's not satire. When you just take every hateful rumor you can find and put it into one drawing, you're at best simply out to garner attention (mission accomplished, obviously), and at worst feeding the prejudices you're trying rather unsuccessfully to ridicule.

Now, I've come down from the ledge I was on yesterday of thinking about cancelling my "New Yorker" subscription (to be honest, I'm fairly certain it was a Christmas gift anyway, so I don't even pay for it), and - ironically, I think - I'm rather looking forward to reading the two articles about Mr. Obama that come inside this rather tawdry package.

I just wanted to get a little bile off of my chest before starting the day, so thanks for letting me vent (if you bothered to make it this far), and now - I promise - I'll move on to a couple of much more enjoyable subjects.

More "Mad Men" hype for the Emmys

I have no idea who writes the Hollywood Reporter's "Past Deadline" blog (I couldn't find a name on it anywhere), but I'm extremely jealous of that lucky scribe. Whoever it is managed to get her or his hands on the first two episodes of season two of the simply brilliant "Mad Men" (returning to AMC on July 27) and had this to say:

I just got through watching the first pair of episodes from season two of AMC's "Mad Men," which premieres on July 27. My first observation is one of surprise - not because the quality is still there, but because it actually builds on the breakout promise of season one without painting its vivid characters into caricatures. This is a huge credit to the show's creator, showrunner, head writer and chief neurotic, Matthew Weiner, who clearly hasn't allowed the buzz that's transformed his series into an iconic weekly must-see to go to his head. Indeed, he seems to have pulled back significantly on the soapy elements to guard against that very pitfall. It's more than admirable; it's also rather brilliant.

If it's possible, now color me even more stoked for season two to begin (and I'm certainly going to ask the Telegraph's TV Guy if he managed to get his hands on those episodes and is willing to share.)

The "Past Deadline" blog went on to predict that, when the nominations are announced Thursday, "Mad Men" would walk away with 16 or 17 nominations. That may be wishful thinking, but if it doesn't at least snag a nod for best dramatic series and one for the rather remarkable Jon Hamm it will be a high crime.

"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"

I can't count this as an endorsement since I don't have a computer capable of watching such things at home, so just take this as a heads up that the first of three installment's of Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" is online for free here.

So, what is this rather oddly named creation? Well, all I know so far is that it's a rather silly little Web-only creation by Whedon and his brothers that stars both Doogie Howser and Captain Mal Reynolds. I'll know more after I get to work and finally get to watch this (rather than, of course, working.) Enjoy, and have perfectly pleasant Wednesday. Peace out.


J. Marquis said...

It's good satire. Unfortunately, it was published in a politically ignorant country where half the people get their news from Rush Limbaugh, FOX and e-mails forwarded on by their old cranky uncle Pete.

Splotchy said...

I wasn't all that offended by the New Yorker cover, though I didn't find it particularly amusing, either (I am not often amused by cartoons I find in the New Yorker).

I think the cartoonist Tom Tomorrow has a nice perspective on the cover here. He's also got some more recent posts on his front page which have some of Blitt's other work for the New Yorker. For cartoon controversies, I think hearing what other cartoonists say is the most informative.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with looking like Pam Grier in Coffy!

Coffy is the color of her skin!
Coffy is the world she loves in!

Sorry, I have an unhealthy affection towards Ms. Grier, which temporarily overwhelmed my comment. Carry on.

Reel Fanatic said...

I don't think it's really possible to have too much affection for Pam Grier, Splotchy, so there's certainly no need to apologize

And I think you may be right, Mr. Marquis, that Blitt's work was indeed satire, but like you I'm fairly certain it will just be taken in the completely wrong by the majority of people who come across it

kat said...

I agree that the cover was satire. I didn't find it particularly effective satire, but there you have it. I'm still keeping my subscription to the New Yorker. (Which always renews automatically and dings my credit card all over again before I ever think of un-subscribing.) What I did recently cancel, however, is my TV cable. So catching up on Mad Men will be, for me, further experiences in downloading.

I've been following the folks crunching all the numbers at Gold Derby and Jon Hamm seems assured of a nomination. I believe he and Hugh Laurie are pretty much neck and neck (perhaps slight edge to Laurie) for having the most airtight lock on the nomination. My lead actor drama nomination picks are:

Hugh Laurie
Jon Hamm
Michael C. Hall
James Spader
Bryan Cranston

Please send me an apple pie if I'm right. :-)

Reel Fanatic said...

I have to admit I've only ever seen one episode of "House," Kat, and that was only because I was trapped on an airplane ... I like Hugh Laurie quite a bit, but I just couldn't get into the show one bit, so here's hoping Hamm prevails!

kat said...

I have to admit I've only ever seen one episode of "House," Kat, and that was only because I was trapped on an airplane ... I like Hugh Laurie quite a bit, but I just couldn't get into the show one bit,

Gasp! You wound me!

Reel Fanatic said...

Sorry, Kat ... Medical dramas really aren't my cup of tea, so I was probably just had some preexisting bias against it that I just wasn't able to overcome

Mercurie said...

I have to admit I was a bit shocked by The New Yorker cover. I fear all too much that in this country it could be taken the wrong way!

Jake Mabe said...

To me, the best kind of satire is understated and witty. None of which describes this New Yorker cover. I wasn't offended, and I'm not going to cancel my subscription, but I can see why Obama and his campaign are so upset. I don't know. You gotta figure newsstand sales of the New Yorker will skyrocket this week. Maybe that's the point.

As for "Mad Men," the best part of being home sick this week has been watching the Season 1 DVDs. This show is so damn good. I can't wait for July 27. Simply brilliant.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think you summed up exactly why I couldn't consider this good satire much better than I did, Jake, so kudos for that!

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