Sunday, June 09, 2013

What does Satire do?

Satire as genre in visual art, performing arts and in literature is used to ridicule society's shortcomings, vices, mores and conventions. While it HAS to be FUNNY, it's main goal is constructive, to give chance to the satirized to REFORM themselves.

Satire in the Western Canon is from the Romans like Horace and Juvenal whose styles set the standard for satire throughout history. My favourite satirical work is Petronius Arbiters' The Satyricon which I first read while attending the University of the Philippines. It is a major work of literature for the single reason that it satirizes Roman society of the first century AD as well as giving linguists a clue on how colloquial Latin was spoken. The chapters on Trimalchio's Dinner Party are hilarious to the extent that F Scott Fitzgerald once considered "Trimalchio" as a possible title to his novel which eventually became "The Great Gatsby"

Satire ridicules the pompous and the holier than thous and is most devastating to social climbers. In fact social climbers and careerists are shredded by satire most effectively, a fact not lost on the Philippine's premiere satirist, Dr Jose Rizal who in Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, shreds the friars, social climbers and the gamut of Philippine colonial society and of course the Royal and Pontifical University!

And so when we read that a comic strip artist in a point of satirical effort, makes a joke in the characters of fictional fat characters, about lesbians in a  Catholic all girls school, the paper publishing the strip suspended the artist.

On threat of a lawsuit. But then again, lawsuits and lawyers are fair game for satirists as well as nuns and priests! The Pope not excepted by satire but recent satire on the Pope is more of the Horatian kind (gentle and constructive) rather than the Juvenalian kind. Remember the "Pope must Diet"? Robble Coltrane satirizes not the goodness of the Pope but the badness of people managing the Pope!

Rizal had no choice but to be Juvenalian. And for that he was shot! At least the comic strip artist was just suspended.

Of course there will be the offended. The politically correct, the pompous, the holier than thou, and the wealthy. But that is what satire is all about.

Only idiots need the warning that what they will read is a satire. Perhaps this is to avoid a lawsuit. But satire is no drug and does not require a BFAD warning. It is a work of art and has to be protected by rights to free expression.

Perhaps the Filipino people did Rizal wrong. They turned his satires into Holy Gospels and the satirist into a hero!








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