Atlanta: A Satirical Look at Reparations

The show ATLANTA follows an up-and-coming rapper and his group from Atlanta, Georgia trying to make it big in the music industry.  But this seemingly innocent plot is precisely why ATLANTA feels different when watching it.  The show takes events and stereotypes in real life and completely flips our original perception of them.  By using realism in how they shoot and make different scenes they then add surrealism to the story which creates a new experience that forces you to look at old ideas and stereotypes in a new light. 

In the third season, there is an episode called, “The Big Payback,” where a whole new cast is introduced and no context is needed from the previous storyline.  It takes place in a time when reparations for African American enslavement are legal and white people are being sued for millions of dollars.  The episode follows a white guy named Marshall who is partially divorced, makes a middle/upper-class income, and most importantly minds his own business.  All aspects of his life start to flip when his job starts laying off people whose ancestors were not enslaved.  A white coworker looking at her DNA chart yelled, “100% Nordic! Are you kidding me,” then a black coworker passed by and laughed.  She snapped back at him and said, “This concerns all of us Will,” and he replied, “No it don’t Ash.”  This satirical hyperbole exposes how white people have ignored the repercussions of slavery by having exactly what happened to many black fathers start to happen to Marshall.  By completely going into a very uncomfortable topic and juxtaposing our original perceptions of what reparations mean to African Americans we can gain a fresh new perspective on the awkward situation between people.

Despite his job being on the line Marshall isn’t very concerned with what’s going on until after he gets home that night.  A black woman named Sheniqua Johnson showed up at his house and sued him for giving her $3 million because his family owned her ancestors.  In the scene, she storms into his house claiming it was hers, and starts rambling on about how nice of a house he has so therefore he must have money to pay her.  This flip of the narrative traces back to how white people arrived in Africa and bought slaves without their consent.  Marshall eventually gets her out of his house but is very confused about how or why this is happening to him.  Eventually, he loses his job, custody of his daughter, and social life in the span of a day just as Sheniquas ancestors went through.  Marshall is initially very angry because he didn’t do anything to deserve the treatment he’s getting, this exposes the feelings African Americans went through even after slavery.  To African Americans, slavery still haunts them in ways that only they can see, Marshall gives us another perspective of how he feels when he gets taken advantage of for something he couldn’t prevent.  

ATLANTA pokes fun at the idea of how serious reparations mean to African Americans.  By using a very realistic scenario in a very surreal way we can uncover a layer behind the scenes of ordinary life.  It’s only when this superficial layer is broken down that we can see Marshall’s perspective just as well as Sheniquas’s.  Bringing this surreal scenario to life in a modern-day outlook toy’s with our minds in more ways than some jump scare movies.  Because of course, African Americans would never just start suing white people for reparations because they didn’t do anything to deserve it.  But just as their ancestors were forced into enslavement and were caused much harm in systematic ways to this day, it makes you reconsider and think more deeply about why they are asking for these levels of compensation.

Bojack Horseman: A Satirical Take on the Dark Side of Hollywood Entertainment Industry

Bojack Horseman is a TV show comedy that goes over issues in Hollywood like substance abuse and lack of stability. The show follows the story of Bojack, a former star of a known comedy sitcom in the 1990s. After the show is discontinued, Bojack lives a life of excess and self-hatred. The show is set in a world where animals with human characteristics live alongside humans and it combines comedy and serious topics to shine a light on the dark side of the rich and famous and the Hollywood entertainment industry.

Irony, hyperbole, and parody are all used as satirical techniques to bring out truth in the show. Irony often takes seemingly innocent cases and turns them around to reveal a darker truth. For example, Bojack’s cheeful catchphrase from his sitcom, “What is this, a crossover episode?” is repurposed in the show as a commentary on how the entertainment industry operates, with different characters constantly crossing over into each other’s lives and stealing one another’s  fame.

The show uses hyperbole to exaggerate how extreme Bojack’s downfall in the industry is. In one episode he finds himself living in a rundown house with no furniture and holes in the walls, and in another he is forced to perform in a very small theater in front of a disinterested audience. In addition, Mr. Peanutbutter, a rival actor, experiences sudden changes in his fame, with his career being boosted by an unexpected viral video. After the video, he faced a humiliating public breakup and a decline in popularity. These examples of extreme failure show how people in the entertainment industry are often faced with unpredictable and drastic changes to their fame and their lives.

In addition to hyperbole, parody is used in the show to satirize the entertainment industry’s obsession with perfection and the harmful effects it can have on its workers. In the show, Bojack struggles with addiction and depression, which are exacerbated by the pressure he faces to be successful and respected. In one episode, Bojack attends an award ceremony and takes drugs to numb his anxiety, which leads to him performing a series of self-destructive actions. The show also parodies the industry’s fixation on physical appearance, such as when Diane, Mr Peanutbutter’s ex-wife, goes to Vietnam to help women feel good about themselves by getting plastic surgery. This episode satirizes the entertainment industry’s harmful beauty standards and how they can cause individuals to feel inadequate and unworthy. Drug abuse is also a huge problem in the entertainment industry because performers are under extreme pressure.

Bojack Horseman is not simply making fun of certain people or institutions, but is instead trying to criticize and ultimately change society by shining a light on the negative aspects of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. The show explores the darker side of celebrity culture, showing how competitive the industry actually is, how fame can be dangerous, and how the pressure to be perfect can lead to destructive behavior. The Hollywood entertainment industry is made out to be beautiful and luxurious on television, however, its workers often deal with great instability and mental health issues with constant exposure to the public eye.

Satire in the Office

The Office is an American sitcom and mockumentary that shows the everyday work life of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company employees. The Office portrays the message of understanding and making the best out of situations you are given.

Throughout the nine seasons of “The Office” many forms of satire are used. During the show there is a lot of situational irony because it seems as if it is just a normal boring office space, however the show uses this to mock corperate life. For example in season 5 epiosde 27 “Cafe Disco” from the outside looking in it would seem like a normal office day, however it is quite the opposite as they turned one of the offices into a party room and spent the day there. Furthermore their boss Michael Scott encouraged them to come, which is unlike a normal office. Also in season 5 episode 14 and 15 “Stress Relief” we see a use of hyperbole and sarcasm. During the first part of the episode Dwight puts a fake fire drill on but pretends it is a real fire causing everyone to panic, Dwight made an over exaggeration of the situation, which would not be appropriate in an actual office space. Later they have a roast battle for Michael where all of them use sarcsm and jokes to poke at Michael and makes jokes about him and situations. However through the use of this it mocks the seriousness of how most offics are. Why this is making fun of office culture, it is more then that, it is used to change the view of what offices are really like. It is used to critize the strictness and boriness of offices, and show that it can be made fun.

How Satires Like “The Onion” Bring Awareness To Real Issues

“The Onion” is a satirical news website that creates ridiculous stories in order to prove a point. The website looks and functions just like a normal news website, except all of the news is fake and is meant to be funny. But beyond being funny, each story points out a different problem in society. For example, in the article titled “New HGTV Show Builds Unhoused Families A Kitchen Island”, it says that HGTV debuted a new show where the host finds homeless families in Seattle and “situates them around a fabulous marble countertop island”. Although this is funny because it sounds ridiculous, it also serves a greater purpose, which is bringing awareness to the problem of homelessness. By putting it in a satirical way, it is more dramatic, so it catches the readers attention to make them think about how big of a problem this really is. Along with the housing issue, it also brings attention to the superficial and selfish ways of big companies. This article brings light to how shows like HGTV entertain people with homes, but some people don’t even have homes at all. Altogether, satire can make people think about things in a way that they haven’t thought of them before. This can be harmful depending on how it is done, but I think “The Onion” brings up issues in a powerful way.

Animaniacs and Satire

Animaniacs is a popular cartoon created by Tom Ruegger, originally airing in 1993 and the reboot airing in 2020 on Hulu. The show consists of 3 toon siblings named Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner. They regularly do skits/sketches that comment on celebrities, ongoing issues, politics, etc, but do so in a way that’s more comedic and for all audiences to enjoy and poke fun at. In season 2 of the reboot, there is a sketch that features the Warner siblings recording a video for Youtube that fits the infamous “apology video” concept in today’s era. Apology videos are most commonly done (badly) by influencers whenever they say or do something controversial, then attempting to either excuse their actions or cry on camera often for pity. While there have been some genuine apologies for wrongdoings, the majority of apology videos done by influencers are forced or faked just to deny accusations, and the Warner siblings are very much aware of this problem.

This skit utilizes irony, hyperbole, and parody to draw attention to the problem with apology videos, emphasized by showing exactly what shouldn’t be done. They use dramatic voices, overly sad expressions, not taking responsibility for their mistake, not directly addressing the issue and instead repeating the same things, fake crying, all clearly being a hint that they are faking the whole thing. By using dramatic acting and over-the-top gestures, the audience is able to laugh at how poorly the “apology” is handled, which is unfortunately the reality of many influencers doing apology videos.

UChicago’s Shady Dealer and Devil’s Advocates

In the February 3rd edition of the Chicago Shady Dealer, University of Chicago’s satire campus newspaper, an article is featured announcing a new, fictional class to UChicago. The article, UChicago Unveils New Devil’s Advocate Class, satirizes types of people that commonly get on reader’s nerves.

This article details the aspects of this made up course, such as “rhetorical fallacies, the lived experience of a second years’ thought processes, and hands-on experience being the most punchable motherf*cker in the room”. The article features an interview with fictional student Robert Hutchins III on his intention to take the course. Hutchins says, “The masses often lack the mental capacity to make an educated choice between candidates. Unlike me”. The article is mocking self obsessed people who always seem to think they know better than everyone else. The article is making fun of “that one guy”, who always seem to have the worst opinion on everything and gets on peoples nerves. The article pokes fun at these people and the way they think and act.

The Importance of Horror and Satire

Get out, the psychological thriller directed by Jordan Peele showcases an example of satire in hopes to convince others to open their eyes to the ways history and discrimination is still so prominent in our present society. The story is based on an interracial couple that visits one of the families parents, and the discomfort that follows and later events that turn out to go horribly wrong. The film explores race relationships between white liberals and African Americans that act as though they have surpassed racism, or are understanding and supporting. Although Rose and her family, the white liberals, showcase their infatuation with Chris in many instances, they have an ulterior motive.  

At the start, Rose’s parents appear to be nice people, and remarkably interested in Chris. Rose’s dad is quick to randomly tell Chris that if he could, he would’ve voted for “Obama a third time”.  Her father continues to repeat ideas like this which becomes almost like a parody. This interaction itself doesn’t take long for Chris to recognize the family’s strange behavior. Chris begins to notice the family’s eagerness and overly welcoming behavior. The interactions between Rose’s parents and Chris are certainly unnatural. This idea of liberal racism becomes significantly apparent in the parents’ conversations and objectifications of Chris. Furthermore, the Armitage family acting infatuated in the black culture/appearance, ultimately implying the difference of the two races and leaving a larger discrepancy (like some white liberals in society). 

At one point, Rose’s brother talks about how much he loves Chris’ “genetic makeup”. This horrid comment exemplifies the white people’s perception of black people, and continuous assumptions and racial ignorance. Not only does this put Chris in a very uncomfortable situation, it is uncertain whether they are meaning Chris’s body is superior because of the attributes he carries being a black man. 

Ultimately, Chris’s intuition and suspicions of the family prove to be true. Rose’s mother decides to hypnotize Chris in order to perform a surgery on him that will put somebody else’s mind into his, and trap him in “The Sunken Place”. The hypnosis was significant for many reasons. Firstly, it will make Chris a passive audience, which signifies that in real life media can become passive and essentially control your mind. The bigger representation is a symbol of the family’s hopes to restrain his will and legitimately make him inferior to them. The name itself “The Sunken Place ” signifies pushing one down and sundering one. In addition, when Chris closes his eyes it represents his loss of consciousness, however Peele used this as a way to represent the past of educational rights being stripped from black people. Another important, yet horrid part was the cotton picking scene. This part is ironic because it was what ultimately helped save Chris. Poole transforms a practice once used as a way to oppress, to a more lightning meaning as it enables Chris to survive. Although Chris is able to escape, there is still an underlying uneasiness and everlasting prejudice like in our world today. 

In the end the flash wakes up Chris and many others before that have been hypnotized by the Armitage family. The flash in the film portrays societies’ need to wake up to reality and see these real life problems that are taking place in our world right now.  

Sean Spicer, SNL, and Satire

Saturday Night Live, commonly referred to as SNL has been a hallmark of late night comedy since its inception in 1975. The show features comedy sketches which are usually commentaries on politics, pop culture, and current events. Each episode starts with a cold open that ends with one or more actors breaking character and saying, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!” to officially begin the show. 

The cold open I will be analyzing is the Sean Spicer Press Conference Cold Open from February 11, 2017. The cold open begins with the C-Span intro and logo being played, immediately establishing the skit as a parody of the White House press briefings during the Trump Administration. Spicer famously gave many briefings that were unfounded, or controversial and created a hostile relationship between the press and himself. Spicer eventually resigned as the White House Press Secretary in July of 2017.  

In the skit, Spicer goes into the reading of the president’s schedule and mentions a meeting with a leader from central Asia whose name Spicer cannot pronounce. He is also unable to pronounce the country and city that the meeting is about. He ends by also being unable to pronounce the leader’s wife. Saying instead, “Lets just call her Connie”. 

This is a commentary on many of the Trump administration’s most prominent leaders being overtly racist and insensitive toward minority or non-American groups. While this comment is meant to be funny, it is truly a deeper commentary on the overt racism that was a hallmark of the Trump Administration.  By criticizing this behavior and unwillingness to accept anything deemed “un-American” SNL is making a deeper point about society’s preconceived biases as a whole but also the failure of the Trump Administration to act in a polite and diplomatic manner when dealing with leaders from foreign countries. 

Next, Spicer takes questions from the press including one from the New York Times where he insults and mocks the journalist. The next question comes from someone addressing a comment Trump made about a test for immigrants to see if they truly love America. Spicer addresses this comment by utilizing dolls to show American immigration workers and potential immigrants trying to enter the country. The first example is a Barbie who Spicer describes as a “Nice American girl, back from a dream vacation. We know she’s okay because she’s blonde! Do we understand that? Perfect. Now who’s up next? Uh oh. It’s Moana. Slow down. Then we’re gonna pat her down, then we’re gonna read her emails and if we don’t like the answers (which we won’t!) BOOM Guantanamo Bay!”. 

While these comments are an example of hyperbole through the extreme examples of Barbie versus  Moana and freedom in the United States versus internment in Guantanamo Bay, the underlying message of historically poor immigration policies in the US is being addressed by SNL here. Again, it calls on racial biases that many Americans already had, that were then reinforced by the comments and encouragement by the Trump Administration. If the goal is to call attention to the issue for further discussion, making a bold joke like this one is certainly a way to get people talking about true immigration reform. 

Overall, the sketch is outrageously funny, and in such an uncertain time people needed to laugh at the absurdity of what our leadership had become. SNL frequently takes the opportunity to criticize the government in this way. They make jokes that emphasize real issues like racism, immigration, poverty, sexual violence, etc. all with the goal of getting people to talk about these issues and not being afraid to call out prominent figures when they feel as if they aren’t acting in the most upstanding way. 

Shrek Satirical?

Satire in simple terms is “A form of literary criticism: that uses irony, sarcasm, etc.” Quite frankly it surrounds us in our everyday life, from television advertisements, books, newspapers, and artwork, to children’s movies. Yes, I did say children’s movie.

Shrek” a staple movie in the early 2000s is a trilogy that follows none other than Shrek an ogre whose life is turned upside down by a series of fairy tale characters trying to save their home.

I know our probably thinking “What is satirical about a children’s movie?” Let me explain.

Overview of the scene: Depicts the capture of Princess Fiona by Robin Hood, who mistakenly thinks that the Princess has been taken against her will by Shrek. After “rescuing” the princess, Robin Hood and his Merry Men pause to introduce themselves by performing a ridiculous song and dance number. In the middle of the routine, Princess Fiona screams, “That’s enough!” and attacks and subdues Robin Hood and all of his Merry Men.

So how is it satirical?

Within the scene, many satirical techniques are being used in this situation such as incongruity, reversal, and parody. You see incongruity within the way Fiona uses her hair to punch one of the Merry Men and when they freeze her in mid-air to fix her disheveled hair. The actions are absurd and unrealistic, and they also show a parody of movies like “The Matrix” and “Crouching Tiger” which incorporate martial arts styles and special effects as the scene depicts an exaggeration of different fighting styles. The scene also depicts a role reversal; rather than a damsel in distress being saved by the male hero the roles are being reversed and Fiona is saving/standing up for herself.

While not a perfect example nor is it a realistic depiction of modern gender roles; this scene is a piece of satire as it mocks the outdated societal ideology that women are damsels in distress that needs to be saved by a male hero, an idea that is still a prevalent theme within the media. It also can be viewed as a way to hint at the overuse and dramatization of special effects in modern action movies.

The Ignorance of Peter Griffin

Seth McFarlane’s ‘Family Guy’ is a show, as the name suggests is about a family who lives in the fictional town of Quahog, Rhode Island. It is one of the longest shows still airing with 21 seasons with season 1 airing in 1999. The main character, Peter Griffin, the father of this family is known for his white shirt and green pants, along for being quite stupid and fat, embodying the average american perfectly. This ignorance and coming to conclusions far too quickly, lead to disaster consequences are used to criticize the american population as a whole for drawing conclusions far too quickly. A great example is when Peter and his Family end up visiting the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which Peter doesn’t fully understand, having to be corrected by his talking dog Brian for somehow mistaking it for the location where AIDS was contracted for the first time. After being corrected, he asks is someone from Iraq was responsible, to which Brian responds that multiple people of different nationalities are responsible. Peter then says, “So what you’re saying is that we need to invade Iran?”. This segment criticizes the American population for their long term response to 9/11 along with how we were convinced that we needed to wage war with Iran, which lead to the death of millions of people who had nothing to do with those terrorist attacks. Through stupid, dumb humor, Family Guy is able to convey darker themes about America and its citizens.

Sexist Stereotypes of Women in Tech Jobs

There are many satirical commercials and videos out there but one particular YouTube video by a non-profit organization “Girls Who Code” caught my eye. The video uses ironic responses from women when asked the question: “Why can’t girls code?” to highlight the larger issue of women in tech jobs who face stereotypes daily.

The main technique of satire utilized in this video is irony, as we see that in one of the opening lines a woman responds, “I can’t code because my long eyelashes make it hard to see the screen.” There are many other similar responses from other women in the tech industry who give reasons as to why they can’t code due to their emotional state, makeup, or body. This interview is clearly using irony and parody because while working in a male dominant industry, they are emphasizing how absurd the reasons why women are too incompetent that people come up with are. There is also humor incorporated into this satirical video as one of the women responds, “It’s hard to code when you can’t stop crying.” Every line spoken is comical and is aiming to make fun of the ridiculousness of the idea that women are less capable than men in the tech industry.

The video’s aim is not only to make fun of how absurd the sexism is, but the organization wants to actually criticize the stereotypes they experience at work. Although the video is intended to be funny, the organization ultimately wants the sexist stereotypes to come to an end and they want to spread awareness using ironic content.