What is Satire, its History and Satire Examples

Satire is a way of writing that points out society’s flaws using mockery. This mockery is often cloaked in humor. Shows like, The Simpsons, Family Guy are classic satire examples.

Democracy these days!  What? What are we talking about? We’re talking about satire. If you have the nocanlaughonirony syndrome (it’s a fairly old disorder), it is the cure. It’s the funny stuff in short but now, let’s just jump into the well, shall we?

What Wikipedia says about satire is –

“Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes in graphics and performing arts in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, , government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society. Satire and sarcasm can be compared in one way or the other as both use wit to convey the message but the former is different from sarcasm in many ways. We can say that sarcasm is a ‘personal thing’ whereas satire is a ‘social’ one.

Well, sometimes some people do things for their personal gains on the expense of others, and some people (known to us as intellectuals), like exploring such individuals and their mindsets. But as these sneaky mind freaks take a long way round a straight thing; they invented satire. Why? Because being too straight forward in an unfair world gets you, wait for it, “HaNed Starked!!!” (If you don’t know what that means, you’re not living in the Disney world).

Satire is a way invented by them to beguile the masses and to expose and ridicule the bull shitters. The use of irony and exaggeration is common in satirical creations. The purpose of satire however, is not limited to just expose. Its aim is to correct the exposed follies and to bring about change.

Now, let’s talk about the history of satire, shall we?

The world satire comes from the Latin word Satura, which translates to “dish of mixed fruits”, hence a medley. Which can further be Earliest examples of satire are “Satire of trades” written in Egyptian at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. It claims that students are far better than the rest of the bunch and ironically, its readership consisted of students bored of reading hence, satire of the trades.

Satire has come a long way since. There have been a lot of writers who have commented on the social issues of their time and have burn about great changes.

If we’re talking about classics, there is a long list of writers that you can check out to get a taste of satire and its brilliance. Some of the greatest satirists of all times are Aristophanes, Plato, Juvenal, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Nikolai Gogol, Lewis Carol, Flannery O’Connor and I can go on forever.

If we’re talking about satire in performing arts, there are stand up comedians like Bill Hicks, George Carlin, David Chappell, Louie C.K; who discuss the current society and all the bat shit stuff people do in it, in a satirical way. We love what they do. It’s funny as hell, but it also makes us think.

Making us think; that’s the purpose a satirist has in his/her mind (or money..who knows!). The best explanation for his/her work is that he/she, wants us to change. They see something that they think society can do without, and they don’t just come up to us and rub it in our faces.  They make an art out of it and serve it with caution (Well, maybe not always!). A pleasant way to reform isn’t it?

I can’t help but remember Charlie Chaplin in his political satire “The great Dictator”. There is a man pointing out the follies of an unjust emperor and his posse, even when the United States of America was still formally in peace with Nazi Germany. But that is what a satirist does. He/she takes on the issues; society is too polite to discuss and make a joke out of it, all the while ensuring that a message is sent. A message that the evil has been sensed, the crack has been spotted, the villainy has been detected; and reform, is on its way.

Examples of Satire

Television is also a great medium for satire. Shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Daily Show, The Colbert news, South Park etc. are good satire examples. The shows discuss the various social issues like politics, effect of technology, moral decay, terrorism, ( Global issues like twerking), and all the lack of actual human interaction even when we have the frigging internet. (Sorry for the language just now)

Simpsons- a popular satirical TV show

Simpsons- a popular satirical TV show

caricature gillray plum pudding satire example

people runnung free earth satire image

Well, we all enjoy satire. Who doesn’t love a good laugh right? But the question that comes up is; do we really give a thought to the issue that is raised? And even if we do, do we actually do our part to correct the situation, or just think for a sec and then forget about it.     

Whatever the answer to that question might be, satire without a doubt is something we can all appreciate. The above illustrations of satire that were an integrated part of our literature and history just prove that.  And if you observe closely, you might find the ironies of your life. We can all start with self-improvement.