satire_definition_todays_generation by ashrafp


									                     SATIRE: THE DEFINITION OF TODAY´S GENERATION

Andres Becerra

A sarcastic tone has been resonating through today’s North American culture. It is present not only in
newspapers, internet, film, and TV, but also in what we hear in everyday talk. United States citizens have
made discussions become a synonym of satire and ridicule. In Wyatt Mason’s 2006 essay “My Satirical
Self: How Making Fun of Absolutely Everything is Defining a Generation” he explains how, nowadays,
americans have a different way of viewing the world and its problems in comparison to other past
generations. By the end of his article he questions whether this sarcastic attitude is one that will stay from
now on as part of our culture, or if it will fade away with time. I definitely would agree with Mason in
saying that this sardonic language is part of our humorous generation, but to what extent is this
acceptable? Should we be “allowed” to make fun, as Mason himself puts it, of absolutely everything? Have
we arrived to the point where nothing is sacred anymore, but just superficial?

Before answering this, we could delve into figuring out how we got to a point where everything is
laughable. I won’t go into the dictionary’s definition of satire, or a brief history in satire (as Mason does
with the Romans, very effectively), however, I believe that there are two reasons why this ironically
humorous attitude is accepted and seen everywhere in today’s world.

The first involves the tolerance that is very commonly spoken of nowadays. This means that every culture
is accepted, everyone is allowed to think as they see fit and this type of freedom of thought is encouraged
and promoted. The amount of different cultures and, subsequently, counter-cultures that we have in the
world is bigger than ever before in our history, and therefore, we are told to be tolerant with all of them.
However, today’s motto of tolerance really winds up with a reverse effect. Many of these culture’s outlines
sound ridiculous when you first hear about them, but if we actually got to know them, we would notice
that they aren’t as preposterous as they seem. If people just accept rather than question different ways of
thinking, they misunderstand them and turn to humor instead.

The second and more important reason refers to technology. I am one of the people who believe
technology exists for the betterment of human interaction and human life. When radio began, and later,
television, it was extraordinary how we could be informed of things occurring in far away places as they
were happening. Nevertheless, these new mediums made it possible for us to witness these events.
During the vietnam war, everyone could be a witness of it, just with the push of a button. Since then, we
have been saturated by these kinds of images of violence, and as time passed, people became more and
more impervious to it. Furthermore, technology has helped us communicate faster with each other and
easier. The second of these terms is what I want to focus on. Making communication easier has certainly
helped us in many ways, but has resulted, however, in the trivialization of human interaction. It is so
simple to make relationships, that we forget how important they are for our well being and these
relationships become trivial and superficial.

Both of these aspects of technology have led human beings to make everything superfluous. The amount
of problems and difficult situations that our beloved world has gone through in the twentieth century, for
example, is not as shocking, now, as it would have been before this technology existed. The sarcastic
attitude, in a way, seems like a response to these problems, a way of facing them, or in some cases,
avoiding them. In an article by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press they report:

“One-in-five members of Generation Next (the generation of which we speak of in this article) say they
have no religious affiliation or are atheist or agnostic, nearly double the proportion of young people in the
late 1980s.” (George and Trimbur, p. 61)

Many more young people today claim that they are not attached to any religion, they are agnostic. To be
agnostic means to not care whether a god does or doesn’t exist. After the amount and size of problems
that human beings have endured over the past century, and the rest of our existence, people have now
reached the phase where they just make fun of it, they don’t care as much. As Mason points out at one
point, there is “a human need to view the most vexing frailties of a culture through the liberating prism of
lampoon” (George and Trimbur, p. 68). Sarcasm is the only way to bare living in the world. People make
jokes about wars, about violence, about religion, about culture, etc.
After this kind of humorous behavior is accepted and digested by the world as a whole, different mediums
begin to build upon them. Audiences everywhere like to read, see and hear these humorous remarks,
even like to make fun of themselves one in a while. So the media, being managed by people themselves,
oblige us. Satire is everywhere in the medium. We can see it on films and TV, read it in novels, essays,
newspaper articles, other news sources, etc. One clear example of satire’s appeal to people is the “Family
Guy” phenomenon. This is an animated series about a family living in a suburb of the United States. It
makes constant references about pop culture, in a very uncomfortably humorous way, and was cancelled
for this very reason after its third season in 2002. However, “after ravenous fans devoured the DVDs of
the Griffin clan's adventures, the network brought the series back – much to the surprise of creator Seth
MacFarlane.” ( This becomes a vicious cycle. People mock different cultures, mediums
(conformed by people) follow this example in order to sell, and when it pushes the limit, people condemn
it, cancel it. However, other people discover that they enjoy this type of humor, so the people that
condemned it, finally accept it. This way, “people” continue to push the boundaries of dark humor, making
it more and more outrageous.

Wyatt Mason, in his essay, points out many satirical writers of our time, such as Tom Perotta, George
Saunders, Francine Prose, and others. I would like to mention, for the sake of this essay, a very effective
and important satirical writer of the twentieth century: Hunter S. Thompson. He has a very famous quote
that pretty much sums up the generation in question and its views of America:

“America... just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy
guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.”

Thompson, with this quote, makes fun of his own country and critiques it in a very compromising way, as
people now everywhere do. His humorous reference to violence evidently brings us back to what was
mentioned before about violence and technology, and supports it even more. Furthermore, it exemplifies
how people live nowadays, mocking something as important and sacred as their own country, and very
few of these actually take action in changing it rather than just sarcastically criticizing.

Mason, near the end of his essay, points out an example of sarcasm inappropriately used from the former
president of the United States, George Bush. This indicates that there are in fact limitations to this
attitude. But I would go further and say that, not only are there limitations in specific events, as Mason
states, but also limitations as to how far we are taking this for it to be considered a trade mark of our
culture. It certainly is easier to laugh at our problems, but if it is a way of not facing them, then we have
definitely crossed the line. This does not only apply to the United States, but it is seen increasingly in
other countries and cultures as well, people joke about the problems that their own countries suffer but
do very little about it. Going back to the article about how the so-called generation next feel about
religion, I would say that this is an example of avoiding a true matter, avoiding questioning ourselves,
because of what the rest of the generation tells us to do: this doesn’t matter, just make fun of it. This is
no way to survive because it is not a way to live, at least not a human way to live. Sarcasm and jokes are
perfectly acceptable, as long as they don’t take away from our humanity.

Works Cited:

- GEORGE, Diana. and John Trimbur. My Satirical Self: How making fun of absolutely everything is
defining a generation by Wyatt Mason. Reading Culture. 7th Edition. 2009. pages 64-72.

THOMPSON, Hunter S. Quotes.

GEORGE, Diana. and John Trimbur. A portrait of “Generation Next”: How young people view their lives,
futures, and politics by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Reading Culture. 7th edition.
2009. pages 60-63.

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