Is this 14 seconds feminist or misogynist? You tell me.
This semester in class my co-instructor critiqued The Daily Show and our students informed her that it was a form of humor called “satire.” (Our students apparently think we’re idiots.) If it’s funny, so the refrain from many students goes, it’s exempt from critique. This is doubly true if it’s satire and triply true (at my institution) if the object of critique is politically liberal (e.g., Dave Chappelle or Steven Colbert).
Students then defend these satirical messages based on (1) the intentions of the producers or (2) the “true” interpretation.
“See, they aren’t really saying that Coulter is a frigid bitch that no one wants to fuck anyway, they’re just commenting on the fact that she is perceived as a frigid bitch that no one wants to fuck anyway!”
It’s not misogyny, apparently, it’s feminism. *confused face*
You might remember that this was the defense for the Observe and Report rape scene:
“See, he’s a jerk, so when he does it, it’s something that jerks do… meaning that it’s not good. Funny!”
Perhaps, however, intentions and best interpretations are less important than actual audience perceptions.
In a recent research project LaMarre, Landreville, and Bean (2009) looked at audience perceptions of The Colbert Report. They found that, while political liberals largely understood that Colbert was joking, but political conservatives were likely to think he was serious, if funny. From the abstract:
…political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert’s political ideology… [T]here was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements.
As much as I enjoy The Colbert Report, I think it is dangerous to rest our political hopes on satire and it’s arguable that shows like The Family Guy may be doing more harm than good.
Hat tip to Unapologetically Female.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.