Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast tackles the subject of satire on politics. In his podcast, Malcolm argues that today’s satire on politics has lost its edge due to lacking any bite. For example, Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin was suppose to make fun of her for being extremely unqualified to be vice president. However, instead of focusing so much on her ignorant comments, Tina Fey focused on Sarah Palin’s quirks such as the way she talks. Tina Fey impersonated Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live (SNL) with the real Sarah Palin as a co-host. Taking the focus off of Sarah Palin’s inadequacy and putting it on her mannerisms, gushing about Sarah Palin in an interview, and Co-hosting with Sarah Palin on SNL took all the bite out of the satire of her impersonation. Those who already had the opinion that Sarah Palin was unqualified for vice president saw the criticisms of the satire, but those who supported Sarah Palin did not. They saw the pleasant mannerisms and Sarah Palin as a likable person. One with a sense of humor and who was in on the joke as she hosted SNL with her impersonator. Therein lies the satire paradox. That a satire can be interpreted both ways depending on the opinions of the viewer, thus it has no influence or impact on the viewer. Malcolm Gladwell argues that the reason satire lost its bite and thus ability to impact a viewer is because the main job of comedians is to entertain. As a consequence of comedians’ focus on entertaining, much of the criticism in their satires either become lost or watered down. To cater to the satire paradox is ideal if the goal is to run a profitable entertainment business, such as SNL, which is probably why the satire in our media is watered down.
I agree with Malcolm Gladwell’s assessment of satire. In order for satire to be effective, it has to have bite. It can not water down the criticisms in an effort to be more entertaining. However, we are not likely to see biting satire in our political entertainment because it is in those entertainment industries’ best interest to cater to the satire paradox rather than using satire as an effective way to impact viewers’ perceptions.