I wrote a post on Friday https://wakinguponthewrongsideof50.com/2023/01/20/anything-can-happen-friday-unlikable-female-protagonist/ that talked about a trigger warning in the Hulu streamed film Not Okay. After one of my blog friends pointed out that the film was supposed to be a satire, (which I disagree with completely) there was discussion that the trigger warning was satirical. So lets talk about this.

WARNING- THERE WILL BE SPOILER SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW PARTICULARS ABOUT NOT OKAY, READ NO FURTHER. I’LL FORGIVE YOU

What is SATIRE?

Per New Oxford American Dictionarythe use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize stupidity or vices

Does Not Okay fit that definition of satire?

I don’t think so. I think the opening scene does show an ignorant character. She does say some stupid things. However, I did not view it as the filmmakers being satirical- I found it to be a judgement more than anything else, more of a mock than a satire.

What is to mock?

Per New Oxford American Dictionarytease or laugh at in a scornful or contemptuous manner

Is there a difference between mock and satire?

I think to satirize is to exaggerate something so people can see how ridiculous something is- I don’t necessarily think it is done with spite or malice. I think mocking is mean spirited and passive aggressive nasty.

Why do I think the movie is not a satire?

The character says stupid things and is ignorant of many things, including her own privilege. You do chuckle at her in the beginning, but her behavior after that is more contemptuous. You don’t like her and it’s no longer funny- it’s just not a character that you want to like. Not liking a character because she makes poor life choices and decisions is not satire.

If a movie is a satire, does the theme need to carry through from start to finish?

When I think of Dr. Strangelove or more recently Don’t Look Up or The Menu, the theme is carried through from start to finish. There is no doubt what you are watching is satire, and at least in the case of Dr., hilariously funny. The movies end in the most ridiculous ways possible. In Not Okay, the ending is sad. There is no funny or satirical overtone- it is straight up contempt for the main character, the unlikable female protagonist. Can it be a satire if it doesn’t end satirically?

If the content warning was supposed to be a joke, should they have included TRAUMA in the warning?

This is why I think it was done intentionally: trauma is something that would be put in a content advisory, because there are people who really want to know this. If the unlikable protagonist was supposed to be funny, wouldn’t it have been in bad taste to include them in the warning together?

Your turn:

  1. How do you define satire?
  2. What are the best satires you’ve seen/read?
  3. Do you think because someone says that something is satire, that it really is satire, or does it have to pass the smell test?

35 thoughts on “Satire

  1. So I haven’t seen this movie that you’re talking about but I have taught satire in the past and so technically satire does not have to be funny. Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal shows this type of satire. I think he suggests eating babies arm as a way to solve some type of problem from back in the day of course eating babies is not funny, but it is ridiculous, thus it is satire.

    I think in modern day media we have come to view the other types of movies that you mentioned, The Menu and Don’t Look Up as the standard for what satire is, but again, satire doesn’t have to be funny all the time.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I get that it doesn’t have to be funny, but there should be nuance…like I said to Deb…it’s like the author and reader are in on the same secret. I’ll give you bits…in the beginning of the movie the protagonist, who’s a graphic designer, submits an article to her boss cause she wants to write. She says bizarre things about why her life is hard, like she’s on the wrong subway line to be cool in bush wick and she was on a cruise on 9/11 so she didn’t get to bond with her peers. This may or not be satire. Then she wants to skip work so she fakes going to a writers conference in Paris. She fakes a photo of herself at the arc de triumphs at 913 and then there’s a terrorist attacker at 915. She then plays person who was there, befriends a girl who survived a school shooting, then gets found out, doesn’t know if she learned a lesson, wants to atone to shooting survivor so goes to a place where survivor is speaking, and without knowing unlikable is in audience, calls out people who fake things. I don’t satire from this.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I, too, have not seen Not Okay, so I can’t comment on that, but I agree that someone claiming that something is a satire, or funny, or a work of art, does not necessarily make it so. I like using a clear, common definition like what you used from the OED, and I would agree with Kegarland that satire does not mean the work has to be humorous and I’m saddened that words have lost their nuanced meaning… Yes, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is a satire but so is George Orwell’s 1984.
      And part of losing the sense of the word would include only describing our silliness or vices rather than using wit or irony to unmask or discredit them?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. There’s a cute little essay that is often attributed to Mark Twain (though I read it’s not by him at all) about why we need so many pesky letters. Why do we need silent k-s and g-s and p-s and gh-s and why do we need all three: c, s, k when we really could do with less? And over 2 or 3 paragraphs he shows what happens as we get rid of those “pesky” extras, and by the time we’re done getting rid of them all, what remains is not comprehensible at all 🙂

        I once tried a fat-free brownie. My conclusion is that there’s a really good reason why there’s fat in brownies 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  2. LA, in my most sincere voice I have to say this is too much thinking for 5AM! I will pick out two things that you mention though- the use of the word ridicule in defining satire as it applies to your entire definition of mocking. Ridicule is contemptuous behavior so Technically they seem interlocked for me. In short, I cannot argue that satire and mocking are separate. They could be considered the same depending on how much you want to push your personal POV.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Satire has a nuance…almost like breaking the fourth wall and being one with the audience saying…right…I know this is silly and extreme, but you know what I’m saying. Mock is to judge…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course I know and entirely embrace your deep thinking. I just may need to read later in the morning when it’s this deep! Hey, can you add a trigger warning for these type of posts…;)

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Satire is generally considered the lowest form of comedy. It is considered insulting and was raised to an art form by people like Groucho Marx and Don Rickles who some would actually ask to insult their spouses.
    But there is a difference between now and then to say the least. I didn’t see this movie, nor do I intend to and maybe it was made as a satire. But from what you wrote this brings satire to a real low. Funny is funny but stupid is stupid. As for its entertainment value, I guess that is a matter of personal taste.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I watched this movie when it first came out. I definitely saw it as a form of satire. It was disturbing to say the least because it blatantly revealed just how absurdly shallow a large portion of our youthful society is. I thought it was well acted and quite an interesting film. But I definitely saw it as satire. Satire mocks and ridicules human behavior.. The main protagonist in this film was so out of touch with reality yet still had some likable characteristics, and I think learned from her experience. All these elements makes the person watching the film think more deeply and that is exactly what satire is supposed to do. It wasn’t slapstick . In my opinion It was a modern take on satire.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. But it doesn’t really mock her from a satirical standpoint. In the beginning the editor tells her she’s crazy for thinking it’s bad that she was in a cruise during 9/11. There’s contempt for her character from the beginning. No one likes her tolerates her behavior. In a satire, others would be going along for the ride for the ridiculous behavior…the mag would have printed her story. She gets found out because her one co worker really doesn’t like her. If it’s satire it’s really really bad. Plus…degrading to include trauma and unlikeable character in the samevthing. Are they mocking survivors of mass shootings?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I remember the film correctly, I think they are mocking the shallowness of influencers. There are three main types of distinct satire. But, satire doesn’t have to follow one particular way to still be considered satire. In today’s world satire can be less melodramatic or more so. It can be open to interpretation . I saw this as satire. No the film isn’t mocking survivors. But rather those who who are unable to feel empathy.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I honestly don’t remember what the content warning said. Just that it was a disturbing movie in a lot of ways. But I thought it might be effective for young people to see. Now I’ll have to rewatch and look for the warnings. But we can certainly agree to disagree. BTW, I never found Don Rickles to be satirical. His humor was just comedic attacks. This was very different. Actually, if it were a stage play in the 1970’s it would have been categorized as Theatre of the Absurd.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. LA, you have really methodically worked through this. I haven’t seen the movie, but it doesn’t sound like satire and it doesn’t sound like humor. It does sound like a movie I would never want to see. Good satire? The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I agree with your definition regarding the differences between mocking and satire. Having said that, some of the best satires I have seen have been mocumentaries (“Best in Show” being an excellent example). Which kind of muddies the waters a bit…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not really. Like I said to someone else…good satire is almost like breaking the fourth wall…the author and the reader are in cahoots…they know it’s exaggerated and they’re winking at each other in recognition. Guest clearly was winking at the audience in best. Which is an incredibly funny movie

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I like your distinctions between satire and mocking.

    Btw, I just googled “Not Okay unlikeable female protagonist” and, apparently, it was satire. You weren’t the only one puzzled by the “trigger warning” and who took to the internet to discuss. I, for one, was happy to find out that it was a joke.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See…I don’t think it was originally a joke. The warning reads trauma, ufc. The trauma in the movie is a school shooting. To include that in the content advisory is insensitive at best…I don’t know how they thought the way it was worded was a joke. I think it was a lame apology to something stupid

      Liked by 3 people

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