I don’t know if I’m the only person who feels this, but I’m a little bit exhausted of hearing about Donald Trump. It’s not even so much that I’m tired of Trump himself. Rather, I’m sick of seeing his presence everywhere on TV and the internet.
Every late night comedian seems to have their own take on the accent. Some go even further. Jimmy Fallon dons an orange wig for some of his sketches, and Comedy Central even has a whole show devoted to mocking President Trump that is separate from The Daily Show.
Ever since Trump descended from his golden escalator on June 16, 2015, it has been a near constant barrage of words like “yuge” and “bigly.” There have been so many exaggerated predictions and “humourous” sketches about how ridiculous this administration is, and yet they keep being surpassed. What, then, is the value of all this satire? At this point, we must ask ourselves whether this satire is valuable or even necessary.
There are two important criteria to consider when it comes to creating meaningful satire.
These are by no means definitive but should act as guidelines. The most important element is to consider who or what the piece is attacking. Is it punching up at those who have abused their power or down at those who have none? By extension, does it seek to raise the voices of those who are forgotten, or does it merely reinforce those who are already accounted for?
For instance, we can view the SNL “Black Jeopardy” sketch with Tom Hanks as an example of good satire. In the original sketch, the main conception is that white and black Americans have different answers to the same questions. In this update, Tom Hanks plays a member of Trump’s base. The host of the show is surprised to find that Hanks is actually answering most of the questions correctly. The sketch shows that many of the same socioeconomic factors that hurt African Americans are the same as those that have hurt poor whites. It attacks the system of inequality and seeks to enhance the voices of the powerless who do believe that they are the “forgotten men and women.”
Most satire, however, does not reach this level of sophistication, and that is where the issues lies. This current administration thrives on how ridiculous it is and how one cannot tell the difference between reality and reality television. Satire relies on exaggeration, and as such the already ridiculous state of American politics is pushed toward extremes that are as nonsensical as they are misguiding.
The policies of this administration pose serious threats to the bonds that keep the United States free and united. By simply laughing at the ineptitude of those in power, we fail to recognize the systems that allowed men such as President Trump to obtain power in the first place. We mistake a hydra for a snake. It is only through diligent and decidedly unfunny work that we can challenge an administration that lives off of scandal and spectacle. Only then we can laugh.