Reflecting on Satire and Political Cartoons

by Vince

If you frequent my blog, you know that I post a political cartoon almost every day. I really like Tony Auth and grew up seeing his cartoons in the Philadelphia Inquirer. His cartoons made me think. More importantly, they required questions and background information.

One of my main memories in 5th grade was South Park. I remember my good friend Mike wore the “You killed Kenny” shirt many. I sometimes stop and wonder how South Park is still such a big hit to this day. I, however, don’t really watch the show. It’s flagrant usage of lewd language and imagery turns me off but I appreciate its foundation. It’s foundation is almost a form of hathos, meaning a compulsion of revulsion. We want to turn away but for some reason can’t. Know the feeling?

South Park, just as the Daily Show with John Stewart or Thank You For Smoking, serve to a varying degree as satire. Satire takes a tough, stern, or serious topic and wraps it with a blanket of humor. When the teachable moment arises, I mention to the students that for you to understand these shows, movies, or forms of media, you have to have an understanding of the times. Satirists on cable news stations often pore over historical facts, contemporary happenings, or cultic fascinations. That truly is a lot to keep up with but somehow is all weaved together into a picture or a 2 minute sketch.

To a degree, political cartoons or such satirical musings can reach a level of esoteric understanding, one that only a layer of wonks or nerds may comprehend. In the end, I see one more reason for social studies classes to be valued in our school systems: for the sake of our upcoming generations ability to wade through propaganda, separate satire from fact, and truly truly enjoy a few healthy laughs and chuckles.

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