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An In-depth Understanding of the Types of Satire With Examples

Satire is and always has been a widely used tool of expression through various media. Read on to know more about it in this Buzzle post.

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“If you have to explain satire to someone, you might as well give up.” Barry Humphries Satire is a popular, effective, but often misunderstood genre. It is often confused with sarcasm and irony, and while there is a significant overlap between the three, especially the former, satire is an independent entity that needs no introduction. Let’s take a closer look at this rather intellectual and often confusing way of expressing your opinion. What is Satire?

Satire is, according to Merriam Webster,

Humor shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc. Though this dictionary definition seems so simple, satire is much more than that, as opposed to sarcasm, caricature, or parody, which are usually just tools to point and laugh at some entity; the shaming by satire is meant to change the described situation. It is the intention of satire that sets it apart from these closely related genres. In other words, satire is often a gentle plea or reminder to bring about a situation where satire won’t be relevant. Satire, as a genre, is based on a different parameter than sarcasm, caricature, and parody and can thus overlap with them. A caricature (such as the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons and the numerous consequent depictions of Muhammad) or a parody (such as Monty Python’s Life of Brian or the religion of Pastafarianism) can be excellent works of satire while still being caricatures and parodies as well.

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Also, while humor is the primary tool and intention of sarcasm, caricature, and parody, satirical works are not necessary. This is explained in further detail in the next section. Types of Satire There are, broadly, two forms of satire: the one that makes you laugh and makes you cringe. The first one, called Horatian satire after the Roman satirist Horace, relies mainly on lighthearted humor and wit, too, often self-deprecatingly, point out the silly notions or mistakes in a particular constructor agenda. In contrast, Juvenalian satire focuses on exposing an evil or a folly in the structure that results in mistreatment and cruelty. Juvenalian satire is, thus, much more direct and ruthless than Horatian satire.

► Examples of Horatian Satire

As mentioned before, Horatian satire is the more cheerful form of satire and incorporates much more comedy than Juvenalian satire. It is meant to draw attention to the ridiculousness in a particular concept by (usually) exaggerating it to the point of absurdity.

➙ Excellent examples of Horatian satire in the film are the movies Dr. Strangelove (“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”) and Monty Python’s Life of Brian (“He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”), which exaggerate the machinations of particular, socially relevant concepts to show their ridiculousness. With its stirring climactic speech, the Great Dictator is also an excellent parody-satire, contrasting Hitler’s hateful message against the Jewish Barber’s moving final speech.

➙ Another apposite example is the Ig Nobel Prizes, which award trivial scientific achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think”―the perfect definition of Horatian satire!

➙ The Onion, “America’s Finest News Source,” is a long-running, extremely popular, and brilliantly performed example of Horatian satire. Most of the ridiculous scenarios in The Onion news pieces are meant to comment on the absurdities of various political, economic, and social factions and their stances; the rest is just for laughs and can be classified as parody, just plain teasing.

➙ Animation shows such as South Park (“Wow, cartoons are getting really dirty!”), The Simpsons (“I get my news from the internet, like a normal person under seventy.”), and Family Guy (“Christians don’t believe in gravity.”) often employs satire in humorous ways to draw attention to a socially relevant issue.

➙ Pastafarianism ridicules the unscientific nature of religious beliefs (while maintaining people’s right to have the beliefs) by replacing the venerated figure of the Abrahamic god with the absurd figure of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. While Pastafarianism is considered a parody religion by non-believers and a satirical but real religion by believers, the intention behind the concept is to draw attention to the unscientific nature of the major religions of the world.

➙ While most non-Korean listeners won’t realize it, the trendy ‘Gangnam Style’ by Psy is actually a satire of the modern pop scene and the modern ostentatious culture. It is one of the best examples of satire in modern songs. Another notable song that satirizes modern culture is Lily Allen’s ‘The Fear’ (“Everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner”).

➙ Political satire is a prominent component of modern satire. However, the tradition of political satire, which ridicules the policies or principles of particular politicians or political parties, goes back to the influential Greek satirist Aristophanes. Shows such as Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report regularly criticize political agendas by satirizing them. Simultaneously, other talk shows are also frequent contributors to the modern form of political satire.

► Examples of Juvenalian Satire

Juvenalian satire is a lot more hard-hitting than Horatian satire. It is often used to portray conditions very similar to or worse than reality, but by using allegory or metaphor. It relies on irony and usually has a grim and pessimistic view. It is much less dependent on humor than Horatian satire and often includes open outrage, very thinly concealed contempt, and biting, possibly insensitive, ridicule.

➙ Some of the most famous examples of Juvenalian satire are found in satirical literature. George Orwell’s best-known works, Animal Farm and 1984, are both examples of Juvenalian satire. They show clearly not commendable conditions and use (often) irony and wit to describe and thus condemn them. Animal Farm, for instance, uses the allegory of farmyard animals to represent the various strata of Russian society and describes how their conniving leaders betrayed them after the well-meaning 1917 Revolution that eventually led to dictatorial Stalinism.

➙ Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, another example of satire in literature, satirizes bureaucracy. The term ‘catch-22’ has now entered the common tongue for a problem that cannot be escaped from contradicting rules. In other words, Catch-22 is a problem that also holds, and thus invalidates, the answer to itself. Though it is presented in various ways, arguably the most famous application of the catch in the novel is that a pilot requesting an insanity check, hoping to be found too unstable to fly dangerous missions, can’t be insane because prioritizing one’s safety and requesting the check is a rational decision that a sane mind can only reach. This novel is an example of the fact that, though less jaunty and grimmer than Horatian satire, Juvenalian satire can also incorporate humor.

➙ A Clockwork Orange, a novel by Anthony Burgess (and adapted for film by Stanley Kubrick), is a dystopian satire of the possibility of governments using mind-control techniques and whether they would really affect the population.

➙ Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal caused an uproar due to his grim and satirical suggestion that the poor populace of Ireland should sell their children to the rich as food. The “proposal” was a satire of the oppressive conditions faced by the poor and their inconsiderate treatment by the rich classes. This is considered one of the best and most influential works of satire, and the term itself is now considered a well-understood prelude to a satirical suggestion.

➙ Many popular songs are excellent examples of Juvenalian satire. Some satirical modern songs that attack the standards and practices of the music industry or treatment of women in general are Lily Allen’s ‘Hard Out Here’ (“Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you?”) and Lorde’s ‘Royals’ (“We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams”). However, satire in songs is not a particularly new concept. Roger Waters, fed up with Pink Floyd’s money-centric and restrictive producers, wrote ‘Welcome to the Machine’ (“We told you what to dream”) and ‘Have a Cigar’ (“You gotta get an album out, you owe it to the people”) to satirically attack the conditions faced by many talented musicians. George Harrison’s ‘Piggies’ (“Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon”) is a satirical attack on a society ruled by politicians who served their own purpose while turning the masses against each other.

About author

Extreme tv nerd. Analyst. Typical web lover. Food guru. Pop culture ninja. Twitter fanatic. Set new standards for licensing accordians with no outside help. Garnered an industry award while writing about country music in Prescott, AZ. Earned praise for creating marketing channels for action figures in Los Angeles, CA. Earned praise for analyzing glucose in Suffolk, NY. Had some great experience developing strategies for Roombas in Ohio. Won several awards for working on dolls in the aftermarket.
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