What Is ‘Good’ Satire?

One of the most influential satirical pieces of all time…

What qualifies as “Good Satire”? Given the horrific recent events over in France, this is a question that has come up quite a bit. There is no debate that the actions of these terrorists are absolutely unconscionable, but there has been a large amount of discussion about what the best response to it actually is. The acclaimed cartoonist, Joe Sacco, and his response has had me thinking quite a bit about the nature of satire and why it exists. According the Oxford University Press, satire is the “employment, in speaking or writing, of sarcasm, irony, ridicule, etc. in exposing, denouncing, deriding, or ridiculing vice, folly, indecorum, abuses, or evils of any kind” (“satire” def. 2b). Satires often utilize sarcasm and irony to aid in getting their points across. Irony is a rhetorical device that depicts “a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things” (“irony” def. 2). Under that criteria, how effective is the “satire” being employed today in response to this incident? What is really being accomplished by simply drawing a picture of Muhammed? To better articulate my thoughts, I’m going to look at 2 examples of satirical comics produced by Charlie Hebdo. One excellent, and one I would describe as vapid and pointless.

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