The Flavors of Satire

Could it be that the secret to unlocking the depths beneath the layers of satire is hidden in a furry coat with a wagging tail? If there’s one thing that without doubt seems to be one of the greatest thieves of time, it has to be funny animal pictures, because who doesn’t love to see Fido pretending he’s a person? They make us feel, laugh, and for some reason keep us coming back for more…and more… and MORE (I almost got caught in the loop myself for the sake of satire). But how can a picture of a dog in a funny hat challenge our immorality or criticize our foolishness? By personifying our own expressions and personalities, animal pictures seem like they could be revealing some innate truths of the human species. The satire behind these pictures is clearly Horatian, as there is no evil being satirized, but instead a sense of ridicule. And of course the fact that they are themselves ridiculous and foolish makes animal photos humorous, but if we could not also relate to them, some of the humor would be lost. Therefore, they offer us a perspective of our own ridiculousness as humans, and in doing so, become a satire of our lives.

When trying to find an appropriately satirical picture, it was hard to choose just one. So many animal pictures are either satirizing or parodying people in the ways that they personify animals. But the main focus of the pictures is not just to satirize people in general, that would be uninteresting; instead they satirize specific stereotypes of people, moments people commonly experience, and so forth. That is what makes them relatable and humorous. Take this wonderful alpaca for example:

The alpaca itself probably had no intent to look like an artsy hipster, but the creator of the photo and, more importantly, the caption had clear intent to mock the young-aspiring-artist type of person. The alpaca’s hairdo would have easily been comical on its own, but the caption is what makes the picture into a satire by exposing the humor in this stereotype.

However, I do not think that it can be argued that all humor is satire. While these lovable pets can be turned into satires of our own lives with the help of captions and sometimes our own mental personification of them, they are often capable of creating moments of humor on their own (unintentionally of course). For example, this sleeping dog is not trying to expose any human folly, but he simply sleeping in a position he found most comfortable.

It is difficult to personify him in any human way, since humans do not sleep like that either, but instead he is simply looking ridiculous himself. Because he is not exposing or criticizing anything about anybody in his pose, I would not consider this to be a satire.

Finally, since it is not always easy to pinpoint the intent of humans, sometimes deciding whether something is satirical or isn’t, is not always a piece of cake. For example, take this pug photoshopped to look like a piece of bread in a kitchen:

What could there be to satirize about a loaf of bread? Or, if it is the pug that is being satirized, does the creator of this photo intend to say that pugs look like loaves of bread? Maybe if the intent is darker, it is promoting vegetarianism (because you wouldn’t want to eat your pet dog, would you?) If that were the intent, all the humor would be immediately lost to me. So it seems that it is often very difficult to discover the intent of the creator. Maybe the jokester doesn’t even know what his own intent is. Thus, deciding what is and isn’t satire becomes a problem. But at least these loveable creators can show us one of the first ingredients of satire: finding the flavor of intent.




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