Political Satire Watch

A few days after the book is due, I have another deadline for a short article on political satire on the web.  So in the midst of the book, I’ve been trying to keep an eye on that sort of thing, and as some of you may have noticed, there was a bit of a scandal over some magazine cover or another. I think James Poniewozik (cited in the previous link) is more or less right that the New Yorker cover is an obvious stunt and not a very bright one.  He’s also right to point out that it fails, in part, because of context.  Put those images in a video with actors playing the roles and the story probably fades quickly (if anyone notices at all).  Timothy Egan’s also right to point out that the furor over the New Yorker cover also seriously underestimates those of us in flyover country by assuming we won’t understand the cover.  Contrary to popular belief, we get irony in North Carolina, and I’m guessing that’s true in Kansas or Texas as well (we may not find the cover very funny, but that’s another matter).  Then again, maybe with the economy tanking, the banking industry in crisis, energy prices shooting through the roof, a political scandal or two, and a couple of wars going on, we don’t have anything else to discuss right now.

But the cover seems to be feeding an overall perception that Obama–or perhaps the entire Obama campaign along with his devoted followers–is humorless, something that was repeated not only by Maureen Dowd but also by Poniewozik and  by Bill Carter of The New York Times.  I don’t really buy into the belief that Obama is unable to laugh at his public image, but there is clearly a perception out there that Obama is more difficult to satirize than McCain or Clinton (this has been reinforced by Obama’s comments on the ObamaGirl videos, for example).  I’ve been trying to track it down on my blog,  without any luck, but I’ve been noticing for a while that much of the political satire I encounter on the web tends to be pro-Obama, or at least anti-McCain or anti-Clinton.  I’m sure there are exceptions, and it may be a reflection of my own political echo chamber, but it seems like an odd gap.  Even the most recent JibJab video seems relatively tepid by comparison to some of their more pointed critiques from the 2004 election.  There are a couple of nice visual gags mocking Obama’s rhetoric of change, complete with rainbows and unicorns, but I actually found myself nostalgic for the Bush character that has been a staple of the JibJab videos for a long time.  Not that I’ll miss Bush’s presidency or his policies or anything like that.

Again, I’m not quite convinced that the so-called humor gap reflects anything in particular about Obama as a human being, but it is interesting to see so many pundit types reaching a similar conclusion this week.

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