The end of satire? It’s no laughing matter!

Satire has long been our only salvation from the meaningless jargon and constant u-turns of electoral politics. It’s easy to criticise politicians’ often unfathomable actions but it’s even easier to laugh at David Cameron drawn with a condom for a head. Haha! A condom! The passive activism of the masses, satire would seem to be a timeless weapon.

Enter Donald Trump, living meme and self-created caricature. Last week, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone announced their decision to reduce their content on the U.S President for the sad fact that “satire has become reality”.

You only have to go as far as Trump’s Twitter account to see their point. Hyperbolic jibes, an abundance of futile exclamation marks and a standard of literacy that is truly unpresidented (haha! He can’t spell!). Not to mention the endless squawks of “FAKE NEWS!”. Who hired this guy?

For many years, the idea of Trump as President was the most absurd joke people could think of, even making it into a prescient episode of The Simpsons in 2000. Now that the butt of a long-running joke is the leader of the free world, satirists are grappling to keep up.

Satire has always got a laugh out of exposing the stupidity of our politicians. The problem is, unlike conventional politicians, Trump does not seek to present himself as a rational, predictable leader. His stupidity doesn’t have to be exposed or exaggerated because he’s done the job himself. He is hyperbole incarnate, endlessly Trumping our wildest nightmares (see, even the wordplay has been exhausted).

It’s not even as if Parker and Stone are just another pair of Hollywood liberals. South Park is infamous for taking the piss out of, well, basically everything – from unrelentingly mocking PC culture to depicting the Clinton vs. Trump race as a ‘turd sandwich’ vs a ‘giant douche’. Admittedly it’s not the most sophisticated satire out there, but the fact that such a merciless show is “backing off” Trump is quite surprising to me.

It’s not just Trump too. Elsewhere the new extremes of politics seem to mimic comedy in a strange inversion of the former status quo. Just look at Brexit – suddenly everything from the weather to a cold cup of tea was blamed by someone on the ‘bloody immigrants’. In these strange times, comedy is overshadowed by a real-life sketch show, in which an extra from Home Alone 2 and a real-life Cruella De Vil are the leaders of the free world. It would be funny if it wasn’t so nauseating.

There has been endless talk of the ascendancy of Trump being the start of a ‘post-truth’ era. Since satire relies on a certain degree of truth for it to have any substance, it seems to me to have become obsolete in the age of Trump. While it’s tempting to take refuge in laughing at this ridiculous tangerine of a President, maybe it’s time to turn passive activism into, well, active activism. For all his buffoonery, Trump is no joke.

Anita Pant

(Image courtesy of the Daily Beast)

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