I try to teach “A Modest Proposal” to every senior class I have. I love their reactions to the proposal itself. What really gets me is how few of the students understand that the entire proposal is a satirical piece, that he is being facetious.
All across high schools this occurs. These students watch hours and hours of Family Guy, the Simpsons, South Park, Saturday Night Live. But they don’t catch that this 18th Century aristocrat is mocking the British’s treatment of the Irish. I think one of the main reasons for this misunderstanding is the historical and cultural disconnect. It is such a far off time. Why wouldn’t some guy propose eating babies and have it published in a newspaper. I mean, men wore heels back then. It was a crazy time. I start off by showing them examples of the two kinds of satire: Horatian—Light, playful satire meant to merely poke fun Juvenal—Harsh, stinging satire, meant to call serious attention Weird Al-, “Aluminum Foil”-Parody 3rd World People Read 1st World Problems–Sarcasm I then review the different techniques of satire, and provide for them a worksheet. They watch the videos and go through the worksheet, the videos easily displaying elements of satire. I try to provide for my Appalachian students examples beyond cartoons or Larry the Cable Guy. I expose them to news satire and mostly yankee humor. Jay Pharaoh’s impersonation of Barack Obama–caricature Dave Barry on Colonoscopies–exaggeration David Cross on Coors Light drinkers–caricature, sarcasm (I recommend only showing the first two minutes or so, before the profanity kicks in) Stephen Colbert’s testimony before Congress–Sarcasm News clip about Congress reaction Portlandia’s “Did You Read It?”–exaggeration David Sedaris, “6 to 8 Black Men”–Sarcasm, Parody
|Video(s)||Hortian, Juvenal, or both?||Who or what is being satirized/ mocked?||How does the actor/speaker/writer accomplish satire?Sarcasm? Exaggeration? Caricature? Irony?|
|Barack Obama impersonations|
|Dave BarryColonoscopies and Twilight|
|David CrossCoors Light|
|Stephen Colbert Testimony to Congress|
|“Did You Read?” Portlandia skit|
|David Sedaris “6-8 Black Men”|
Jay Pharaoh’s Barack Obama Impersonations What do you think the writers were trying to say about Obama’s “secret weapon”? What do you think the writers were implying about Mitt Romney as a candidate? Stephen Colbert’s Testimony to Congress What was the overall reaction from congress to Colbert’s satirical testimony? In your opinion, do you think his satirical method was appropriate? Why or why not? “Did You Read?” skit Consider the twist at the end of the video. What irony are the writers trying to establish about the characters’ obsession with showing off how much they have read? Sum: Were there any parts of any of the videos you found offensive or wrong? If so, what effect did it have on your respect for the performer?