The Use and Purpose of Satire on This Blog

Based on responses to my photographer dinosaur and crappy Kane posts, I figured this was necessary. For your amusement and “edumacation.” The top ten ways you can know a post I write is a satire.

#10 – If I haven’t publicly responded to people’s comments on the blog post, on Twitter or on Facebook, that’s your first clue.

#9 – If I link to another overtly satirical post or video and use it as a “serious” part of my argument.

#8 – If I use an extremely over the top and uber-provocative title.

#7 – The use of an obscure, little known reference to Lord of the Rings or Star Trek without explanation. (e.g. Rohirrim)

#6 – Making a claim that is diametrically opposed to anything I’ve repeatedly stated on this blog before, without explaining the reason for the change. (Naturally, only frequent readers of this blog could catch this. So, that’s a lesson to you. Read the blog every day!)

#5 – Leaving a glaring hole or omission in my argument without explaining why or addressing said hole or omission.

#4 – Ridiculous or silly suggestions with no explanation. (e.g. some professional photographers should become politicians. Although, I actually do think this would be a good idea for some.😉 )

#3 – If I state provocative yet clearly subjective comments as fact without any explanation or argument (e.g. Perhaps my favorite comment from the “Dinosaur” post was “What absolutely ridiculous statements, ‘All the best photographs are photoshopped anyway’. Don’t know very much do you.)

#2 – Use of a sarcastic tone.

And the #1 way you’ll know a post I write is a satire…

It’ll be tagged “satire.” (Not including this post).

My Observations

The first thing I observed in response to these two posts is something I’ve seen and known all along. Artists are passionate—passionate about their art, their feelings about their art and especially for those revered masters who have come before us. But sometimes that passion makes us as artists react too quickly. We tend to shoot first, and ask questions later. I have no doubt this is part of the reason filmmaking, video and photography forums and blogs can so easily explode into full-blown, rock ’em sock ’em, online brawls. I’ve seen so many times where someone makes a provocative or unpopular comment or opinion about something, even in a diplomatic way, then get attacked as if they were cat jugglers or Neo-Nazi sympathizers or something. I know there are some trolls who are mean-spirited and will pick fights online just for the sake of it. But many times that’s not the case. It’s just someone stating his or her opinion, but that opinion may not be all that popular. They should be able to share that opinion without being crucified, so long as they do so with respect and within the confines of the rules of the particular blog or forum.

The hoax about Bon Jovi's death caused the news to tend on Twitter.

I also think in this social media and internet-crazed world, we move way too fast. We don’t stop to assess the landscape. To ask questions. (Last week’s hoax about Jon Bon Jovi’s death is proof of that.) A lot of responses I get to my satirical posts are replies on Twitter or Facebook just to my tweet. Naturally, my tweet will be lined with satire as well. But they will always have a link to the satirical blog post. Many comments I get online are from people who clearly haven’t even read the post to which I’m linking. I once wrote a satirical piece about wanting to start a boudoir photography business for teen girls. Some of the replies to THAT one on Facebook were quite passionate.🙂 At least they were passionately angry at me.

A Method to My Madness

There will always be a method to my madness. I will not write a provocative or satirical post just for the sake of being coy. The whole purpose of this blog is to educate and inspire. If I write a satirical post, there’s an underlying objective:

In Photographers Should Go the Way of the Dinosaur my point was to express how important it is for photographers (and filmmakers for that matter) to adapt to the fast-moving industry changes. (I thought for sure my suggestion about becoming a politician would clearly have given away the joke!) I also wanted to show, as my good friend Matt Jeppsen of FreshDV made a point to tweet me, that there are things a talented photographer will do that no computer can ever replicate.

In The Top 5 Reasons Citizen Kane Was Crap I was getting up on a soap box that I’ve gotten on so many times on this blog, I’m really surprised more people didn’t catch on. Arguably the greatest film ever made is one that is almost the exact opposite of so many DSLR films that I see today on Vimeo, YouTube, etc. It was also a jab at how Hollywood often under-estimates the audience’s intelligence by explaining everything in a film. Perhaps the BEST part of Citizen Kane is that ending. In one shot, Welles illustrates the entire theme of the movie that brings the entire mystery of the film into light. It’s brilliant! (I won’t spoil it by telling you what it is, but come on, if you haven’t seen it by now, what the heck-fire are you waiting for?).

Let me just say that I was quite surprised at the reactions to the Citizen Kane satire. I had an inkling many people might not get that the “dinosaur” post was satire. But I thought there’s no way people are going to think I’m serious about calling Citizen Kane crap. I mean come on people, the #3 reason I called it crap was because it was shot in black and white. You really thought I was serious?🙂

One of the comments on Facebook to my Citizen Kane post.

Future Reference

With all this said, I don’t want to purposefully confuse or frustrate my readers. I know a lot of readers are new to the blog, so I can’t expect them to automagically get my sense of humor or know what my soap boxes are. I also know that I have a large international following, so there very well could also be language and culture differences that make my American humor not so evident. Therefore, moving forward I plan to make it a little easier to gauge when I’m pulling your leg (i.e. being satirical). I’ve created a category called “Satire.” I’ll still use the “satire” tag, but by creating the category, it’ll add “Satire” to the navigation menu. I now have more than enough satirical posts to justify its own category. And quite frankly, I think they tend to be the most entertaining or inspirational, so all the more reason to make them easier to find.

However, I bet you a million dollars, I will still get tweets like this one from my good buddy and extremely talented photographer Wiljax🙂

P.S. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, there is no offer from The Onion.😉

8 thoughts on “The Use and Purpose of Satire on This Blog

  1. With all due respect, if your readers aren’t getting that a post is satirical, maybe your approach to writing satire is not working. I’d just suggest (and I’m not trashing you here, I like what you’ve written in your serious posts) maybe instead of making the point with attempts at satire that your readers obviously are not picking up, you just write something straight, pointed, critical, but in clear nonfiction prose. You are very good when you do that. When you have to write a whole blog post explaining how to know when you are kidding, well, maybe that’s just not the best vehicle for you to make your point?

    1. Hey Steve, thanks for the comment. You make a good point. I have to consider that part of it could be how I write it. But this is my response to that.

      First, there were also a lot of people who KNEW these posts were satirical, and either commented as much publicly, or emailed me privately.

      Second, even the most skilled and well-known makers of satire still get replies from people who think their content is real. Scoopertino.com is a popular satirical blog about all things Apple. They still get comments from people who think it’s real. When “The Onion” first started out, they got replies and letters from people who thought their jokes were real. The popular YouTuber and filmmaker Julian Smith, about whom I wrote my blog post “The Power of Satire in Filmmaking” (http://bit.ly/stx5oG) got a lot of flack from people who thought his “Pre-Blessed Food” sketch was real. This was despite the fact his videos get millions of views and you’d think people would know by now that’s the kind of stuff he does. That video was as silly as you can get, and there were still a lot of people complaining about him saying you can “pre-bless” food. He even had to write a follow up blog post about it.

      So, no matter how clever the comedy, no matter how many clues I include, there are still going to be a percentage of people who think it’s real.

      Lastly, to be frank, part of the fun of satire is the commentary from those who think it’s real.

      With all that said, I will also continue to write straight-forward posts and commentaries as well. But I gotta have some fun every now and then.🙂

    2. There was one other thing I thought of. Just about all of the comments from people who thought I was serious expressed sentiments that I REALLY believe. On Twitter, Facebook and this blog, people were making my REAL points for me. That is another reason and power of satire. The discussions and arguments against the satirical blog post end up spreading the REAL message much better than if I were to have written a straight article. The provocative nature of the post ignites the passion and fire in readers to speak out against the inanity of my post. I don’t think there would have been as much commentary by people across my social networks If these were “regular” posts. So you could argue that it actually it ends up being THE best vehicle for making my point.

  2. I reposted the Dinosaur post on my own Facebook page, and yes, people took it seriously and argued with you. Looks like most of your points were so close to the truth, people did not catch the few that were hyperbole.
    As a follow up, I added this post to the other one, to benefit my FB friends.

    1. Thanks for giving the follow up B.E. That’s great to hear your FB page got some good discussion out of it. Further supports what I replied to Steve about my REAL points spreading better via a provocative post vs. a straight one. Hopefully new people to the blog stay intrigued long enough to see and read the gajillion other posts on this blog that would clearly show what’s satire and what’s real.🙂

  3. Hey man. That’s pretty awesome. I must admit, you had me going there for a second. I think the politician bit got me guessing though. Your right, it can lead to good discussion. I think that Photogs, like other “workers” in any industry may find it difficult to want to keep evolving and learning. It’s like some want to say; “Hey! I went to school. I passed my tests. I’m done” They want to live a safe & comfortable life and lose the desire and passion to keep the dream alive. I guess that’s one more thing they can blame Obama for…

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