It seems as if we’re living in a post-satire era, lately.
While it probably began much earlier, its arrival was indisputably signaled by the election of Donald “Babyfingers” Trump to the White House—an event so simultaneously predictable AND ridiculous (predictulous?), The Simpsons already did it over 16 years prior to its occurrence. And that wasn’t even in a good episode!
You’d think the glut of absurd material that’s followed would be a boon to political satirists, but it’s the opposite, as reality itself now feels exaggerated beyond satire, often making further exaggeration of specific, current events a pointless exercise.
Many had a similar reaction to the daily shenanigans of George W. Bush back in the early part of the century. I recall at least one political cartoon at the time which depicted the cartoonist himself, in the middle of drawing something about Bush, reacting to the President’s latest stupidity by throwing his hands in the air and shouting something like, “I give up!”
Thanks to the development of social media, and increasing ubiquity of instantly-available online news, the pace of such revelations has only hastened, so it sort of makes sense that they’d become more difficult to keep up with.
An audience ever-more informed about what happens in the government, despite concerted efforts on both sides of the aisle to keep them ignorant, has appropriately reacted with horror and revulsion, now that the executive in charge is a man-child with no filter, who’s too stupid and lazy to make his lies believable, and doesn’t even bother with covering up the atrocities in which he and his predecessors—even the ones you thought you liked—have always engaged with impunity.
Unfortunately, much of that audience has long been raised to believe that our political institutions themselves are basically good, and ultimately incorruptible at their cores.
Some looked the other way when George W. Bush tortured thousands and murdered hundreds of thousands in an illegal war of self-serving imperialism, because gawrsh, he was the kinda
major league asshole elder statesman you could have a beer with!
Others did the same a scant eight years later while Barack Obama conducted a record number of deportations, numerous extra-judicial assassinations, and got the United States involved in as many new wars as the number he failed to end, because wow, he was
black so charismatic, charming, and articulate!
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, eh?
Now that Trump is shoving it in their faces, making it impossible to deny any longer, oh, NOW people have a problem with it!
But coming to terms with these crimes, including one’s own complicity in passively allowing them to happen, is difficult, and that’s not even half as challenging as finally doing something about them. It’s easier to blame everything on a single highly-visible, vacuous person or party, in much the same way as it’s easy to flock around a single highly-visible, vacuous person or party as a savior from this latest legion of cartoon super-villains.
That way, one need not change anything about oneself.
And so, many have even gone running to their old abusers, literally embracing brain-damaged war-criminals while said war-criminal’s lecherous old man (also a war-criminal) leeringly threatens to “embrace” their asses with his gnarled fingers. What a lovely picture you made, George! We’re gonna put it right up on the fridge, instead of tossing it into a burn-pile where it belongs!
I mentioned above how all this was predictable in spite of its ridiculousness. This includes W. following the examples set by other well-known serial-killers and genocidal maniacs to spend his downtime on crappy paintings. Don’t believe me? Here’s a sketch I made in early 2008 for a cartoon I never produced:
It came from a joke I made, around the same time, about starting a blog which would claim to be the former President’s “art blog,” and would contain nothing but finger-paintings and macaroni art. In the words of Marty McFly: “Son of a bitch stole my idea!!”
I guess my estimation of the immediate critical response wasn’t quite accurate. Like I said, it’s hard letting go of long-held, relatively optimistic beliefs in an age where practically everything else is trash.
As for the above, completed cartoon, this was a long-simmering idea which had originally explicitly targeted Bush, and criticized members of the so-called “Resistance” for hugging him, pointing out that people seem to have more of a problem with Trump’s tone than with his actions, but I decided it’d be better if I broadened the punchline to include the U.S.’s longtime, global commitment to mass-violence in general, and thus criticize ALL American Presidents, instead of just one or two.
1980s comic strip fans may recognize a reference to the last year or so of the original run of Bloom County, during which Donald Trump became a recurring character after his brain was placed into the orange body of resident dazed, incoherent flea-bag Bill the Cat. The phrase “Trump Dump” is taken from a (presumably) golden stall he places around his litter-box.