13. Satire

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A general class favorite, this week we will see how film approaches the wonderful genre that is Satire. How is history re-imagined (both present history and past history) through the lens of satire? What does satire allow filmmakers to do that might otherwise be censored or otherwise prevented? The film options this week deal with a wide range of historical events seen through the lens of satire. Good Bye, Lenin! examines what might have been if the Berlin Wall never fell. Being There pokes fun at the idea of profundity and wisdom in contemporary politics. Idiocracy takes a post apocalyptic view of a future in which the average IQ of Americans declines sharply over time. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb casts light on the true stupidity of the cold war through farce. The Great Dictator is a Charlie Chaplin film made at the start of the second world war without any knowledge of the depth of the atrocities occurring within the Third Reich, similar in spirit to Jojo Rabbit in its re-framing of a terrible time through the use of humor..

Caleb’s presentation on Jojo Rabbit:

21 thoughts on “13. Satire

  1. I watched Dr. Strangelove last night.

    (Spoilers for Sr. Drangelove)

    Regarding a question asked above in the topic, this movie was made during the Cold War era and took shots at America (Coca-Cola, American stupidity/machismo, etc.). The movie’s satirical lens did allow it to be a bit more outside the generally acceptable boundary than a serious, straightforward criticism of American policy. Full McCarthyism wasn’t going at this point, though. One thing in the movie I liked was the camerawork. It’s generally perfectly still and has shots last for a long time, yet when it switches to the plane it gets frantic and shaky (though it also maintains shots, which makes it feel like you’re a person right in the middle of the chaos). This adds to the effect/dissonance between the peaceful war room and the action in the plane. Another thing I liked is how we generally never see or hear the Russians directly, only indirectly through the presidents phone (technically the ambassador, but whatever). It adds to the feeling of them being an “Other,” as unable to be understood as the government found them.

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    1. The camerawork in Dr. Strangelove is very interesting. Even if you didn’t love the film as a whole, I hope you enjoyed Peter Sellers and his absurdly sporadic portrayal as Dr. Strangelove himself

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    2. This sounds pretty cool, especially the part about not seeing the Russians directly. It must be adding to the fact that some things are censored through satire and seeing it only from one specific view too.

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  2. this week I watched idiocracy and dr. Strangelove. while watching these satire films it gave me a new appreciation for the satire genre. With these films, there is always this over-exaggerated nature of them. This kinda makes you think about other films and how over-exaggerated they may be but in that case they are using it in a serious sense while as with these films it’s used as a comical aspect. I feel the great example of this is in Dr. Strangelove is when they show and talk about the “big board” which I feel would be used seriously but in this case, they address the exaggerated nature of it.

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    1. Jojo Rabbit was also incredible exaggerated while also being the complete opposite. The overblown comedy and interactions vs the toning down of the Nazi regime.

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    2. I too found a love for the satirical genre watching Jojo Rabbit this week. The over-exaggeration was vital to the story for the message it was trying to convey. Very interesting point of using over-exaggeration in a serious tone in other films.

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    3. I also watched Idiocracy and I agree with how incredible it is to see how over exaggerated things are supposed to be in the future (ex. watering the plants with gatorade or the lack of any type of service at the hospital). But then again they have to over exaggerate these types of things to show how much of a concern they thought it could be for the future.

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  3. I watched Jojo Rabbit this topic and I have really learned more about what defines satire and comedy in film. A few weeks ago I watched Schindler’s List, which is set in the same WWII setting as Jojo Rabbit. The two films were so polar I thought it couldnt be abt the same thing right? Schindlers List was monochrome, depressing, violent, graphic, and full of somber tones and topics. On the contrary, Jojo Rabbit was full of color, energy, bad jokes, metacomedy, and riduculousness only made possible by my favorite director ever (Taika Waititi). I realized that what made Jojo Rabbit especially funny was the stark contrast with the setting and plot. *spoilers inbound* While being about the stereotypes of the “demonic Jew” they manage to make the interactions awkward and very reminiscent of standup comedy. Even though it was so terrible that the Nazis would train children they made it seem like a nonchalant summer camp where kids learn to fight. You can feel the contrast in ever more obvious moments such as the discovery that Jojo’s mother has been hanged. The tone immediately changes to such a darker area that the next joke seems like it was needed, which allows for more of them to follow. 10/10 movie would definitely watch a hundred times again.

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    1. I think that’s one of my favorite things about film where people can have two films about the same thing but have them be completely different.

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    2. I love your analogy of training the children like it was summer camp! I agree with how abrupt the tone shift is and how necessary the comedy is in the first part in order to fully understand the gravity of what happened to Jojo’s mother.

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    3. Jojo Rabbit was one of my favorite films of last year, I felt like it was tasteful satire that could’ve easily been made offensive if someone other than Waititi was at the wheel. If you liked the scenes at the summer camp you should check out Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson. While the story is much different. It has the same aesthetic

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    4. I really need to watch Jojo Rabbit after reading everyone’s positive notes on it. It is interesting to see how it must have a very good balance between somber, controversial topics and lighthearted comedy.

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  4. Jojo Rabbit Spoilers!!!

    I watched Jojo Rabbit and was absolutely fascinated by its use of comedy. It was much like Life is Beautiful which I watched earlier this semester. Both were about WWII with one about the Nazis and the other about the Jews. Jojo Rabbit often made me ask myself: “Am I allowed to laugh?” Its use of satire was so interesting to me. Treating the training of german children for war as if it were a summer camp (credit to Caleb for coming up with the perfect analogy); referring to the Jews as demonic and bat-like; a child having Hilter as an imaginary friend! It was simply incredible to watch and wonder why this horrible event happened and who though it was ok. This, of course, is the point of satire. Making something seem so ridiculous that there was no way it occurred but it did.

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    1. to answer “can I laugh?” I think the answer should almost always be yes. Combatting hardships is easiest and best done by comedy and satire. It takes away the power from the evils that happen. Sitting back and letting the bad thing stay there and get worse is not effective.

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    2. Similar to what I said in my response for Caleb’s notes, I think that what made this film so successful and liked by everyone was it’s good balance humor and discussion of war. If a film is too much into politics or something like that, you risk part of the audience hating it because they don’t agree. But if there’s also lots of comedy, everyone loves comedy!

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  5. This week, the films I watched were Dr. Strangelove and Being There. Dr. Strangelove is a film I have loved for many years now. Going back and rewatching it, it gets better with every viewing. I always seem to find something new that the film makes fun of about the military and nuclear warfare in general. Peter Sellers does a great job playing many different characters in the film, including the title character. After reading a bit about the film, I feel as though it was way ahead of its time. Upon release, the film received mixed reviews because of the absurdity of these characters in serious situations. Over time, it has become a cult classic and a piece of historical satire filmmaking.

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    1. I agree with the absurdity of the characters in satiric movies. I guess it’s part of the humor while also bringing to light some controversial topics that needed to be discussed. Putting strange, funny, (idiotic, in Indiocracy’s case) characters in a situation which should be taken seriously is a great way for films to do that sort of thing.

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  6. I watched Idiocracy, and I both loved and hated it. I really loved the underlying message of what people were concerned about in the future. In this dystopian world, people have gotten so dumb that even the easiest tasks and simplest words were hard to do and understand. It was interesting in how they portrayed that, for example the IQ test, which were a series of insanely easy math problems and there was even a section where you’re supposed to put shapes into their correctly-shaped holes (like a baby’s toy or something). Another thing to note was their strange language which I would say is a mix of profanities and slang (and some country accent too??). Everything was commercialized and sex and food were the top priorities. Also the excessive use of guns was something that perhaps people were also concerned about, so that was emphasized a lot. Overall the movie was good but cringey at some parts and kinda gross.

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