Often, when people talk about violence and satire, they’re discussing the violent acts within a text, especially video games.
Well, that’s not what satirical violence means. It’s when the subject is treated violently.
Since satire can have a wide range of tones and varying strengths of attack, violence can be considered one of the more cutting instruments in the tool box.
To clarify—or re-clarify—the purpose of satire is to ridicule human folly and vice through irony, derision, or wit, or my preference, sarcasm. So, violence takes that ridicule to an extreme.
One of my favorite examples of this is South Park: think “Raising the Bar,” how the present Barbara Streisand, “Taming Strange,” and “Go Fund Yourself,” amongst many, many more. The way they handle their subjects tend to be extreme to hammer their points home. Or so I assume. I may practice analysis for a living, but I will never claim to actually know the intent of an author. With that out of the way, let me provide an example where I do know the writer’s intent.
In nearly every one of my stories and novels, I make an attack on conformity. It’s my leading satirical note, and I hit it pretty viciously. One of the things I hammer is conforming to any group’s ideals—not just the leading ones.
Why? Because conformity means following without understanding one’s actions or behaviors. It eliminates original thought, which keeps people from analyzing messages completely. Again, this is something I teach, and my favorite way to teach it is by presenting ideas that are not my own, playing devil’s advocate, and presenting interesting texts for examination since I don’t want to create twenty-four or forty-eight or ninety-six Alisha clones. Please, one of me is enough. I simply want individuals who can think for themselves and to seek out information on topics from multiple perspectives.
That’s the interesting thing about Ria, specifically, in my Blood Phoenix novels. Constantly, she’s reminded that the Assetato and the Celampresians are evil paranormal groups. One clearly claims good over the other, but both complete evil acts for the sake of their own goals. However, good and bad exist on both sides. The whole of one group cannot be defined by particular members of it.
The reason I call it satirical violence is because this lack of conformity gets her in a lot of trouble, and consistently. Most often, Ria’s right. Like when she refused to kill her victims, when she rebelled against those who kept her in a cage and fed her a child, when she refuses to show her fear of the queen vampire, when she helps a new renegade adjust, when she chose to surround herself with humans…I mean, I could list more, but I think I’ve made my point.
Violence is an important, and often misunderstood, characteristic of satire. It’s also one to be careful with as it can polarize more than the deftly crafted story will.