Throwing Out the Welcome Mat: Guests and Victims on Television Satire
by Jonathan Gray — University of Wisconsin - Madison
July 23, 2007 – 03:01
Two strategies for involving public figures. The Simpsons offers public figures a chance to look humble and laid back, in exchange for a slight tinge of subversive attack (Blair as the misfit Mr. Bean even as he tries to be James Bond). Chris Morris’s Brasseye (1997), meanwhile, was a biting social satire and news journal parody that created public service groups dedicated to fighting ludicrously conceived social problems. Public figures then came to the slaughter, unwittingly participating in the show’s mockery of their gullibility and over-eagerness to jump on unknown media panic bandwagons. Some have commended The Simpsons for its soft approach, yet others accuse it of merely rolling out the red carpet. Brasseye was a cult hit (and inspiration for Ali G/Borat) that spilled into the real world (even making Parliament’s question time here!), but many audience members alleged that the show made public figures less likely to help actual good causes. Placed together, they raise issues of the rights and responsibilities of satire that uses public figures, and we might ask both how “far” is “too far,” and how effective each strategy might be in provoking analysis of celebrity and public image.