White People vs. Black People: Horatian Satire and Racial Stereotypes as Defined in Seven Seconds

Curator's Note

Vine, a smartphone application released on January 24th 2013, allows users to create and share videos with a maximum length of seven seconds that can be shared on social networking sites. The time constraints placed on the user by the application make Vine an ideal platform to create short-form commentary. However, because of these restrictions, vine users are forced to use a version of the rhetorical device called reductio ad absurdum. By stripping away all the nuances of any given situation or idea, vine users are only left with a short video that most often serves as Horatian satire, which is known for playfully criticizing social vices through light-hearted humor. Although these techniques were originally designed to be used in compositions of length considerably longer than seven seconds, the seven second restriction almost force vine users to use satire.

User expectations regarding the comedic nature of Vine also play a role in defining the use of satire in the platform. Because since its release most of the videos published in Vine have been of a comedic nature, most users who publish to the platform decide to follow this trend. Because of audience expectations, Vine users create comedic videos, and due to of the constraints presented by the platform, users are forced to use narrative and rhetorical devices that lead to satire. This is the case with the controversial "Black People vs. White People" series.

In the vine titled "White People vs. Black People In The Woods", Comedian Chris plays with stereotypes commonly portrayed in film and other media to show not only the absurdity of the situation itself, but also that of the claim itself. The Vine isn’t making fun of "black people and white people who act like this". It is, instead, making fun of the idea that "black people and white people act like this". In the vines selected for this post, viewers will find that these patterns hold true. In all the selected vines the authors use juxtaposition to show not only the absurdity of the moment portrayed, but also that of the ideas that "all people be like". When viewed in this way, these seemingly racist vines that some have called "the newest form of minstrel shows" become thoughtful satire that makes fun of the beliefs that "all X people are like", and of those who hold those beliefs.



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