Art, Politics & Satire

When there is someone high up in power, who is out of reach to heed to a common man’s problem, satire becomes the best tool to show unhappiness. The idea of mocking someone who is responsible for the upliftment of masses fail to do their jobs, mocking them has been an age old way of making them realise their incapability towards achieving what they were supposed to for the people and the society with the position and the power they have been entitled with.

An image could give a better meaning to a particular happening or a situation aptly than a thousand word article could do justice to the topic. Verbal communication requires the reader to be educated and knowledgeable to understand their words and deeper meanings, whereas a visual representation which is a combination of emotions and Strokes, colour, exaggerated figures and few phrases evokes the perfect emotion in hundreds of thousands of viewers who start taking notice of the failures or wrong doings of a particular leader or government.

So what is Political Satire according to

Political satire is satire that specializes in gaining entertainment from politics; it has also been used with subversive intent where political speech and dissent are forbidden by a regime, as a method of advancing political arguments where such arguments are expressly forbidden.

Political satire is usually distinguished from political protest or political dissent, as it does not necessarily carry an agenda nor seek to influence the political process. While occasionally it may, it more commonly aims simply to provide entertainment. By its very nature, it rarely offers a constructive view in itself; when it is used as part of protest or dissent, it tends to simply establish the error of matters rather than provide solutions.

With the term Political Satire being used to depict dissent in a much passive way, the idea of expression is what takes the front seat. Satire which is a form of ridiculing the people at power for their shortcomings uses various formats of expression like visual, literary, and performing arts.

Political satire has been around as long as politics and government. Part leisure, part statement of perspectives, it always magnifies the wrongs (or perceived wrongs) of government and is found in all manner of media across centuries.

Although it usually intends to be funny, satire’s main purpose is to launch an attack using the weapon of wit.

Satire, in a perfect world, points a fun-house mirror at society. It says the things — in an exaggerated, cynical way — that we’re too afraid to think and express our views about it. In the modern world, the idea and expression of satire has many forms, like the newspaper cartoons which is the oldest form of modern political satire and almost everyone has access to social media and the culture of making ‘memes’ is just an extension of hand-illustrated cartoons that questions the people at power. Movies, theatrical performances, street performances have always been the means of modes of satirical expression that also educated people about the mishaps that are happening around them.Behind the disarming jokes lies the ugly truth.

The oldest example that has survived till today is Aristophanes. In his time satire targeted top politicians, like Cleon, and religion, at the time headed by Zeus. “Satire and derision progressively attacked even the fundamental and most sacred facts of faith,” leading to an increased doubt towards religion by the general population. The Roman period, for example, gives us the satirical poems and epigrams of Martial. Cynic philosophers often engaged in political satire. In India, RK Laxman, was the face of political satire which were published in multiple newspapers for the “common man” to know and understand what is happening in the country’s political landscape.

Simple pen strokes that drew up caricatures gave the public a wider understanding of what was happening beyond the four walls of their homes. Satire brought national politics to people in a way which was more easy to understand and relate to in a way like never before. The funny, exaggerated characters with moral dilemma presented the viewer with multiple thoughts, takes and ideologies that they could associate themselves to.

As time progressed and the way content could be presented also changed. In the 21st century, political satire has a reached digital platforms where people talk and present problems to the wider audience out there in a more funny and digestible manner. But today, comedians, who play the role of the truth-telling court jesters of society, are faced with the constant, terrifying prospect of both legal and ‘extralegal’ repercussions for their words. The impulse, naturally, is to self-censor. To limit all provocations.


Artists can only ever do justice to their craft if they come from a place of vulnerability and honesty. Freedom, the elbow room to mess up, is vital. The integrity of their work suffers if there’s a overhanging sense of terror during the process of creation. It’s a dominoes effect from there. The audience is deprived of potentially great material; they’re never exposed to free thought. We, as a society, are unable to embrace new ideas. We don’t really get to see past the strictly defined boundaries.

What isn’t conducive to its growth and presence of satire, though, is the atmosphere of fear and violence surrounding anything even mildly contentious. The effects an offhand remark made by artists, who could be comedians, artists, cartoonists, theatre troupes — people whose very existence is defined by ruffling feathers and presenting radical ideas in digestible formats — can have on their lives is chilling; a reminder of how far we still have to go. And how many chill-pills we still have to swallow.



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