What does satire mean? Please give examples too. Thanks!

Expert Answers
e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The eNotes page for satire (within the Guide to Literary Terms) defines satire as follows:

the use of humor and wit with a critical attitude, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule for exposing or denouncing the frailties and faults of mankind’s activities and institutions, such as folly, stupidity, or vice. This usually involves both moral judgment and a desire to help improve a custom, belief, or tradition.

While this is a very good working definition, we should note that satire is not always directed as a negative commentary on attitudes, works of art, or institutions but can be instead aimed at exposing and commenting on conventions and conventionalities of certain genres and/or institutions. In these cases, art is not necessarily associated with a moral judgement or engaged in the act of moral commentary. 

One example of this kind of morally neutral satire can be found in the films of Mel Brooks. Brooks made the film Blazing Saddles as a satire of the Western, a film genre. Brooks' film highlights the many conventions of Western films (including a common racial bias), but centrally mocks the established conventions for being just that - established conventions. 

We should also note that satires that do offer a moral commentary are not always completely obvious or overt with that commentary. F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby, is a good example of this kind of satire. While the targets of his work are clearly upper class Americans of the 1920s, Fitzgerald's moral commentary is not entirely clear. Jay Gatsby infiltrates the upper classes through intrigue and deceit and finds that, perhaps, it is only his deceitfulness that allows him to fit in with others in this class (because they too are superficial, dishonest, and immoral). His "higher" qualities of hopefulness, positivity, and confidence are arguably the traits that lead to his downfall. What, then, is the statement Fitzgerald is making in his satire of the rich? Is his drawing a satire of the Horatio Alger stories of the day (which are universal endorsements of capitalism) or is he drawing a satire against a more general "American Dream"? 

user1450001 | Student
It is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices...

An example would be anything on the show robot chicken..

A good example of satire as a parody is the song “Girls Just Want to Have Lunch” by Weird Al Yankovic, which is a parody of the song “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper.

Following is an excerpt of Al’s song:

Some girls like to buy new shoes
And others like drivin' trucks and wearing tattoos
There's only one thing that they all like a bunch
Oh, girls, they want to have lunch...
I know how to keep a woman satisfied
When I whip out my Diner's Card their eyes get so wide
They're always in the mood for something to munch
Oh, girls, they want to have lunch...



mrs-culver | Student

Satire is when someone uses sarcasm, wit, or irony to criticize a behavior or belief.

For example:

In the cartoon South Park, they depict Jesus as a hippie and usually have him smoking or drinking. This is a direct critism to the belief of Christians as Jesus who is holy.