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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

QOTD: What are some examples of great Hollywood satire — TV or film — that works?

Eddie Murphy Saturday Night Live

In light of the Onion’s failed attempt to satirize the casual misogyny that infects pop culture, I thought we might talk about satire that works.
What are some examples of great Hollywood satire — TV or film — that works? And does satire need to sting in order to be great?

I’m gonna pick one of my favorites, from Saturday Night Live in the 1980s: the assassination of Buckwheat by John David Stutts. The extended bit sent up, among other things:

• American network television news — which was then just starting to feel the heat from new competitor CNN — and the way it can lock on to a juicy story and not let go

• lurid obsession with celebrity

• how advertising saturates media

• the elevation of homicidal criminals to folk heroes

• gun culture and the easy acceptance of guns in everyday life

• the lack of care for the mentally ill (“Do you believe he killed Buckwheat?” “Oh, yes, it was all he ever talked about.”).

In retrospect, the bit looks less like satire and more like the roadmap the future of media and culture would take.

You can watch the John David Stutts stuff on Hulu if you’re in the U.S.

Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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