Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thoughts on Satire

I'm a little bit behind the eight ball on this post. My TNY comes almost a full week behind the current newstand issue. No doubt, you have heard the media and the campaigns salivating angrily over the cover dated July 21st, 2008. I will not belabor that here.

I did, however, want to say something about the INSIDE of the July 21st issue (no, it was not just a cover, there were actually stories in the magazine), as well as a point about satire in general.

For the past couple of years, TNY has rotated several articles on both Barack Obama (including when he was in the state legislature) and Hilary Clinton. There was even a highly complimentary piece on John McCain a year or two ago. In the July 21st issue, in fact, there was a mini editorial type piece talking about the idea of "flip-flopping" and how mainstream media snatches on any phrase uttered by a candidate that looks like a policy change. TNY took a more rational view of such statements (emphasizing Mr. Obama) and placed them in a larger context of other statments made by the candidate and his history. In addition, there was a longer article on Mr. Obama (again, favorable) talking about the "art" of politics. As much as we would like our politicians to all shoot straight from the hip, such behavior would put us in one diplomatic mess after another. (If this sounds familiar, our current President prides himself on his Wild West approach to politics.)

I think that honesty is probably hard to define when you are a politician. What I mean is that the best politicians have to be willing to change their minds when circumstances change. Many of our laws have nothing to do with moral issues (definition of marriage, life, etc.), but have more to do with policy issues. And it is possible that two very different policies might yield similar--equally desireable or undesireable--outcomes. It is ridiculous to elect politicians whose ideas about every single thing are totally intractable: how could legislation ever be passed? Oh, wait, that is the current situation.

As for satire, well, this is what TNY does best. (There is a regular feature called Shouts and Murmurs, for example, that is just so snarky. Check out this gem.) A lot of their cover art takes two opposing images with a clever title and sheds clarity. The title of the controversial cover was The Politics of Fear indicating that some of the more outlandish claims against he candidate and his wife have nothing to do with who they really are, but fear over what they might be. And, like many fears, these stereotypes have no foundation in reality. The July 27th cover was tongue in cheek too, though it was just plain funny. The picture is great alone, but the title defines it best: A Summer Escape.

This one appeared less than two months after 9/11/01. This picture speaks volumes about what Mid Easterners in America must have been feeling, and are still feeling.

The following cover appeared on Mother's Day eight years ago and ignited a firestorm of its own, though it was mostly a "family" fight, kept to the confines of the regular readership. I think the frustration was that most female readers identify themselves with the woman on the left. But the juxtaposition puts the buxom, blonde bohemian mother in a much prettier light than the angular, pale working woman. I love it.

This last one, however, from 1998 is probably my all time favorite; it came out 10 years ago this week. If I ever got to do a girl's nursery, I would order a print of this cover and decorate in these very colors. How simple and perfect, but again taking two opposing images to shake up our perceptions. All of these last three are from Carter Goodrich. Each of his covers is like a gift.

1 comment:

Yankee Girl said...

I love the covers of NYT-especially the current one. It is one of the reasons I subscribe.