Friday, November 25, 2016

The Bell-Curve of Satire

The fuss about the recent targeting of Melania for satire reminded me of this story.

Celebrity dermatologist Fredric Brandt was found dead in his Miami home, a suicide. Miami Herald journalist Lesley Abravanel reported Brandt was "devastated" by comparisons to the Martin Short character on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey's new Netflix series. "The show definitely deeply hurt him, he was being made fun of because of the way he looks," Brandt's publicist Jacquie Trachtenberg confirmed to the NY Post. "It is mean, and it was bullying. But the show was not the reason for his depression, and it was not the reason he would take his own life," said Trachtenberg.

These entertainers have created a problem with their pointed, widely circulated mimicry. Fey did incredible damage to Sarah Palin and was never discouraged from behavior that anywhere else would have been considered serious bullying. Relentless, routine abuse--like a weekly or nightly comedy show can do--raises real question. At some point, as occurs in coarse bad fiction, a character can no longer be exposed but only tormented. That is to say, at some point the humor becomes torture.

Something evil develops when such cruelty becomes pleasurable.

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