Film Industry

What Is Satire & How Can It Be Used In Film? Our Guide

Photograph of the blog post author, Jodie Francis

Jodie Francis

9.4.2021

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Have you found yourself wondering ‘what is satire’? Would you like to learn more about satire? Then welcome – you have come to the right place! Consider this article to be your ultimate guide to satire, and how it is used in film and literature.

satire

We will identify the three main types of satire, as well as give some examples of how it is used in filmmaking. This is the excuse you’ve been looking for to go and watch some fantastic movies! So, make sure that you stay tuned to learn more, as well as how satire can be a powerful tool in film if done correctly. 

What Is Satire?

people watching tv

Satire is a type of genre that utilises irony, humour, and exaggeration to demonstrate flaws and behaviour in humans. It is actually its own genre, and most commonly used to critique major events, particularly in politics.

Satire is a genre that is present in a variety of forms of entertainment, such as film, music, and literature. Have you found yourself wondering, ‘what is the purpose of satire’? Well, the main purpose of satire appears to be to entertain people, but also prompt them to walk away thinking about what they read/watched/listened to.

It can prompt deeper thought, particularly when the satire is linked to current events. We think it’s important to note here that while the majority of satire is funny, it doesn’t have to be. 

Types Of Satire

watching tv

So, what are the different types of satire?

Let’s take a deeper look at the three main types that you’re likely to come across in films, literature, and music. 

Horatian Satire

Let’s kick things off with Horatian satire, as this is one of the most common types of satire. So, what is Horatian satire? It utilises comedy to mock a certain person or event, with the goal to make people laugh. While the event can be serious, satire will keep things light-hearted and funny. 

The main aim of this type is to spark improvement in the person or event that has been mocked. Think of the skits at the beginning of popular TV talk shows where the presenter mocks the current events of the past week. If you find yourself wondering ‘what is political satire’ then this can sometimes be a good example of this, particularly if the presenter is poking fun at the government. 

Juvenalian Satire

So, what is the difference between Horatian and Juvenalian satire? Well, the main difference between these two types of satire is that Juvenalian satire is far darker and doesn’t rely on humour.

This type of satire is the best example of serious satire that aims to express anger and frustration at the current state of affairs or one current event. So, if you consider ‘what is Juvenalian satire’ and you have made the connection between it and dystopian fiction, you’d be right!

Think George Orwell’s book1984, it critiques politics and culture through control and restrictions of society. 

Menippean Satire

Lastly, what is Menippean satire? This type refers to the critique of belief systems rather than one particular person. Simple!

It can use a mixture of comedy and allegory to get its message across. 

What Is Satire In Literature?

book with satire

Why do authors use satire in their writing? Put simply, satire in literature is a powerful tool that can help authors to give their social commentary and critique. Many authors use this opportunity to make comments about the current goings on in society through their novel. 

So, what is an example of satire? There have been many great novels published that greatly rely on satire. For example, The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. This novel makes use of satire to make comments upon the social problems and racial injustices that faced African Americans in the 20th century. As you can imagine, this novel is still relevant today in terms of the issues of racism. 

There are many other examples of the use of satire in literature, for example Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace and Animal Farm by George Orwell. A good example of a more recent example of satire in literature is American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis. He mocks American capitalism through exaggeration, social status and anger that manifests into terrible violence. 

What Is The Purpose Of Satire In Film?

cinema

So, what is satire in film? Why does it remain a popular tool for filmmakers to use? It’s simple – satire is used in film as a form of powerful social commentary. That’s if the satire is communicated effectively to the audience, of course.

The best films use satire subtly to communicate, as this best gets across the point they are trying to make. If films were to be too obvious with satire, then the audience may resist it.

Satire in film tends to focus on well-worn, familiar stories that the audience will likely already be familiar with. This allows the filmmakers to put a different, funny take on things. 

What Is An Example Of A Satire In Film?

In this section of our article, we will provide you with some examples of where and how satire has been used in film

Hot Fuzz (2007) 

hot fuzz satire

No doubt you’ll have heard (or have watched) the movie Hot Fuzz. In case you haven’t, it’s about two British police officers in a small village. The police officers couldn’t be more opposite, as they set about trying to solve many murders that have taken place. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play the police officers and they are hilarious, bouncing off each other so well. 

The use of satire is done subtly, through the trope of the buddy cop. The film also makes use of satire through the action sequences and camera work, everything is made to appear extremely dramatic and that adds to the humour. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, we highly recommend it!

Tropic Thunder (2008)

tropic thunder satire

Tropic Thunder is one of the best examples of action satire. It is about a group of actors who are acting in a film about the Vietnam War. This movie stars Brandon T. Jackson, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. Soon after they begin filming, they become lost in the jungle, leading to them becoming real soldiers!

Chaos ensues when some of the actors are kidnapped by a drug gang and they need to become heroes and try to save themselves from a horrific fate. The premise of the film lends itself to hilarious situations, as well as great action scenes and sequences to look forward to. The film also contains many different kinds of movie trailers that are super fun to watch!

While the film is popular with many people, it has come up against criticism due to the satirical depiction of a handicapped person and the use of blackface makeup to portray a different character

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

spinal tap

The movie This Is Spinal Tap is a kind of mockumentary that follows a band called Spinal Tap. They are a fictional rock band made up of musicians who display some truly shocking behaviour. This makes for some memorable scenes that you are sure to not forget for a while. 

The satire comes into play through the jokes and ridicule taken out of the music industry. More specifically, the behaviours of rock bands and famous musicians. This film has become somewhat of a cult classic, with people finding the satire hilarious. Plus, they enjoy rock music! So, what are you waiting for? Check out this fun movie today and revel in the fun satire!

WALL-E (2008)

wall-e satire

You might not have guessed that Disney-Pixar’s WALL-E is a satirical film, it actually has many themes that lend themselves to satire. If you haven’t yet seen the film, it’s about the worry about the future health of the planet. In the film, planet Earth has been transformed into a big pile of rubbish thanks to the abuse from humans. This has led humans to be forcibly removed from Earth and taken away in spaceships. 

The film then follows a robot called WALL-E who is trying to clean up the planet so that hopefully the humans will be able to come home. This film is an exaggeration of the waste that humans produce and the damage that they inflict upon the planet. This is a great film to watch with your children as you can discuss the crucial environmental message that is behind the film. 

Fight Club (1999)

fight club

The movie Fight Club remains one of the most popular movies ever made. It stars Brad Bitt and Edward Norton, who deliver fantastic and memorable performances. The movie is about the formation of a fight club.

So, where does the satire come in? The film focuses on subtle satirical commentary on consumer culture, masculinity, lifestyle branding, and so on. If you haven’t yet seen this movie, we recommend it as a lesson in the subtle yet effective use of satire. 

Office Space (1999)

office space satire

Finally, we have the film Office Space. This is a satirical comedy about the dull life in the office cubicle or working 9-5 at your desk job. This film has quickly become a cult classic, and it stars many big-name actors and actresses. For example, Jennifer Aniston, Gary Cole, Stephen Root, Ron Livingston, and many more.

This movie will definitely make you re-think your job, that’s for sure! Plus, there are some memorable themes and scenes that will stay with you after the movie has finished. So, if you want to watch an extremely relatable film, then make sure you check out Office Space! Or maybe this movie will just hit too close to home for you, we get it! 

Our Final Thoughts

satire in film

So, there we have it – our complete guide to satire and how it is best used in film. There are many different interpretations that you can follow, however, the most common are irony, humour, and exaggeration. 

It’s also important to remember that satire isn’t always light-hearted and funny, as it can also be serious. This type is most commonly known as Juvenalian satire. It’s vital that you make sure your film sets the right tone of satire that you wish to convey to your audience. 

A good way to further your education is to check out our above list of movies. This way you will be able to watch a variety of different types of satire and get a feel for what you are most interested in. Satire in film (however it is used) is a powerful tool in communicating messages to the audience.

So, make sure that you check out our list of suggestions for satire in film. After all, it’s just the excuse you’ve been looking for to watch some of the best satirical works. 

We hope that you enjoyed this article and that you now feel fully informed about satire and the many different types that exist. Would you like to learn more about films and filming techniques? Then make sure you check out the Music Gateway blog, as you are bound to discover something new! We have articles about How To Write Dystopian Fiction, Online Filmmaking Courses, How to Make a Short Film, and plenty more.  

Are You A Filmmaker?

Are you an independent filmmaker, or interested in the crossover between music and film? Then check out our article on music supervisors. With our concierge and service and extensive music library, allow us to help you find music for your film. Sign up free for Music Gateway now!

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