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18 Satire Examples Spoofing Politics, Film, & Literature

Etymology of Satire

Where did satire come from?

Long ago, circa 430s BCE, a young playwright named Aristophanes started to write stories that mocked popular leaders and conventions in ancient Athens. Aristophanes’ plays became widely known as Greek comedies; a new genre that sought to incite laughter rather than sadness like the tragedies before it.

This next video does a great job of explaining ‘the Greek comedy’ and one of its sub-groups, the Satyr.

Origins of Satire

The word “satire” was used by ancient Roman critics and writers.

Aristophanes was a Greek poet who wrote the earliest satires. His most famous work is Lysistrata, a satirical comedy where the protagonist, Lysistrata, convinces women to withhold sex until the Peloponnesian War (a war between the Greek states of Athens and Sparta) is over.

It ridicules the political order responsible for the war: the idea of women being able to end a war would have seemed ludicrous.


Chaplin to Riley

Satire examples in movies

Perhaps the most iconic satirist in the history of cinema was Charlie Chaplin. His 1940 masterpiece The Great Dictator is widely viewed as one of the most important satire movies of the 20th century.

This next video shows how Chaplin went from a universally beloved silent-film star to an undeterred satirist who attacked Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler. Satire movies don’t get as bold and brave as this.

What Is Satire In Literature?

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. 

How Can You Apply These Satire Examples to Your Writing?

Satire can be a great way to make a memorable point. It can push home an important message without sounding preachy or boring.

What types of satire would you experiment within your own writing?

Maybe you’re drawn to gentle Horatian satire — or perhaps you’d rather write an incisive Juvenalian satire.

You could take aim at a much-disliked trend in your niche through a satirical news story, for instance. Or you could use gentle satire to help your readers understand what they’re doing wrong.

You don’t have to write a full-on satirical post, like The Onion. Instead, you might look at ways to include exaggeration, witty humor, or ridicule in your writing.

Why not give it a try in your next post?