The Limits of Parody and Satire in a Mad World
Poe's Law states that parodies of extreme views will be taken as sincere by a percentage of readers. For parodists and satirists (and they are two different things) this can be a problem.
Then there's Bear's Law, which is the inverse of Poe's Law. It says institutions and persons can become so extreme that readers think true reports are parodies or satire.
For example, the Bear might report that the Vatican has issued a joint prayer service with Lutherans that thanks God for the "gifts of the Reformation," and "the spiritual insight of Martin Luther." Now, that sounds like one of the Bear's satires, but it is, in fact, true.
The only way a writer can parody the whole mess is to say, "Today the Vatican announced that Martin Luther will be recognized as a saint. His first miracle has already been reported. A Catholic woman in Waukesha, Wisconsin read a Bible for fifteen whole minutes after praying for Luther's intercession."
When you've got to stretch that far, you lose both the humor and the point. You literally can't parody some things.
The Difference Between Parody and Satire
|Satire is parody's evil twin.|
When you enter the Bear's strange woodlands, you may encounter stories that segue from straight to parody, with a satiric stinger for good measure. For example, in one recent story, the Bear started with a real report of the Pope playing himself in a movie, then went to a parody about the Holy Father actually being a character played by Jonathan Pryce, then added satire about the Pope's off-the-cuff comments.
How to Know When the Bear is Pulling Your Leg
How do you know what's real, and what's parody or satire?
- real stories are almost always linked to a source by the Bear; be suspicious of strange ones that aren't
- there will almost always (the Bear is forgetful) be a "parody" tag at the bottom, indicating that there is at least some parody or satire in the article -- have fun sorting it out
- some will just be obvious, like the "Dear Reinhard" satires -- you know that Cardinal Marx does not have an advice column; hopefully you knew that Jonathan Pryce isn't really playing a "Pope Francis" character, despite the uncanny resemblance. (We're pretty sure.)
- parody may or may not be easier to spot than satire; for parody think of the hilarious Eye of the Tiber
- remember that if there's something beyond making you laugh, if some point is being made, you're reading satire, although it can be mixed with parody
So there you go! Now you can safely navigate through the Bear's woodlands, where features seem to shift and not everything is what it seems. Consider it part of the fun of St. Corbinian's Bear's ephemeris.