Satire’s critical bite exposes it more often than other forms of humor to various kinds of restraint or control. While most studies of satire focus on its formal censorship (by editorial, legal or political decision), others acknowledge the additional role of internalized constraints (such as personal humor tastes and cultural conventions) that influence satirists in their creative work (self-censorship). This paper argues that constraints on satire (and humor generally) are not limited to those summed up as censorship and self-censorship and that examining reactions that occur after the initial success of a published satire helps to identify a wider range applying to satire and humor in different cultures and times. Focusing on reception rather than creation, therefore, this paper looks at specific cases of successfully published satire that subsequently stirred expressions of public offence in contemporary Australia, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). A distinction is drawn between reactions stemming from personal and cultural constraints and opposition shaped by economic and politico-legal forces and interactions between the two are also considered. Moderators of the backlash effect also include the medium of communication and some stylistic features of satire.
About the author
Jessica Milner Davis is an Honorary Associate in the School of Literature, Art and Media at the University of Sydney and a Life Member of Clare Hall Cambridge. She co-ordinates the Australasian Humour Studies Network and is an Affiliated Researcher with the Centre for Comedy Studies Research, Brunel University UK. Her publications include studies of farce and of humor in Japanese, Australian and Chinese cultures.
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Appendix: Manifestos receiving over 90% support from viewers, 2007–2009
29 June 2007
Abolish Juvenile Law [lesser penalties for juvenile crime]. 91% support.
6 July 2007
Ban the formation of coalition governments after elections.
Also ban politicians from changing their political party. 91% support.
21 March 2008
Remove pensions for bureaucrats who retire and work in the private sector. 92% support.
Make employees of government ministries and agencies that cause scandals share responsibility and work free for a month. 90% support.
22 August 2008
Abolish official vehicles and cut parliamentary members’ wages by half. 93% support.
17 October 2008
Given the bad state of economy, set all politicians and bureaucrats’ winter bonuses at ¥0.00. 92% support.
27 February 2009
Close down foundations and corporations that accept amakudari (appointments for retired bureaucrats). 92% support.
Scrap unnecessary ministries and agencies, and cut the number of bureaucrats in half. 91% support.
Source: Stewart (2011), quoting http://www.ntv.co.jp/souri/manifesto/20060407.html (accessed 23 January 2011; translations by Stewart and Davis).
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