An Outdoorsy Kid's Guide to Satire
I don’t know Emerald, you’re being pretty sensitive…
Don’t go off the deep end, Emerald!
YOU SEXIST FEMINAZI
God, it’s just a joke, lighten up.
Whew! Okay now that we have that out of the way, I want to talk about satire. A couple well-read outdoor platforms have started spoofing The Onion. As someone who also writes things for money, I understand why. Satire is low-hanging fruit - makes everyone laugh, easy to share, pokes fun at the industry itself, pretty straightforward to write. But a few of these pieces have really been missing the mark for me.
So check these out so you can follow along with me. Teton Gravity Research published a piece in which a lone-feline is excluded by an all-dog patrol team. And the Moldy Chum published an April Fools Joke in which A River Runs Through It was being rebooted with an all female cast.
As the owner of a dog (dogs rule forever) and as someone actively creating opportunities for women to join the fly fishing industry (and making films about it too) these pieces should be totally up my alley. But after reading both, I was like, “Mehhhhhhhhhhhh…”
I had no fucking idea. I mean, there were even lines about "strong women" and pictures of puppies! I should have loved this shit! So I posed the question and the River Runs Through It and Dog Patrol piece to a women's fly fishing forum and my own Facebook page, respectively.
And most people, understandably, replied, “HAHAHAHA this is so great!”
But then a few people put words to exactly what I was feeling.
Jokes aren’t that funny when the minority, oppressed or struggling group/person is the butt of the joke.
The Onion knows this. They make fun of the privileged U.S. not helping Puerto Rico. They point out how adults in power maybe shouldn’t be judging students walking out for their right to a safe place of education. They make fun of wealthy, white politicians from both parties.
The women and men working towards making outdoor recreation a less homogenous culture are gaining traction. It’s a big culture shift and we should be focusing on it. Ultimately that it’s being satirized is a win because it means it’s a big deal and everyone is noticing.
To me, however, these titles read:
We will label anyone on our patrol team who is different from us as moody, needy, hypersensitive, ugly and unprepared.
What, are you going to ask us to replace Brad Pitt with Scarlett Johansen in A River Runs Through It?! How hilarious. Fly fishing is a men's sport, don’t take away that legacy.
Still not on board? Think I’m being over sensitive? Think how different these titles are:
Robert Redford stunned to learn A River Runs Through It reboot with all female cast beating original's box office records.
Managers realize feline patrol team 99% more cunning, effective than dog team.
These titles would point out that these platforms notice what is happening in the culture around them and they would say, “Hey - we see you, we see why you’re here and we're here to help out.”
And listen, I understand that the intent wasn’t bad. The intent was to write a funny cats vs dogs satire piece. The intent was to make a spoof-y April Fools joke.
Ultimately, though, as a mentor recently pointed out, "What matters isn't intent, it's impact." I’d also bet good money that these platforms don’t have a lot of female or minority leadership or input before hitting publish. And frankly, I'm feeling a little Samantha Bee about this all:
“It’s actually not that fucking hard to hire amazing women and people of color! Beyonce, she found 10 black women who can play the violin while dancing and rocking a bold lip.”
Or at least, if you’re going to broadcast outdoor satire to thousands of readers, hone into what satire is and how it’s done well.
I'm not worried that either of these platforms or the authors that write for them are dickbags. I'm sure they are great enough folks, perhaps even some that really pride themselves on being progressive and/or feminist among them.
What I'm worried about is this: a homogenous team writes content for a homogenous readership. The team gets no negative feedback because the majority of their readers think like them and don’t see anything problematic. But then an eighteen-year-old girl who dreams of being a ski patroller reads a satire piece and learns, “I have to be exactly like the dudes (and dogs?) to succeed in that career” or a budding angler/videographer sees, “A blockbuster film about fly fishing featuring female anglers is a total joke.”
Media is an entry point for so many of these careers and activities, and while many companies are doing a great job at recognizing that, we need to get our humor on board too.