Chuck Ragan to Receive Lifesaving Flannel Transplant by Steven Kowalski
- Writing satire
Like most of us, my Twitter feed is a lot of education related stuff. My other interests sneak in there too. There’s a bunch of geeky stuff, and there’s a lot of music stuff. A few weeks ago, something dropped into my feed with mentor text potential.
I listen to a lot of folk and Americana artists who used to play punk rock. One of my favorites is Chuck Ragan, who still plays with Hot Water Music, but also releases a lot of great music that is a bit more accessible. When not on the road, he’s a fishing enthusiast, and advocates a pretty simple way of life.
Which made him a good target for some satire from punk rock site The Hard Times (Site does feature some vaguely NSFW material… very punk rock.) The piece, about Ragan needing a flannel transfusion, pokes nice fun. His rootsy fashion sense, and down to earth, folksy persona make this piece work.
While chuckling at the Ragan piece, I, as many of us do, wound up clicking through the site further. The piece about Metallica made me chuckle as well. The image of the Metallica logo scrawled on a notebook felt like a flashback to my own experience, and I remember the lawsuit shenanigans of the early download debates, spearheaded by, you guessed it, Metallica.
What I like about these pieces as mentor texts is that, like good satire, they require the reader to have prior knowledge to understand, and really get the joke. The Metallica one is actually a better piece of satire, more Onion-esque in that it actually sort of sounds like something that an overly litigious band might do.
I know that music is important to many young people, and they have passionate connections to their favorite artists. This kind of satire could tie into this passion, giving them a chance to show off their knowledge, and write some satire, which can be challenging.
How We Might Use Them:
- My first inclination would be to have students write satirical pieces about music, or musicians that they like. They most likely have the knowledge to do this already, and they should know what aspects of their favorite artists are open to a bit of ridicule. They can skew sillier, like the Ragan piece, or they can go towards something that is a bit more subtle, like the Metallica piece.
- Consider as well, that this kind of satire works well with something that they already know. Much of the satirical stuff that we expose students to relates back to society, or the human condition. And, like we are wont to do, we’ve likely chosen material for them that is kind of mature, the finest examples of satire, and maybe over their head. Satire is often about these large truths of the world, many of which our writers may not have totally figured out yet. This is something that may be in their wheelhouse.
- As easy as it is to poke fun at something you like, there’s something special about going after the thing we don’t like. What if we encouraged our writers to satirize the musicians and artists they aren’t fans of? I’ve noticed a weird thing about this, too. Don’t we usually know a disturbing amount of information about the singers we don’t like? We can put that to use as we satirize those artists.
Satire is a tricky thing to teach. I’ve had students blindsided by questions about it on provincial exams. It takes time to understand, and many of the best examples of it are complicated texts. Giving our students examples of it that are approachable, about things they can appreciate, seems like a step in a good direction.
Can you think of other examples of pop culture satire? What are some musical artists or trends you see that need to be satirized? What mentor texts do you use to inspire satirical writing?