I was reminded of this when reading the article Collage: An Art-inspired Methodology for Studying Laughter in World Politics by Saara Särmä. In this article, the author describes the usage, reimagining and reusage of images in the various domains of social media. In using political comics and other images in collage, she draws attention to various issues in a fresh light. In the article, she also discusses how humor is used to explore areas of social taboo or topics that are generally avoided to discussed with caution. One particular example she mentioned about the failed launch of some missiles that had been corrected by "photoshopping" gave me pause to consider a few aspects of the use of these images.
For a person to understand a political comic, or satirical image one needs to be fairly familiar with the context of the story or situation that is being portrayed. Also, one needs to be at a level of maturity and critical thinking to be able to look at the image in different depths and from several different perspectives in order to fully appreciate its humor.
Here was a personal example of missing this "inside joke". I recall seeing this same graphic of the missile launch in an earlier class during this semester and, because I did not know the story, I was unable to really enter into the joke and so explore the issue to the fullest extent.
Could political cartoons unintentionally cause a division in the public between those, in the know, and those on the outside who cannot comprehend the humor? I wonder the same thing about satire. Is it possible, that in using satire, the creators alienate some of the population simply because the humor is beyond the viewers understanding or experience?
In teaching, I have seen many different responses to humor in my classes. Often times my humor is understood, or not, based on the student's familiarity with the context of the joke's subject. At other times, it is an issue of language competence. The level of maturity and cognitive development plays into the equation as well. As an example, students in primary grades do not typically understand sarcasm. However, after a few more years, they pick up on it and begin to comprehend the humor. Is it possible that, despite aging, there are those in the population who do not reach the level of maturity to understand and fully appreciate satire, even in adulthood? Finally, I also wonder about how much of a factor cultural heritage and backgrounds play into the equation as to one's comprehension of a satire or political comic?