Somehow or other, my ten year old son discovered my blog post The Least Jedi, wherein I make fun of one of the worst movies of all time, point-by-point. He’s actually having me read it to him in place of a bedtime story and finds it very funny. (This is not actually the first time; he made me watch The Last Jedi with him, and now has me reading it to him again.)
This got me to wondering why he’s enjoying it so much. I think that part of it is the same reason I enjoy Mystery Science Theater 3000—I’d love to be involved in making a movie so much I’d be willing to help make a bad movie. As G.K. Chesterton once said, “anything worth doing is worth doing [even if one can only do it] badly”. But I think that there’s another aspect to this, too.
Sarcasm is not polite. Sarcasm about a work of art, however, is (except in particularly grumpy company) not impolite. It can be very mean to make fun of a person, but it is not mean to make fun of a movie. And the problem with politeness, especially from a child’s perspective, is that you never quite know what people who are being polite really think.
I think, then, that part of the pleasure of sarcasm, especially for younger people—who, after all, are the people who generally enjoy sarcasm the most—is that one can take it far more at face value than most of the things one comes across. It is a vacation from veiled meanings and subtle hints. In sarcasm, we find good and bad openly called by their names.
There is a lesson, there, for people who write sarcastic things. They have a special appeal to children for a reason; it behooves us to make sure to write them very well, since children will absorb errors when they see them far more than will adults.