Satire refers to the use of humor to expose the foolishness, stupidity, and weaknesses of something or someone. It is the use of irony and wit to scorn and ridicule. Many people have used satire to ridicule the government and the society in different platforms, including literary works and movies. The incorporation of humor in satire makes it possible to address serious concerns facing the people. It has enabled the artist to attack human vice through wit. Nilsson notes that satire has a serious intent and a sentiment that is drawn from a critical dimension but it has to include something that is more or less humorous (11). The movie Blazing Saddles ridiculed the race relations in America, especially the belief that black people were not capable of doing much. In the movie, the main character is black and he comes up with a way to save the town. Most of the white people act in a stupid way. They are willing to do anything they are told, and they choose to follow orders without question. The movie uses satire to highlight the greed and corruption that is prevalent in the American political system.
The movie Blazing Saddles contains satirical moments that highlight the greed and corruption present in American politics. The movie describes events that happened during the nineteenth century during the construction of the railway. There is parody and humor especially depicting the way that different races relate to each other. The white Americans end up singing the slave songs when the black railway workers pretend not to know them. This reverse role is satirical. It happens in the beginning of the movie and it points out the events that will happen in the rest of the movie. The white Americans will play out of character, in the sense that they will make stupid decisions and the black workers will take on a leadership role. They will watch with humor as the whites make imprudent and unwise decisions. The attorney general learns that the railway line will make a diversion through Rock Ridge because of the presence of quicksand in the original direction. This will make the land in Rock Ridge profitable, and it will be worth millions. He sees an opportunity to benefit by chasing the people away from their land. He uses the concept of land snatching, which is apparently legal in the books. It is a legal precedent and there was once a similar case. The use of satire in this case highlights the greed of politicians who are willing to do anything for the sake of profits. They are willing to chase people from their land so that they can benefit. The attorney general convinces the governor to sign the papers that would displace the Indians from their land. The attorney convinces the general to sign the document, which would enable them to “snatch two hundred thousand acres of Indian territory.” The attorney tells the general that he has deemed the land unsafe for use by the Indians. He says that the Indians are convinced concerning the safety of the land because they are “such children.” Corruption is present in politics today. Some political leaders have been found guilty of accepting bribes, racketeering, and engaging in political malpractices (Genovese and Myers 1-2).
The corruption that exists in the political system was present in the nineteenth century. Some of the people occupying different political positions are not there because of their merit. They are there because of their political influence. This hinders them from making good and wise decisions that will benefit the people. The governor does whatever the attorney general tells him to do and he does not question his judgment. The attorney uses the governor as his puppet. He understands the weaknesses of the governor and he uses this to his advantage. The attorney controls the governor’s office. He manages to convince the governor to appoint a black man as the sheriff in a town occupied by white people. The governor knows that this is not a good idea and that the black sheriff will only last one day. The attorney general convinces the governor by saying that “One day is all we’ll need to secure your name in the annals of western history and to get a nomination… for the presidency.” He wants someone he can manipulate once he has control of Rock Ridge. Even though the governor knows that this is a bad idea and he tells the general so, he goes ahead and does what the general requests. He fails to see the general’s real intentions in the issues. The governor is only interested in having his name in the history books as the first governor to appoint a black man as a sheriff. He also manages to convince the governor to convert the public hospital into a state casino. This is ultimately a bad idea because people will not have a way of accessing medical facilities.
The movie highlights the fact that a leader can determine the decisions that people make and the progress that happens in an area. The decisions that leaders make affect the people in different ways. The sheriff decides to befriend the Jim, the Waco Kid, who others dismiss as a drunkard. This decision benefits both the sheriff and Jim. The movie exaggerates Jim’s abilities as the Waco kid. He single handedly defeats the Hedley’s men even though they all have guns. By using reverse satirical technique, the movie shows that a black leader can be capable of making good decisions that will benefit the people. The people at Rock Ridge are scared when they hear of threats to destroy their town. They are willing to leave everything behind and look for a new place to live. However, the black sheriff manages to convince them to stay. He uses the help of some of the local people and he devices a way of helping the town. Leaders can have positive and negative influence on the people. The attorney general is a leader with much influence and authority. However, he uses his power to harm the people instead of helping them. He wants to destroy the town and chase the people away. He uses his wealth and position to hire thugs and criminals of every kind. He says that he will use an “army of the worst dregs ever to soil the face of the west.” He proceeds to recruit people who have committed murder, arson, and rape amongst other crimes. The movie exaggerates the extent of the general’s followers. The men working for the general are presented as foolish people, who only do what they are told. The current political structure has both good and bad leaders. The good leaders are able to bring development to their areas and to help the people in different ways.
The American political structure depicted in the movie is corrupt and greedy. Leaders do not always know their roles and responsibilities. Some of them are in their position although they do not deserve to be. They do not seem to have the qualifications judging by the decisions they make. The movie uses reverse satirical technique to show that people can be mistaken in their choice of leadership. The people of Rock Ridge do not want a black sheriff, yet he ends up saving their town. They undermine his capabilities as a leader because of the color of his skin, which makes him inadequate in their eyes. The sheriff has to work hard to prove his worth and gain the people’s trust. The governor and the attorney general are the preferred leaders. However, they use the authority they have to make poor decisions. They end up making decisions that harm the people instead of protecting them. Corruption is rampant in that society, as leaders use whatever means they can to make individual gain. This is especially the case with the attorney general who recognizes the inadequacies and greed of the governor. He takes advantage of this to get what he wants.
Blazing Saddles. Dir. Mel Brooks. Perf. Cleavon Little Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, and Slim Pickens. Warner Bros., 1974. Film
Genovese, A. Michael and Victoria A. Farrar-Myers. Corruption and American Politics. Amherst: Cambria Press, 2010. Print
Nilsson, Johan. American Film Satire in the 1990s: Hollywood Subversion. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Print