Written by Brooke Quach.

On September 23, 2017, Frank Rich, writer and producer of HBO’s award-winning comedy Veep, appeared via Skype at the largest Texas Tribune Festival ever.

To begin the panel, the moderator Jacob Weisberg stated, “Although I think that the official title of our panel is ‘Veep Imitates Life,’ after watching this season, I certainly have the feeling that it’s the other way around, that it’s life that seems to be imitating Veep.”

Frank Rich chuckled and retorted with a quote by the show’s lead actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus:

“Our show started out as a political satire, but it now feels more like a sobering documentary.”

Sprinkled laughter from the audience pierced the quiet air, confirming the truth behind the statement.  

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Frank Rich, executive producer of HBO’s Veep, is interviewed by Jacob Weisberg, chairman and editor-in-chief of The Slate Group. Image by The Texas Tribune.

When Veep is compared with American current events, the political satire and political reality are too often indistinguishable. Veep’s characters embody the “most cynical and nasty view of Washington culture, “with each showing an ever-increasing amount of incompetence, narcissism, and hypocrisy.” Truth and justice never triumph, and these characters seem incapable of identifying ethical behavior or sound moral judgement. Even though Veep intentionally never references contemporary politics, its efforts to completely avoid overlap are ultimately unsuccessful.

Satire conveys what most unbiased journalists are restricted from communicating. While journalists and reporters are responsible for presenting unadulterated facts, satire spins these facts in a way that turns the reader’s bewilderment and frustration about a current problem into ironic laughter. We indulge in satire as an escape from the absurdity of reality, but the resulting humor frequently facilitates a serious dialogue about the conflict in the process.

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Image by The Texas Tribune.

Actual news coverage of recent events and its consequential satire can often be mistaken for each other. For example, a recent article from the The Onion, “‘No Way to Prevent This’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” tears down the wall between satire and reality. The article highlights the inaction and irresponsibility of the U.S. government and its citizens who have constantly dismissed essential dialogue regarding gun violence and its respective victims.

As one of the most economically developed nations, there is a standard that our government and our people should be held to.

Feeling helpless and accepting defeat in the face of chaos stops us from reaching that standard. Frank Rich reminds his viewers that although the problems that pervade the governmental affairs of the US can be laughed at, these problems also need to be approached critically. While satire initiates dialogue and ideas for potential solutions to these complex problems, it is up to the reader or viewer to take action.

Featured image by The Texas Tribune.


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