Social Commentary

Ian Livengood

What is Social Commentary?

Social commentary is using a medium to provide insight or commentary on issues in society. This can be done through many ways, one of which being a novel. Mark Twain used his book, Huckleberry Finn, to express his opinion on topics ranging from slavery to religion. Twain did so through satire, or the use of comedic elements to critique society. As well as satire, social commentary can be conveyed through utopian literature, or demonstrating what a perfect society should look like. The famous philosopher Plato did this, dreaming of a society ruled by philosophers such as himself who did not engage in the questionable political practices that Athens did so at the time. Finally, social commentary can be expressed through dystopian literature, or looking at what a “nightmare” society would exemplify. One famous dystopian series is the Hunger Games, where Suzanne Collins writes about a future America in ruins and the wealthy hold great power over the poor.

Social Commentary in Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain does a tremendous job on using satirical means to commentate on an issue in society at the time within his novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. During Twain's time, the morals behind slavery were being tested. Twain chose to address the issue by discussing his characters internal conflict about whether or not he should return a runaway slave. He uses Huck to illustrate to the reader his personal stance on the issue. Twain does this by having Huck "go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again (Twain 214)," thus reflecting upon the issue of slavery and commentating upon the issue in his literary work.

Social Commentary Today

Saturday Night Live, a late-night television sketch comedy show, took a swing at presidential candidate Donald Trump. The video was released a few days after the leader of the Ku Klux Klan announced that he and the rest of the Klan support Trump’s campaign. In the video, Trump’s supporters are portrayed to seem like average Americans at first, but it is revealed that they are in fact extreme racists. The writers were trying to say that many of Trump's supporters are racist, due to his political ideas and the support from the KKK. This is a current example of social commentary in our society today.
Voters For Trump Ad - SNL

Personal Commentary

In today’s technology driven world, it’s easy to become lost in the excitement. From smartphones and computers to kindles and TVs, it’s becoming a prevalent issue; technology addiction. Take a look at the people around you; I see kids in school, on their phone instead of learning. When out at a restaurant, instead of interacting I see couples on their phones, heads down and not even acknowledging that the other is there. Some of my friends stay up all night playing video games and deprive themselves of the basic need for sleep. Society has become lost in their gadgets, and it’s something that needs to be reversed.

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