Jaime Weinman has a column up at MacLean's looking at the work of Mike Judge (Office Space, King of the Hill) with the headline "Does satire need to be progressive?" He was kind enough to ping me for my thoughts on Judge's political temperament; as I told him, at least as far as his work goes, I kind of doubt he's a down-the-line Democrat or Republican. Instead, he has always struck me as someone who is deeply skeptical of claims to authority, whether that authority is assumed by bureaucratic bumblers or political know-it-alls trying to tell everyone else how to live. If I had to guess, I'd assume he's probably some variety of leave-me-alone libertarian.
What fascinates me about Judge isn't so much that conservatives enjoy his work but how angsty the left has gotten about his new HBO show, Silicon Valley.* Weinman highlights a few of the complaints:
Still, people who want more straightforwardly liberal satire, like the anti-sexist sketches on the current season of Inside Amy Schumer, may get frustrated with Judge’s cynical attitude. A recent episode dealt with the fictional tech start-up’s attempts to fix its woman problem, but it also took on the doublespeak that occurs when companies try to diversify: Jared (Zach Woods) told the team they need a woman because "it’s like we’re the Beatles, and now we just need Yoko." New York Times writer Farhad Manjoo slammed the episode for failing to mount "a grandly subversive defence of gender diversity," but Judge has never seemed interested in satire as a way to improve the world. Bunch points to a review at Mashable that said "Silicon Valley still has a lot of work to do in its portrayal of minority characters."
This idea that (some!) leftists hold—that only obviously, pedantically leftwing satire is of value—never ceases to amuse me. As if the only humor of worth is that which defends your worldview—that which never makes you question whether or not your preferred priorities are obviously correct. I remember having a hearty laugh at a 2014 essay on Judge's brilliant, reactionary movie Idiocracy. Its title? "Idiocracy is a cruel movie and you should be ashamed for liking it." The nut graf:
We're frustrated by the world, believing that encouraging smarter people to breed would somehow fix our problems. But it simply isn't so. It's a distraction from the institutional problems of our society. The problem isn't that stupid people (again, read: poor) are having too many children. The problem is that we aren't living up to the ideals and promises we've given to each generation of Americans that have come before us. A livable wage, paid maternity leave, proper funding of scientific research — these are the things a functional, civilized society are built upon; the ways that we can improve our world. We don't build a better society by getting more smart people to fuck each other.*
Hear hear! As we all know, the founders jettisoned the Brits and the Greatest Generation stormed Normandy so we could have government-mandated paid maternity leave. This comedian's failure to properly impart that lesson is a real disgrace.
Or, you know, maybe not. Simply put: Mike Judge isn't here to push your agenda. He's here to cast a skeptical eye on your dogma. And I think that's why conservatives love him, even when he's ribbing them.
*Silicon Valley is one of the two funniest shows on TV right now. It's neck and neck with HBO's Veep.
**For the record: It's not that we need smart people to fuck so much as we need smart people to reproduce. Smart people are doing plenty of casual fucking. And that's part of the problem.