The BBC recently created a sketch that parodies the various ‘Real Housewives’ TV shows but instead using four brides of the Islamic State. The sketch depicts the brides worrying about what they are going to wear to a beheading and fighting over having the same suicide vest. It also has one of the brides lamenting the fact her new husbands keeps talking about ‘the 40 virgins’ (often promised to jihadist who will carry out suicide attacks), and he has recently allowed her an 8ft chain, instead of a shorter one, to keep her imprisoned. It takes the format of one of these shows but uses it to satirise the obvious false promises many women have bought into from men of the Islamic State.
In this world of political correctness it is not surprising many have become offended. They say the sketch is racist, sexist and Islamophobic as well as making light of a brutal terrorist group. If someone you know or one of you family has suffered at the hands of ISIS, whether they have joined up or been killed or injured by them, you will probably not find much enjoyment in this sketch. Comedy cannot be to everyone’s taste, but it shouldn’t be censored. It is an important weapon in making fun of those who have hypocritical and extreme ideologies.
This satire of political groups or figures isn’t anything new. To take a prime example, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were constantly satirised by the Allies, including on Looney Tunes and the world famous Charlie Chaplain film ‘The Great Dictator’. This film didn’t come out when Hitler had just come into power, it was released at the end of 1940. This was when the Nazis had already taken over Czechoslovakia, Austria, Belgium, Poland and France. They had already killed hundreds of thousands and they started racial and societal purifying of these countries. Hitler was already responsible for killing many and he started the most destructive conflict in the history of man. Chaplain made fun Hitler’s speeches, his stance on ethnic cleansing (including the Jews), his love of Aryans as well as many other things. Not without controversy at the time, it is hard to imagine most people in 1940, and anyone today, becoming deeply offended by the ridicule of one of history’s most evil men.
From 1940 until today, there has been a long tradition of satirising the most evil men and groups. To take a more recent example, the 2014 film ‘The Interview’, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, sees two people who run a TV show sent to interview Kim Jong-un but instead of interviewing him the CIA task the pair with assassinating him. The team behind it heavily researched the regime to make sure their satire did have something to say. The movie is crude but its portrayal of Kim as a likeable idiot goes far in discrediting the constant nuclear strikes he threatens South Korea and the West with. The Kim dynasty, beginning in Korea with his Grandfather Kim Il-sung and father Kim Jong-il, and the Workers’ Party of Korea have overseen a brutal dictatorship that has killed millions from purges, imprisonment and starvation due to the country’s ineffective economic policies. Satire allows us to mock those who want to be taken seriously and mocking Kim’s love of basketball and western products shows the hypocrisy of his communist dictatorship.
Both of these examples have inspired outrage, so its not surprising the ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’ has done the same. In my opinion it is not offensive and I actually found it quite funny. It is mocking the promises that members of ISIS make to Western women by showing the actual reality of living under a radical Islamic theocracy. It isn’t making light of the thousands killed but just helping us see the terrorist organisation for what they are. They convince women of a better life in ISIS controlled Iraq or Syria, persuading them it’s better than Western society, but in reality there is little freedom for women, who often end up becoming sex slaves. This satire could help those vulnerable to such grooming see life there is not what ISIS claim it to be, and if this even helps one person the offence it has caused is worth it.
You cannot take everything in the world completely seriously as it adds legitimacy to certain groups ideologies. We cannot allow the absurd beliefs and policies of people like Donald Trump to become the norm, so political satire is the way to show their views as ridiculous as they really are-which Alec Baldwin has done tremendously in his portrayal of Trump on SNL. In today’s world simply mentioning ISIS, women and satire in the same sentence might raise eyebrows, but we cannot allow this age of political correctness to diminish the ability to fight back through comedy. The best comedy always tackles sensitive subjects and censoring this is an attack on our freedom of speech. We should always be aware of the great evil groups like the Nazis, the DPRK or ISIS carry out, but we can also use satire to discredit them.