Canadian comedic actor Jim Carrey has taken aim at America’s gun laws and the late Charleton Heston, former National Rifle Association (NRA) president with a satirical Internet video, “Cold Dead Hands’.
Done in the style of classic country western variety show “Hee Haw!”, the video features Carrey as the lead singer with Lonesome Earl and The Clutterbusters, a country band. The song mocks Heston, insinuating his love of guns was fuelled by the need to compensate for his sexual inadequacy.
According to Oxford Dictionary, the purpose of satire is to use humour or irony to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics. The classic example is Jonathan Swift’s 1729 essay ‘A Modest Proposal’ in which he suggests eating the Irish children as a solution to the country’s famine, thereby mocking the heartless attitudes among the rich people of the day towards the poor.
Both Swift’s essay and Carrey’s video serve to spur conversation and debate of important political issues. In modern times, this means social media. Since Carrey’s video’s release a few days ago, it’s been viewed almost 2 million times on the Funny or Die website, and there have been almost 100,000 social media mentions of Carrey or the video.
Most of the online conversation is being fuelled by Fox News’ vitriolic reaction. Greg Gutfield, host of Fox’s Red Eye program, called Carrey a ‘dirty stinking coward’ and said the video made him want to go out and buy a gun. The actor retaliated by issuing a news release in which he said the news network is a last resort for journalists whose options have severely limited by their extreme and intolerant views.
Gun control is a polarizing issue. However, the overall sentiment of social media activity has been positive, despite Fox’s colourful criticism. Sysomos gives the sentiment a 68% favourable score.
The role of artists in society has always been, in part, to provide social commentary as a reflection of our community and culture. With this video Carrey follows the traditions of Shakespeare, Dickens and Swift. Social media empowers the resulting commentary, debate and discussion: