We all exist in a society that has good and evil.
We celebrate the good in society and criticize the bad with vigor.
We may praise or criticize society directly by pointing fingers at people and institutions that fail.
Alternatively, we can use works of art and create characters that give a true picture of the rot or good in society.
What is Social Commentary?
Social commentary is the use of rhetoric to offer criticism or commentary on different issues affecting society.
People use rhetoric to educate the public on matters that should be addressed to promote change or appeal to people to seek justice for the afflicted.
By not pointing names, social commentaries help avoid conflicts while still delivering the exact message that they need the general populace to know.
Forms of Social Commentary
People can express their views about various issues in their community in many ways. Therefore, the list below is not exhaustive.
- Visual artwork: This includes all works of art such as drawings and paintings. They depict the issues at hand in pictures.
- Photography: Pictures show the true state of affairs. It can show bad living conditions, bounty harvest, sad or happy faces, and destruction, among other issues.
- Public speaking: You can talk of the issues affecting the world around you in a speech
- Fiction: Works of fiction create characters and environments that showcase things happening in the current society.
- Non-fiction: Non-fiction publications talk of a topic and how it affects the society. For example, you could talk of insecurity, joblessness, and early marriages.
- Mass media: These platforms help air out issues to a mass audience
- Music: Different forms of music talk of different issues, including love, finances, religion, family life, and corruption, among others.
Here are perfect social commentary examples in human history:
1. The Disputation of Power and Efficacy of Indulges
In 1517, a church leader, Martin Luther, wrote 95 Theses that questioned how the church was run. At the time, Catholic Church was selling indulgences to absolve sin, which Luther thought was against the principles of Christianity.
His writing led to his ex-communication but set the foundation for the formation of the protestant faith.
Among other issues that he challenged include the power of the pope, getting born again by grace, baptism, and several church practices at the time.
These issues became the major pillars separating the protestant faith from Catholics.
2. Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Animal Farm is a satirical novel set in Manor Farm, where farm animals rebelled against their masters and set up their society.
Unfortunately, some animals set themselves as leaders and returned to the same repressive regime.
This fictional story depicted the USSR during the communist rule after the Bolshevik Revolution.
According to critics, the book showed how societies fight tyrannical rule only to install leaders who turn against their people leading to more suffering.
Ironically, even the capitalist and fascist regimes have the same problem.
Related Post: Animal Farm Questions and Answers
3. Guernica Painting by Pablo Picasso
Guernica was a painting commissioned by the Spanish Republican government.
The painting showed the overnight bombing of Guernica city in 1937.
In a black and white image, viewers can see people and animals gasping for breath, dismembered bodies, and destruction.
This drawing became part of the cry for peace across the world. It was even made into a full-size tapestry that now hangs at the United Nations headquarters located in New York.
4. We Shall Overcome by Pete Seeger
This song is based on the old hymn sung by American Tobacco company workers during a strike in 1945.
Seeger adopted some of the lyrics of the song and released his music in 1960. Soon the song became the default anthem for pushing for human rights.
During Martin Luther King’s burial, over 50,000 people sang the song.
In 1963, Joan Baez led the song in protest in Washington that over 300,000 people attended. It talks of challenges and the undying spirit of fighting them.
5. Between the World and Me by Ta Nehisi Coates
This book interrogates American history and the setup of the society since the days of the slave trade.
It shows the creations of a higher race, the violence meted on the black population, and gun control.
The book is a compelling piece that showcases racism from a deeper perspective. It also has several examples of people killed for their skin color.
‘Between the World and Me’ is a non-fictional book with a sad but intriguing analysis of society.
You can tell what issues affect society by reading, listening, and watching works of art, music, literature, and film. They tell the story of societies—sometimes directly or with hidden meanings.
Many triggered change, educated the masses, or led to further suffering. Check the books, paintings, or favorite TV programs to know more about the society around you.