Satire

I got offended at this website. I believed it was true. Turns out it’s satire. Although I am breathing a deep sigh of relief, the realization that I can’t tell the difference between satire and possible reality scares me.

marry daughters

From Neatorama:

Marry Our Daughter is an introduction service assisting families to arrange marriages for their daughters. Kyra A, a 14 year-old who hails from the southeast and loves the outdoors, comes with a bride price of USD 27, 995.

The site has gotten 20 million page views in the last two weeks and gets around a thousand (mostly angry) emails a day. The site’s creator (and active nudist), John Ordover, has revealed that the site is indeed a prank.

Mr. Ordover quickly conceded the page was a parody aimed at drawing attention to inconsistencies in state marriage laws. States consider it a crime for adults to have sex with minors, but they allow kids as young as 12 to get married with parental and sometime judicial permission.

There is a part of me that totally thinks people are capable of such a thing. I can imagine a parent, desperate by finances and the luck of the draw, selling their child to get out of the trailer home. I recognize the movie-of-the-week value of my last statement, and I recognize that the scenario sounds much more absurd and impossible once it’s been stated, but do I fundamentally believe that people are incapable of such a thing?? Nope.

Human beings are scary. Human beings slaughter each other all the time. I know women who push their daughters to be plastic and perfect so they can attract the right man and escape their caste. I went to high school with several girls whose goals included “marry rich guy.” I knew two girls who sold fellatio to the rich boys. Perhaps I thought, initially, that MarryOurDaughter was tacky but honest. Making a public commodity out of something that exists in a virtual gray market already. Sometimes women marry men they abhor: I suppose it’s not prostitution when you exchange a lifetime of sex for financial security. (This is not to say that there aren’t plenty of happily married and loving folk, this is just to say that there are people with more selfish motives, and these are the people I believe capable of selling their daughters on the internet.)

I’m glad it’s not real. I’m not glad that I think such a thing could be.

We’ve gotten so bad, that parody has become difficult and nuanced. We do not recognize the joke until it slaps us in the face. Satire only works if the joke is slightly absurd. We are so capable of absurdity that we’ve demystified the word. True absurdity is no longer possible.

I won’t say “that’s absurd” at the risk of sounding redundant. But we all know that when we’re resorting to the meta-level, it’s because all our other tools have failed us.