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Hugh Jidette or huge debt: questioning US fiscal policy using caricature and irony


Ekin Pehlivan, Bentley University, 175 Forest St. Waltham, MA USA.



YouTube has become a popular platform for political debate. Issues discussed via the medium of video and hosted on sites such as YouTube increasingly employ rhetorical devices such as humor, satire, and irony. In this paper, we focus on a campaign for fiscal conservatism aimed at reducing US's sizable or ‘huge’ debt. The campaign features a caricaturized personality ‘Hugh Jidette’ and uses irony and satire to convey a point. Drawing on a theory of caricature, we illustrate empathy, gap, differentiation, and exaggeration by using examples from the five advertisements from the campaign for ‘Hugh Jidette for President in 2012’. We find that a political issue such as fiscal policy, and more specifically national debt, can be a good fit for caricature because it contains all the necessary conditions and mechanism described in the theory. However, our analysis suggests a further mechanism that may be at work in political caricature–irony. The dangers of misinterpretation are discussed, and the link between caricature and irony is specified. Future avenues for research are explored. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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