True Art Sticks It to The Man

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    To Rebel is right.

    Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, plays criticising the government make the second most boring theatrical evenings ever invented.
    Hacker: What are the most boring?

    Sir Humphrey: Plays praising the government.

    These are the times that try people's souls. War rages across the Third World, children are starving in Africa, corporations pollute the Earth, greed reigns and every man has his price, American Idol was renewed for another season...

    Clearly, the Powers That Be are evil or incompetent. And with the world in such a mess, overthrowing them should be everyone's number one priority. Everything we do, even—no, especially the arts, must be co-opted for this purpose. True Art Sticks It to The Man, and since The Man wins if the status quo remains, any art that doesn't stick it to the man is a de facto tool of The Man and evil.

    In fact, according to literary critics, the renewal of American Idol is far more important than the other problems combined—every day people watch American Idol is a day they aren't watching something that might teach them to overthrow The Man. Needless to say, there is no time for literary criticism to look at such petty issues as plot or character. All that matters is if it teaches An Aesop about rebellion.

    Of course, if the only way to measure a work's quality is how rebellious it is, that becomes the only thing for critics to debate. So entire volumes have been written debating whether individual stories are rebellious (and good), or in favor of the status quo (and evil).

    The bane of these critics is the Rule-Abiding Rebel. If True Art Sticks It to The Man, then art that claims to stick it to the man but actually doesn't can never be good. "The hero frees individual slaves, but does nothing against the system of slavery as a whole. Therefore the story supports half measures and is bad. In fact, it's even worse than a story that's pro-slavery, since that wouldn't convince people, but this can fool people into wasting their time treating symptoms and not the cause." If critics actually like a Rule-Abiding Rebel, they have to argue that it isn't rule abiding at all: "while the hero does not free all of the slaves, this is in fact the most subversive thing of all because a story where he frees everybody would fulfill the standard happy ending..." Many of these become The Man Is Sticking It to the Man.

    Expect the critics to ignore art's history, as Dennis Miller once put it, as "a Polaroid around the neck of the rich bastards". (Most paintings are of three things: scenes from The Bible, landscapes, or portraits. Almost all were originally commissioned by the wealthy and powerful. Strangely, artists seem addicted to eating, so they tend to accept commissions from those who can afford to pay them.)

    Also, expect that the critics themselves will never regard themselves as the Man or as part of the Establishment. Even ivory-tower academics with six-digits salaries and tenure, or those with a neat little list of the things it is mandatory to rebel against, and who denounce any failure to toe the line. And therefore, it will never occur to them that an artist is sticking it to them. (Real Women Never Wear Dresses, anyone?) Not to mention that they often regard their own criteria as self-evident, so that they say a work "fails" to achieve a political objective (with no evidence that the writer was trying to achieve it), or a writer "does not understand" (as opposed to "does not agree with") their criteria. When the critics' standards conflict—things can get furious quickly. Also of note is that said ivory-tower academics, since they regard their own criteria as self-evident, are usually repressive of any dissenting voices to their own criticism and thus perpetuate their own little orthodoxies amongst their students; in effect, they say "rebel against the system by doing what I want you to do."

    The trope even colours the fight over the trope, which often centers on whether the author is a real, honest rebel or just a Rule-Abiding Rebel. It will never be considered that the artist was simply an artist, not a rebel in any way at all. These people simply cannot wrap their heads around the idea that an artist might be perfectly happy with the status quo and might support the authorities while still producing valuable and worthwhile art. The artist most likely to be the focus of such an argument, surprisingly, is Shakespeare, who is turned into every sort of rebel (from Catholic to republican to even proto-Communist) without any evidence whatsoever, and often with significant evidence to the contrary. The mentality seems to be that Shakespeare was great, therefore Shakespeare must have been a rebel of some kind...if we could only figure out what he was rebelling against...

    In defense of all this, the critics may at times have a point; creative works of art are inherently designed to reach and be consumed by a wide audience, can be used to transmit a wide range of messages and interpretations and can provoke very powerful emotional responses from their readers. This means they can act as potentially very powerful vessels for either propaganda or for transmitting subversive messages against various forms of authority. There's a reason why one of the first things most authoritarian governments do is impose strict controls and censors on art, after all; a work by itself might not bring down The Man, but it can potentially inspire someone else to do so. This trope is a problem not because constructing and interpreting art in a political sense is a bad thing, but because it's proponents erroneously assume that the political interpretations of art the only thing worth considering and usually tie themselves up in knots in order to do so.

    A subset of Serious Business, in that it only makes sense if people take art seriously enough to decide to overthrow The Man (or not to) based on art. Distinct from True Art Is Offensive in that it doesn't depend on gross outs, just on political points. Compare What Do You Mean It's Not Didactic?, True Art Is Incomprehensible. See also What Do You Mean It's Not Political?

    Examples of True Art Sticks It to The Man include:


    • A lot of older films experienced renewed popularity in the 1960s, because they were perceived as this trope. That doesn't mean they're not good movies.
    • This is one of of the reasons David Brin really hates Star Wars, to the point where he decries it as nothing more than an organized conspiracy, headed by George Lucas to send society back into superstition and feudalism.
      • In general, Brin's position is a bit more nuanced than that. To oversimplify, he thinks that Oligarchy and Monarchy are heavily romanticized in works like Star Wars, which promote a reverence for elites that resonates quite strongly with many (if not most) people. This is undemocratic, and in the long run an unhealthy mentality for our post-Enlightenment civilization. Even though Brin occasionally misses the point or gets a few facts wrong, many of the observations he makes about Science Fiction and it's role are quite insightful. He talks about this a lot (though not always using Star Wars as an example), almost to the degree of being a Single-Issue Wonk, but this is a good place for the curious to start.
    • The somewhat ignored 2010 movie The Joneses focused on a team of "stealth marketers" who move into a wealthy neighbohood pretending to be a family in order to provide Product Placement via their daily routine and encourage others to buy their products. While it does feature a fair amount of satire of Conspicuous Consumption and its effects on people (a subplot has one of the Jones' neighbors getting into heavy debt by trying to "keep up with them" and ultimately comitting suicide), the movie then switches focus on the main character falling in love with his "wife" and the other tolls The Masquerade is having on the family. The critical reaction to the movie was split down the middle: half the critics accepted the movie for what it was while the other lamented the "missed opportunity" for making a truly scathing satire of consumerism in one of the most appropriate times in history.


    • Critics of Shakespeare are notorious for trying to prove that he isn't a Rule-Abiding Rebel, when (as said above) there's little evidence that he was any kind of rebel at all. Attempts to portray The Taming of the Shrew as feminist, or The Merchant of Venice as a plea for Jewish rights, are the most famous. Another way to do this is to take his historical plays, downplay the parts that praise Queen Elizabeth's ancestors, and emphasize the parts that decry power politics and war, or praise him for his social criticism while deploring his tendency to put it in the mouths of the fools and crazies, overlooking the possibility that he really considered it foolish and crazy.
      • How anyone could assume that "Taming of the Shrew" (aka "An Ode to Wife-Beating") is a pro-feminist work may be baffling to almost anyone who's seen the play or read the script.
        • Not pro-feminist, certainly, but played less straight than you'd think, considering the whole story is a play within a play done for a drunk and a number of Shakespeare's other women are stronger characters without receiving any comeuppance.
      • And then there are professors who subscribe strongly to this trope, who condemn Shakespeare exactly for not being any kind of rebel at all, and say that his works send a clear "maintain the status quo and don't rock the boat" message.
      • In a rather double entendre-ish version of this trope, there's Shakespeare's sexuality. Much hay is made over his possible bisexuality and which of his plays or poems might have been written to/about/while thinking of men, with very little sense of "What, if any, effect or relevance does this have on the work's quality or meaning as a whole?" and rather a lot of "They're teaching public school children the writings of a MAN WHO SLEPT WITH MEN! How wonderfully subversive!"
    • The nonfiction book Nation of Rebels is a Deconstruction of this. The authors point out that people who spend their time making sure that True Art Sticks It to The Man aren't spending time sticking it to the man in Real Life outside those who hunt rule abiding rebels are actually rule abiding rebels themselves.
    • Parodied mercilessly in Postmodern Pooh by Frederick Crews. It's the text of a fictional academic conference where every speaker spends their time claiming that their work sticks it to the man, but the other critics are rule abiding rebels. The Subtext is that their arguments are really just personal feuds, with every "literary criticism" a Take That against their rivals.
    • Bertolt Brecht genuinely believed that all art was political, even that which seemed deliberately apolitical, which was reaffirming the status quo. He was, however, a lot more intelligent about it than many of the people we're discussing here.
      • It should be noted that, after taking this stance, he went out of his way to make his early plays seem more political than they initially were - usually in a pro-Communist way. (For instance, claiming that Man Equals Man is about the power a person can achieve if they erase their individual identity.) This extended as far as Brecht rewriting some scenes when a play was put on anew.
      • We all try to cover up the embarrassing indiscretions of our youth, so why shouldn't he?
    • Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs is this trope cranked Up to Eleven.
    • As one of the earliest and most well-known female novelists in western literature, Jane Austen is frequently the subject of a lot of back-and-forthing about exactly how much of a 'feminist' author she is, and whether her work suffers or not because of it; while she is undeniably astute and satirical about the roles, obligations and hardships forced on women at the time, her heroines inevitably end up conforming to these social roles. Standards of feminism were quite different back then as they are today, however.
    • Almost all of Russian classics are traditionally viewed as this, with the trope solidifying somewhere in the 1840's and surviving up to this day. Before the revolution, every major literary work (think Crime and Punishment or War and Peace) was seen as either overtly sticking it to the Tsar or discussing social issues with shocking liberty. The trope pushed itself into double digits in Soviet times; taking a jab at the Party, slight as it may be, even if this was knowingly sanctioned by the regime, tended to greatly increase an artist's popularity. After The Great Politics Mess-Up, this phenomenon briefly became a pile of decayed horseflesh, with signs of revitalization in recent years.
      • The rather punkish attitude is an old tradition in itself. Europhiles who constantly complained that St.Petersburg isn't Paris were in fact the tame side of it. The sharpest pen of the age, M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin, ripped to shreds the local bureaucratical circus as well as loan words and concepts from the European political fashion (and wasn't any more cheerful about the provincial powers-that-be than Gogol). From an imaginary dialogue with Edouard Laboulaye (the author of Paris en Amérique and Le prince-caniche, both of which were fairly popular in Russia at the time) in Abroad:

    Laboulaye: Yes, but you have to agree, it's hard to avoid the word "constitution"refers to the contemporary censorship in a conversation if the matter in question is exactly what does it express? And we from 1789 year on…
    The Narrator: I know this too. But here we say so: "illusions", and that's about it. Tell me, Laboulaye, which of these two words, in your opinion, has the more inclusive meaning?
    Laboulaye: Illusions… ha-ha! and at that especially if… illusions perduesLost Illusions - also a book by Balzac… ha-ha!
    The Narrator: So you see how it is. You think about us Russians: northern bears! And we meanwhile got the terminology…

    • Quite a few scholars of Roman literature assume that Roman Imperial writers were covertly trying to criticise the excesses of the emperors in their writings, even if the writing is downright flattering when taken at face value. At least in some cases they may have a point: both Lucan and Seneca flattered Nero in their works, but later joined a failed conspiracy against him and suffered for it.

    Live Action TV

    • The original Star Trek series was radical for its time, but they could only go so far. For example, they could only get a black woman on the ship as (for all intents and purposes) a receptionist. The series seems to take a lot of heat for this from people who either ignore or don't care about the fact that the show could not have gotten on the air at all if it hadn't been a rule-abiding rebel - and that Uhura could, at need, pick up a soldering iron and repair her 'telephone'.
      • Perhaps in response to this, the new Star Trek movie expands the definition of Uhura the Space Receptionist to include "picking up crucial, plot-relevant details buried deep within emergency subspace transmissions," giving us Badass Space Receptionists.
      • Later books also have her as a department head and master translator and transmissions expert, fluent in dozens of languages, hundreds of encryptions, and correcting the universal translator. Partly this is to put her on the same general level as her not-love interest, Spock.
      • Also, consider the character of Pavel Chekov, a Russian character as part of the core cast in a show released when Cold War tensions were extremely high. While Chekov was indeed concieved to act as an example that in future the show depicted all races and nationalities would be able to co-exist in harmony, he was an portrayed as a young, non-threatening teenager of relatively low status on the ship, similar to that of Uhura.
        • And the fact that he was specifically added to appeal to young fans - he even looks like one of the Monkees!
        • Interestingly, the show's creators expected to get hate mail for having a Russian as a good guy, but they didn't, probably for the reasons explained above about him being young and non-threatening. They also expected to get hate mail for the famous interracial kiss, but the most negative letter they received read, in part, "I don’t believe in the integration of races and the fraternization of the races, but anytime a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets a girl in his arms that looks like Lieutenant Uhura, he ain’t gonna fight it."
      • There's also the fact that various tell-alls by people that knew him have revealed that much of Roddenberry's sticking it to the man with his multiracial crew and promotion of diversity was... not as enlightened as all that. For one thing, Nichelle Nichols was likely cast not for the sake of forward-looking inclusiveness but because Roddenberry was having an affair with her at the time. The Vulcan IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) was conceived not because Roddenberry sincerely believed in its tenets, but so he could sell the medallions through his mail-order business. Essentially, Star Trek only stuck it to the man insofar as Gene Roddenberry could figure out some way to have it profit him by doing so.
    • In Six Feet Under Claire's art teacher shows them his piece; an enormous American flag with feces wiped all over it. It seems like the creators were trying to make us think it was amazing too.
    • In Doctor Who, one of the criticisms frequently levelled at the Third Doctor is that for much of his era he worked alongside and cooperated with U.N.I.T, a military taskforce, which is thus seen as a 'betrayal' of the Doctor's general 'anti-authoritarian' ethos. This can tend to ignore the fact that the Third Doctor wasn't exactly shy about telling authority figures that they were wrong and also stupid (and, if anything, at times went out of his way to be even ruder to these authority figures than his supposedly anti-authoritarian other selves) and that the other Doctors have also frequently worked alongside such authorities with little complaint.
      • Considering the Third Doctor's era had writers who were card-carrying Communists (Malcolm Hulke) and Buddhist environmentalists (Barry Letts, and his writing partner Robert Sloman), the anti-authoritarian and left-wing intent was definitely there. The Doctor was often disgusted by the Brigadier's Shoot Everything That Moves tactics and repeatedly promoted peaceful problem-solving methods. The Letts/Sloman stories tend to feature strong moral messages of hope and interconnectedness (the Doctor's daisiest daisy speech in The Time Monster, the environmental message in The Green Death), the meaning of self-sacrifice (a major plot element in The Daemons), mercifulness and nonviolence (the Doctor's interactions with the Master—he begs Kronos to pardon him and tells the Master violence will never get him anywhere). Watch The Green Death if you still have any doubts--the world is saved through vegetarianism.


    • Music criticism of 1960s bands is made of this trope. Critics of The Beatles often don't seem to care if their music was any good, only if it freaked out the old fogies. These critics are in turn bitterly divided over whether '60s psychedelic bands were good because they encouraged rebellion, or bad because they encouraged getting high instead of opposing the Vietnam War.
      • As a result, the bands that are considered today as the '60s' most iconic bands are the ones most associated with rebellion, not the ones who most people were actually listening to. Unless one believes that Grand Funk Railroad, Three Dog Night, and The Carpenters were revolutionaries.
      • Almost every "hot current music genre" since the '60s ('70s punk, '90s Grunge, etc.) has gone through exactly the same thing, where the hardcore fans stop caring if the music is good, and care about whether it can actually do what the Moral Guardians are afraid of it doing It can't. Each sub-genre and faction of the punk/grunge/etc scenes competes to show they are sticking it to The Man most, leading to depressing Fan Dumb as they accuse each other of betraying the cause. It would be We ARE Struggling Together! if it mattered that much.
      • The book Kill Your Idols, a deconstruction of numerous "classic" rock albums that tend to be overrated by critics, accuses the MC5's Kick Out the Jams on these grounds.
      • Old-school...err, Golden Age hip-hop fans strictly believed that True Art Sticks It to The Man, as bands like Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Paris, Ice T, Geto Boys, N.W.A., Tupac Shakur etc came with messages against the establishment (although a few of them were critiques of the black community itself, usually for not sticking it to the man). These fans are extremely bitter about the current state of Glam Rap, where the important thing is not attacking The Man but celebrating your success. That's because "the man" is keeping them rich, These types of rappers always existed. The difference now is that it's acceptable for these rappers to thrive in the mainstream without ridicule. Unlike in the past where you would have been accused of being a overly-commercialized sell-out, It's funny how History Marches On.
      • Due to the USA's racial history, critics have retroactively done this with pretty much every old music genre dominated by minorities. Did jazz and blues scare white racists in the 1920s? We hope so, because if not, the music stinks even if it sounds good.
        • The irony is that Rock and Roll was originally called race music, jungle music, colored music, and other disparaging names. Um, we can only wonder what happened with that genre.
        • Elvis happened.
    • Bono, at the 1993 Grammy Awards, on U2 winning Best Alternative Music Album: "We shall continue to abuse our position and fuck up the mainstream." And it was only the sixth Grammy they won...
    • There can a little bit of this in the critical evaluation of the music of John Lennon and Paul McCartney; Lennon wrote several overtly political songs, so he's cherished as a rebel. McCartney tends towards Silly Love Songs, so his songs are frivolous pap. This is, of course, a drastic over-simplification.
      • It's also vexed some critics that Lennon's most overtly political song with the group was "Revolution"/"Revolution 1", which is actually against the most strident radicals of the day, or is at least very ambiguous ("You can count me out -- in"). it's certainly particularly scathing to the kind of left-wing activists who "go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao."
        • Apparently Lennon claimed that the "out -- in" part was a dirty joke that he added on the spur of the moment. Given Lennon's love of wordplay the story might be true.
      • As for McCartney and the frivolous, non-political pap he's supposedly only capable of writing according to these critics, it's worth noting that his song "Give Ireland Back To The Irish" was banned from British radio. He's not without his political side at times either.
      • An oversimplification to be sure, but keep in mind that Paul tended to glorify tradition and nostalgia. He had a subversive side, but nobody who writes a song like "When I'm Sixty Four", without a trace of irony, has much passion for any kind of fight. And that's not strictly a criticism- at times, one could wish that Lennon would tone it back.
      • It's recently come out that Lennon was apparently actually very conservative in the latter part of his life. Not only did he reportedly find his earlier extremism rather embarrassing, but he was a big fan of Ronald Reagan. Reaction from many fans has been to either perform a quick Historical Villain Upgrade by becoming newly interested in his personal flaws, or to try to make "excuses" for him by saying maybe he was just confused and misinformed about Reagan and Republicans.
    • This appears to be the sole reason that "We Built This City" by Starship is considered to be one of the worst songs ever. It's actually a catchy little song, but since Starship was a corporate recreation of the "rebel" rock group Jefferson Airplane it must be dreadful hackwork, right?
      • It should be noted that the Airplane may be better remembered as a "rebellious" band than as a "great" or even "consistent" band. Still, that point is probably very true of the criticism leveled against earlier Starship songs like "Miracles", and of Marty Balin solo material, but "We Built This City" is...special. Overkill might have a lot to do with it: that song wouldn't go away, and when radio stations finally quit playing it, it started showing up in commercials. There's a lot of sentiment that The Eighties were full of shallow music with a poor taste level, and that song might be the perfect example. Besides, "catchy" is not at all the same as "good". There are plenty of ear worms that can stick in one's head, but don't have any real depth or power.
        • Ron Nevison, producer in charge of Starship's image change (as well as Heart's), is unapologetic about this, and states that if the goal was to have a pop group sell records and make money, then mission accomplished. He did qualify it thusly: "It was The Eighties."
    • Rage Against the Machine. All five of their albums stick it to the man. Even the covers album. All of which were released by a subsidiary of Sony.
      • Guitarist Tom Morello usually responded to that by saying they were able to get a radical message through mainstream means, and that was still quite an achievement. See The Man Is Sticking It to the Man for a good rebuttal.
    • Part of the reason for the critical backlash against Led Zeppelin was that they were treated to a rich record contract that gave them artistic control. In many critics' eyes, this made them The Man.
    • Black Metal gets a rather weird version of this: a lot of the more narrow-minded fans and critics strongly encourage this trope when it comes to the lyrics and ideology (namely, that the bands adopt a Satanic, paganistic or anti-Christian worldview) while actively discouraging this trope on a musical level (i.e. being actively hostile to bands that attempt to move the genre forward and experiment).

    Newspaper Comics

    • Norman Solomon's book The Trouble With Dilbert contends that Dilbert is an evil tool of corporate overlords because it's not an all-out attack on big business. Scott Adams' response was, of course, nonsensical silliness.
      • It's better than that. The self-evident criteria angle is strong with Solomon's book. Basically, he takes it for granted that any work which comments on the business world must be an attack on capitalism and then spends the whole book pointing out all the ways in which Dilbert isn't an attack on capitalism. And Solomon doesn't miss the fact that Adams would readily acknowledge these shocking revelations are true. He digs up the relevant quotes from Adams to show us how evil he is.


    • In academia, Marxist criticism is completely (and deliberately) True Art Sticks It to The Man. The whole point of it is that every artistic work either supports the wealthy and powerful or opposes them, and their moral (and therefore, artistic) qualities depend on this.
      • A more refined argument is found in the Western Marxist Frankfurt School: art is good if it's "two-dimensional", i.e. if it taps into something else (imagination, utopian thinking, etc.) beyond the established reality.
    • Feminist criticism is particularly prone to this when dealing with older works. Almost any early feminist work looks pretty anti-feminist compared to modern standards, so the critics can argue back and forth forever: "It doesn't go all the way, so it's a Rule-Abiding Rebel! Bad!" "No, it was revolutionary for its time. It was proto-feminist. So it's not a Rule-Abiding Rebel! It's dangerous and subversive!" Lather, rinse, repeat.
      • As one of the more prominent and well-known early female novelists within modern literature, Jane Austen gets quite a lot of this.
    • An interesting take on this is Ayn Rand's novels, which are essentially just textbooks for her Objectivist philosophy. Many of Rand's novels have her protagonists sticking it to The Man, with The Man being strongly anti-capitalist and anti-individualist... which was the environment she grew up in. Thus she chose to praise monetary success and a certain (or large) degree of selfishness. Since these are traits that are associated with The Man by the "rebel" segment of society, they decry her works as evil capitalist propaganda... even though anti-capitalist movements are now decidedly mainstream, enough that many of them could be considered a Man themselves (and again, she was writing against the government standards she grew up with, so she was already sticking it to The Man in her opinion when she wrote them). Thus Rand's writings are technically subversive but considered by most critics to be the worst sort of establishment propaganda.


    • This seems to be one of the major themes of Rent. How much of it is satirical is up for debate.
      • "Moo with me! Moo!" Even the other bohemian artists think Maureen is silly; but her performance brings people together anyway.


    • This belief is the only possible reason why the page on Deconstruction is so full of things that clearly are not examples.
    • Most likely also the reason that the word "subversion" has been tossed around so much.
    • Almost every mention of Shakespeare on this wiki presupposes that he really wanted to tell the whole unvarnished truth about English history, but was intimidated or censored by those eeeeevil royals who forced him to write pieces to their liking. This is such nonsense. He is known to have been quite happy to take royal money to write whatever the king or queen wanted. He liked writing for the nobs. He preferred writing for the nobs. They paid him a fat bonus on top of the money he eventually earned from staging the play. What's there to hate about it? And as for "telling the truth", Shakespeare only followed the (very few and very flawed) history books he had access to when they didn't get way of his art. His wholesale changes to history are not because he was intimidated into it: they're either because he didn't know any better (Richard III is a prime example) or, more frequently, because he cared more about writing a play than teaching a lesson (Macbeth, Hamlet, etc.). And thank God he did.
      • Agreed, few historical lives or events play out in a way that works as drama. Best to look at it as a fictional story that uses an actual person or event as its starting point.

    Web Comics

    Real Life

    • A subset of comedy fans (particularly in Britain) passionately believe that comedy does not exist just to make people laugh (and some appear to go so far as to believe that laughter is completely irrelevant), but that it's true purpose is to smash the system, destroy all authority and reduce the Establishment to rubble. This tendency has been particularly strong since the days of the 'alternative comedy' set in the 1980s which, originating as it did during Margaret Thatcher's controversial term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, focused heavily on political comedy and satire. Woe betide any comedian who does not particularly believe this or, worse, 'sells out' -- usually by getting on the television, doing an advert or even gets a slightly larger audience than previously.
      • Monty Python were frequently lauded for doing this. They have repeatedly pointed out (in vain) that they mocked conventions of comedy and satire not because it was subversive, but because it got laughs. Most of the political humor on the show, for example, really didn't go any deeper than "Ha ha politicians suck".
        • It's recently become popular to take certain of their bits out of context and apply them to current social movements, such as a few lines from one of their skits where a woman who's just had a baby asks if it's a boy or a girl, and the doctor sneers "I think it's a bit early to begin imposing those sort of roles on it, don't you?" This is lauded as the Pythons giving the finger to gender roles (and usually credited to several decades before the movie was actually released). In actuality, they were almost certainly mocking the sentiment since such things had just become popular... especially since it came out of the mouth of a character who had spent the entire skit proving he couldn't care less about his patients or their welfare, meaning that he was just as likely saying it because he didn't even consider the baby a human being.
      • This reached the stage that by the early 1990s, comedy seemed to be labeled "alternative" if it wasn't all about sticking it to the Man (e.g. Vic Reeves Big Night Out, which in fact parodied this tendency, although its surreal nature also helped). Some comedians, particularly those who regard themselves as more 'highbrow' (because they never shut up about 'serious' issues), will viciously criticize any, er, criticism or cutting of their 'edgy' material, with nary a word about whether what they said was actually funny, or even entertainingly offensive.
      • A similar movement in comedy in the US has resulted in what some people call "Clapter", where the comedian tells jokes not to be laughed at, but applauded. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are both cited as major offenders in this, where the audience spends at least as much time, if not more, whistling for and applauding the host's political zingers as they do laughing at anything.
        • On the other hand, there are some liberals who criticize them for not doing this enough. These people were especially disappointed that they used the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear to speak out in favor of mutual respect and dialogue between the left and right instead of just bashing conservatives.
        • There was an episode of Comedy Central Presents featuring the comedic stylings of Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead that hasn't gotten much replay since the 2004 election; it was nothing but clappy humor that became instantly dated by November 3. In general, a lot of the episodes made right before elections (so far there have only been 3 elections during its run) end up like this.
      • Margaret Cho sometimes gets criticized for having "clappy humor" about racial issues and politics.
      • This tendency was criticized by Irish Times reviewer Donald Clarke in his review of American: The Bill Hicks Story, in which he conceded that although Hicks was usually accurate in the content of his demented rants against conservative politicians, it would have been nice if there had been than a smattering of jokes as part of his show.
    • There was an art gallery in Palo Alto that... consisted of caricatures of the Bush Admin figures, how they sucked oil like it was nothing, bible-thumpers, and the Sheeple That Is America. Needless to say, you know where the artist stood.
      • Given the current artistic tendency towards Post Modernism, meta-humor, and irony, no, we really don't. And that's terrible.
        • Not to mention some of the hagiographic press received by President Barack Obama, some of which sinks to such self-abasing levels of earnestness that one wonders whether it's entirely serious.
    • Alt-Comic strips that consist of nothing but Strawman Political clip art.
    • "Agitprop" put out by Anarchist groups.
      • Ironically, the original Agitprop was put out by Stalinist regimes to keep control of the people by acting on their minds and emotions.
        • Which either goes to show you that oppressive regimes are so able to control thoughts and attitudes that they're able to corrupt their political opponents into becoming like them or that even the tools used by oppressive regimes can be subverted to work against the very dictators that created it. Maybe a little of both.
    • Many of the Straw Critics listed in the introduction to this trope would probably have Heroic BSODs if they realized how the great art of the Renaissance was developed. Many of the beautiful murals and fabulous paintings, revered as priceless treasures today, were in fact intended as shameless self-promotion and political propaganda-Donatello's David being meant in part to glorify the (in)famous Medici family. Artists like Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo also engaged in crass commercialism, selling their talents to the highest bidder. Go figure.
    • Relatedly to the American Idol example in the main text, this was the general theme behind the campaign to prevent the X Factor winner from getting the 2009 Christmas No.1 using Rage Against The Machine. The problem with this line of thinking was that ignored the fact that though Rage makes music that is intentionally confrontational and thought provoking—they're on the same exact record label as the X-Factor winner so the man still wins either way.
      • Sort of - There were at least as many people simply getting behind it because they were bored of Christmas #1 going to 'Whoever won the X Factor' rather than not being able to predict it. They weren't exactly into sticking it to the man, more wanting to not know weather Eminem or Bob the Builder would get it. Basically, by those who didn't care who won as long as there was an actual race.