I believe that political satire helps contribute to society by providing social commentary that would otherwise go unnoticed and unsaid. Political satire allows its creators to speak about issues in a way that potentially catches the audience off guard. For example, in the case of Exit Through the Gift Shop – if we consider it political satire – the audience expects a documentary about the evolution of street art, when in reality it is a critique of the world of street art and its commercialization.
Therefore, I also believe that Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop succeeds in its critique. Via its unbelievable, and at times, ridiculous characterization of Thierry in his evolution to Mr. Brainwash, the audience comes to understand the hilarity of the situation. This French immigrant, who began as a rather fan-boyish, overly excited amateur filmmaker, evolved into an overnight sensation, able to sell his artwork for millions of dollars. Watching the film, there seemed to be something off – nothing was adding up. Even simply understanding Banksy was the director of the film made me suspicious, especially given what I knew about Banksy – mysterious, in the shadows, content to make a statement while remaining unknown. However, the film was certainly convincing in its own right, and perhaps herein is its power. The debate over whether or not the film is “real” has people talking about it, talking about the documentary, and by extension, its content. Perhaps this is the true success of the film – after all, for a political satirist, what more could you hope for other than people talking about that which you aim to critique?