Such Schadenfreude – Unpacking The Medley of Caustic Humor and Politics in Veep

Michael P. Young


This paper discusses the intersection of humor and politics from a media perspective, particularly through the lens of television aesthetics. As a growing branch of television studies, television aesthetics tends to refer to stylistic analysis but also, more rarely, to an interest in philosophical aesthetics as applied to television (Butler, 2010; Cardwell, 2013). I will focus on the genre of political satire and identify the critically acclaimed television series Veep (HBO, 2012 – present) as a program which exemplifies the expression and underlying values of a contemporary strain of aesthetic sensibility – schadenfreude – that runs through its axes of coarse disempowering humor and the portrayal of politics. Specifically, the paper explores how Veep’s affective reception results from humorously overlapping two of the more problematic aspects that persist in the political landscape, namely, self-interest and ineptitude.

This paper begins by reflecting on the universal prevalence of schadenfreude. The first section briefly traces key historical instantiations of political satire, understood as a genre that humorously derides the shortcomings and dissonances of a prevailing political milieu. The second section conceptualizes schadenfreude in satirical terms and underlies its philosophical foundations. The third section elaborates on the novelty of Veep by highlighting its gendered position as the first comedic fictional television program of a female president and outlines how its satirical modality depends on its coarse writing style and depiction of antiheroinism to make the problematic political milieu pleasurable to viewers whose normative experience of politics is frequently negative. The final section considers the ‘real world’ implications of Veep as a social commentary on unsavory political personas and perspectives.


Article received: May 10, 2019; Article accepted: July 6, 2019; Published online: October 15, 2019; Original scholarly article

How to cite this articel: Young, Michael P. "Such Schadenfreude – Unpacking The Medley of Caustic Humor and Politics in Veep." AM Journal of Art and Media Studies 20 (2019): 61-69. doi: 10.25038/am.v0i20.327


humor; political satire; schadenfreude; television aesthetics; Veep.

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Publisher: Faculty of Media and Communications, Singidunum University, Belgrade, Serbia

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