Associate professor examines diversity and satire in new book

Charisse L’Pree

Associate professor of communications Charisse L’Pree Corsbie-Massay began teaching at the Newhouse School in 2013 after earning her M.A. in cinema and television from University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and her Ph.D. in social psychology, also from USC. When applying for jobs, L’Pree focused on a media psychology program, connecting her background in psychology and communications. Finally, she ended up in Newhouse. 

For L’Pree, who completed her postdoctoral degree at Loyola Marymount University in community psychology, teaching Newhouse students was an adjustment. “[Newhouse students] are very concerned about executing a project and the task at hand. Meanwhile, my training and the students I’ve taught has been much more theoretical.”

In October 2022, L’Pree released her sophomore book, “Diversity and Satire: Laughing at Processes of Marginalization.” The 224-page work aims to help readers interpret and understand satire, especially jokes centered around race or marginalized groups. “If you’re just repeating racial epithets and laughing, how do I know that you’re laughing at people who say racial epithets or you’re laughing at people who suffer from racial epithets,” she says.

She describes her book—which examines satire in many forms of media and how society interprets and represents it—as a look into her classroom. “We live in a world where satire is everywhere, but nobody ever talks about what makes satire unique and valuable and how it disrupts the processes of marginalization,” L’Pree says.

She references many pieces of satirical media in the book’s preface—like the animated television series “South Park”—and how people interpret and joke about it without completely understanding why it’s satire. “Satire is more than cracking jokes or making humorous observations; satire specifically encourages audiences to see (and sometimes laugh at) the nonsensical aspects of real life,” L’Pree writes. 

She began writing the book in the midst of the pandemic, a month after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. The writing process differed greatly from her first book, “20th Century Media and the American Psyche: A Strange Love,” released in 2021. While her first book is theoretical, research-oriented and singularly focused, “‘Diversity and Satire’ is much more teaching-oriented,” L’Pree says. “You could read this book and understand what it is like to be in my classroom.” 

She teaches the course Race, Gender and the Media with the goal of “helping students going out into the industry be more cognizant and careful about the content they created.” Examples and experiences from teaching the class virtually during the pandemic even made it into her book.

Since her students want to establish careers in advertising, journalism and television, L’Pree knows it is essential for them to understand how to positively contribute to society and how the words they use may help or harm others. In her class, L’Pree gives students the opportunity to sit down and think about why they are taking her course and why it is essential to their future careers. 

“Of course the students over and over say, ‘it’s a requirement,’” she says. “Yes, it’s a requirement. I get that. Everybody gets that. Why is it a requirement? Why does Newhouse think you need this class before you go into the industry?”

As more people read the book and understand the points L’Pree illustrates, “it’s satisfying to know that maybe it will help more people think more deeply about the jokes that they make and how they’re disrupting or enforcing pre-existing stereotypes and pre-existing discriminatory phenomena.”

Samantha Rodino is a first-year student in the television, radio and film program at the Newhouse School.