Titania McGrath: satire in the age of social justice

Sunday 3 November, 10:0011:30, Auditorium 1In conversation with dissidents...

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‘Humour is a weapon of the patriarchy.’ So says Titania McGrath, the Twitter superstar who describes herself as an activist, healer and radical intersectionalist poet. Titania has become famous for her ‘woke’ words of wisdom, such as ‘heterosexuality is a hoax’. Of course, those of us who have been following Titania’s rise to fame will know that she is, in fact, fictional – a satirical character dreamt up by the author and comedian Andrew Doyle. Boasting a Twitter following in the hundreds of thousands, Doyle’s parody of a ‘typical Guardian reader’ has managed to fool some so-called ‘social-justice warriors’ into believing Titania’s cries of oppression, as well as revealing uncomfortable truths about the degraded state of identity politics.

Not everyone is a fan of Titania. One columnist argued that ‘lampooning the language of social justice is a cheap shot’. Doyle has been accused of ‘punching down’ with his satire of contemporary ‘leftie’ politics. ‘There is nothing new or refreshing about sneering at younger generations’, claimed one critic. But Doyle has defended his character – who now has a book out, and a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – arguing that ‘at the very extremes of the social-justice movement lie some of the most arrogant, narcissistic, offensive people you could possibly encounter. And that, to me, is inherently funny.’ Doyle sees Titania as his licence to ‘play these people at their own game’.

How has Doyle managed to keep a satirical character going, when so much of serious contemporary politics seems to be straight out of a satirist’s playbook? Is poking fun at social-justice campaigns merely a right-wing ploy – even though Doyle himself is a self-declared leftie? And what has it been like for Doyle, to be a comic writer in a world that sometimes seems unable to laugh at itself? Now that Titania’s real identity is out, where does she go from here?