Manliness, Sexuality, and Satire: Heinrich Mann's Der Untertan and Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!)

Author: James Wilper

  • Manliness, Sexuality, and Satire: Heinrich Mann's  Der Untertan  and Stephen Colbert's  I Am America (And So Can You!)


    Manliness, Sexuality, and Satire: Heinrich Mann's Der Untertan and Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!)



Can satire uncover the socially constructed nature of gender and sexuality?  This article explores how the protagonists of Heinrich Mann’s Der Untertan and Stephen Colbert’s I Am America (And So Can You!) project their anxieties arising from gender and sexuality mandates, drawing on Theodor Adorno’s The Authoritarian Personality and Judith Butler’s theories of gender and sexuality as performatives.  The central characters of these satires demonstrate their potential to be undone by the groups onto which they project.

How to Cite:

Wilper, J., (2010) “Manliness, Sexuality, and Satire: Heinrich Mann's Der Untertan and Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!) ”, Dandelion: Postgraduate Arts Journal and Research Network 1(1). doi:



Published on
21 May 2010
Peer Reviewed


Manliness, Sexuality, and Satire: Heinrich Mann's Der Untertan and Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!)

J. A. Cuddon defines literary satire as a 'kind of protest, a sublimation and refinement of anger and indignation' whose creator views him or herself as a 'self-appointed guardian of standards, ideals and truth […] who takes it upon himself to correct, censure and ridicule the follies and vices of society and thus to bring contempt and derision upon aberrations from a desirable and civilised norm'.1 This definition applies to the two satirical efforts I consider in this article. Heinrich Mann's Der Untertan [The Man of Straw] (1918) and Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!) (2007) have a great deal in common despite being separated by era, as well as by linguistic and cultural gulfs.2 In order to demonstrate the models according to which these satires operate, I draw upon Theodor Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality (1950) as well as Judith Butler's theories of performative gender and sexuality construction.

The central figures of their works, Mann's anti-hero Diederich Heßling and Colbert's megalomaniacal character (whom I shall call 'Stephen' to differentiate him from his creator), demonstrate authoritarian personality traits similar to those identified by Adorno and his colleagues. This personality type can be characterised by a constellation of nine closely interacting variables, among which are a preoccupation with power and toughness; a wish to punish those who deviate from culturally established norms; a tendency to project rage, fear, and insecurity onto scapegoat groups; and an exaggerated concern over sex, especially the sexual behaviour of others.3 Mann's novel anticipates The Authoritarian Personality, depicting the socialisation, education, and rise to power of a figure that embodies a nexus of fascistic, anti-democratic, and ultra-nationalist traits. Karin Gunnemann points out that the author thought he was describing a uniquely German mentality which he termed the 'Untertanengeist' [spirit of the subject or underling]. Gunnemann writes that historians studying this personality see the 'Untertan' as a prototype for people with fascistic tendencies: the novel is a snap shot of the political role of the German middle class and of the anti-democratic sentiments ingrained in German society before and after the First World War.4 In Krieg der Illusionen [War of Illusions] (1969), the historian Fritz Fischer argues that Hitler was not an aberration in German history, but was rather the culmination of an aggressive foreign policy and a nationalist movement that is traceable back to Bismarck. This is Fischer's contribution to the Sonderweg or 'special path' thesis:  that Germany's path to modernity led through illiberal, anti-democratic traditions, from Bismarck to Hitler, from authoritarianism to totalitarianism.5  Mann's fictional Diederich Heßling offers a reflection of these attitudes and of his time as well as representing Mann's own views on contemporaneous attitudes, beliefs, and events.

Although a span of ninety years separates their satirical efforts, striking similarities are present in Colbert's satire of conservative American cable news pundits whose worldview is cast in absolute terms and many of whose on-air journalistic practices imitate propagandistic techniques.6 The pretext for Colbert's satire is Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, host of the O'Reilly Factor and author of numerous books. Colbert holds a mirror up to American society which reflects many of the same traits Mann indicted in Second Reich Germany. These indictments are numerous, but this essay focuses on the parodic renderings of gender and sexuality. I shall explore the ways in which the satirical efforts depict their protagonists' insecurities arising from their respective societies' mandates of masculinity and heterosexuality. Both characters project a sense of inadequacy onto groups that are perceived as a threat. Diederich is a classic misogynist. He projects onto women, whereas in Stephen this trait is compounded by concern over sexual matters resulting in a vilification of the homosexual community and, specifically, of gay men. That it is these two groups that represent threats to the protagonists' gender and sexual identities is no mere coincidence. George Mosse writes in his seminal work of masculinity studies that manliness is defined in part by what it excludes: women and sexual deviants, a group of various violators of normative sexual behaviour, are two prime targets for exclusion.7 Judith Butler's theories on gender, sex, and sexuality as performatives, which she sets out in Gender Trouble (1990) and Bodies That Matter (1993), offer a useful tool for understanding Diederich's gender anxiety and Stephen's homophobia. Diederich's inability to live up to ideals of manliness is a source of anxiety, shame, and fear. Butler posits that no one lives up to their gender mandates, but that those who fail to act their gender in accord with certain sanctions and prescriptions are regularly punished while those who are successful are rewarded.8  The performance of gender acts lends an 'appearance of substance' to these cultural constructs which 'the mundane social audience, including the actors themselves, come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief'.9 The relations between these acts, though, are arbitrary. Butler argues that 'a natural sex with a discrete gender and with an ostensibly natural “attraction” to the opposing sex/gender is an unnatural conjunction of cultural constructs in the service of reproductive interests'.10 The existence of homosexuality threatens Stephen's sexual identity, exposing to him his own capacity for same-sex attraction. Butler argues that gay and lesbian identities undermine heterosexuality which presents itself as 'the original, the true, the authentic' sexual attraction; they expose heterosexuality as an imitation of its own naturalised idealisation.11  Mann's 'Untertan' and the character Colbert inhabits on his television programme and in his book demonstrate the potential of these characters to be undone by those groups onto which they project, a fact which has wider implications for society and its gender and sexual roles.   

Masculinity and Satire 

As a child Diederich learns to respect and build his identity in relation to the strength and power he associates with his father, while learning to despise the tenderness and emotion his mother represents to him. Herr Heßling has little or no respect for his wife and her sensitivity. Diederich internalises his father's position, and, because of his similarity to his mother, never learns to respect himself: 'He exploited her tender moods, but he felt absolutely no respect for his mother. Her affinity to himself forbade it of him because he did not respect himself.'12 Diederich recognises that he does not live up to the strength he idolises, and this is a source of shame for him throughout the narrative. His sense that he cannot fully embody his gender causes him to project his internal rage externally onto figures that he can identify with the feelings he hates in himself. The first of these figures is his mother. Then, as he enters a succession of public spheres—the Gymnasium, the university, the duelling fraternity, the military, and finally the economic and political arenas of his hometown of Netzig—the protagonist builds his identity in relation to those who possess power. This power adoration is almost always masochistic with a complementary sadistic aspect. Mark Roche writes that the 'Untertan' is both master and slave; he is as dependent on those below him as he is on those above him, for his own feeling of power and sense of self are rooted in the fact that he is master over someone.13 The groups onto which he projects are various: intellectuals, liberals, racial minorities, his employees, and women. But his relation to this last group is the most complex. In particular, two female characters in the novel undermine Diederich's sense of gender identity.

While a student in Berlin, Diederich falls in love with Agnes Göppel, the daughter of one of his father's business associates. The couple leave the city for an excursion in the countryside. Floating down a stream in a canoe, Diederich explores his feelings not just for Agnes but for his mother and two sisters as well. He tells Agnes that 'he owed [his mother] everything good in his life until Agnes came. And he told of the twilight hours, the fairy tales under the Christmas trees of his childhood, and even of the prayers said “from the heart”.' (p. 90) Until this point in the narrative, Diederich's sensitivity was the source of shame and self-loathing, evidence of his inability to live up to the manly ideal. Agnes notes the change in Diederich: 

Agnes looked deep into his eyes. 'I know', she said slowly, 'that you are in your heart a good person. You have to act differently sometimes.' This startled him. Then she said, as if excusing herself: 'Today I am not afraid of you.' (p. 90) 

Diederich admits that he was afraid of her, ostensibly because she was 'too beautiful',  'too fine, too good', but in fact because she brought forth emotions that exposed to him his shortcomings in approximating German society's ideal of masculinity (p. 91). Suddenly a bump knocks Agnes from Diederich's arms; the stream has widened and the canoe has drifted out too far. With this unexpected danger, the spell which Agnes has cast over Diederich is broken. By the time he returns to Berlin his guard is once again raised against femininity's assault. Diederich declares with indignation:   

'What a hysterical person!' […]. She only pulled this stunt because she wants to be married at any cost!  'Women are so cunning and they have no restraint. We men can't keep up with them […]. Well, let this be a lesson to me for life. Never again!'. (p. 93)

He casts this incident in terms of conflict and hostility, with 'we men'  (unsereiner) on one side opposed by women on the other, who are 'cunning' (gerissen) and 'without restraint' (keine Hemmungen) (p. 93). His language echoes the gender binaries that have been inculcated in the protagonist since his childhood.

Later when Herr Göppel confronts Diederich on behalf of his daughter, Diederich refuses to marry Agnes, notwithstanding her lack of dowry, because she is no longer a virgin: '“If you really must know, sir, my moral sense forbids me to take a bride who is no longer pure when she marries.”' Never mind that it was he who deflowered Agnes. 'He continued: “No one can expect me to make such a woman the mother of my children. I have too strong a sense of duty to society.”' (p. 99) This is more than a mere convenient excuse to jilt a girl with no dowry. His feelings for Agnes force Diederich to confront and question values and beliefs which his culture, upbringing, and education have inculcated in him, namely that emotion, sensitivity, and tenderness are unmanly, a sign of weakness, and un-German. That he phrases this in terms of a 'sense of duty to society' is quite accurate (p. 99). Diederich still has feelings for Agnes, but he sacrifices his personal wishes at bourgeois society's altar to decency and morality. The character demonstrates a 'suicidal enthusiasm' for society's power hierarchy throughout the narrative (p. 49). He loudly proclaims his willingness to sacrifice all for emperor and fatherland. His rejection of Agnes is an example of the character's masochistic drive, but also demonstrates the pleasure he derives from a 'good' performance of his gender.

After receiving his degree, Diederich returns to Netzig to lead his late father's paper mill and assume the role of head of the household. In both functions he approximates an authoritarian rule. In a language reminiscent of imperial rhetoric, Diederich gives what is meant to be an inspiring speech to his workers: '“There is but one master here, and I am he. I am accountable to God and my conscious alone. You may always depend on my paternal benevolence, but revolutionary elements will be crushed against my unbending will.”' (p. 106)14 Yet Emmi, his youngest sister, undermines his ideals of manliness and paternal authority in a similar manner to that in which Agnes had undermined his hostility towards women. Emmi also demonstrates the far-reaching effect Agnes has had on Diederich. When Emmi is seduced and abandoned by an aristocratic young lieutenant, Diederich confronts the young man only to receive the same response he gave Agnes's father. A woman who had lost her honour could not be a fit mother of one's children:  'Diederich answered as Herr Göppel had answered and was as abject as Herr Göppel had been.' (p. 399)  Lieutenant von Brietzen even challenges Diederich to a duel as Diederich had done earlier. But the parallels between Diederich and Agnes's father end when Diederich begins to take pleasure in his mistreatment. He accepts it as a matter of course that 'whoever wants to trample others underfoot must be prepared to be trampled; that was the iron law of Power' (p. 400). Although the lieutenant has insulted his sister, his family, and Diederich personally, Diederich takes a certain degree of enjoyment in the abuse. He is proud of the young officer: 'In spite of everything, Diederich rejoiced in the fresh and chivalrous young officer. “There's nothing like a military man”, of that he was certain.' (p. 400) This is a warped code of chivalry which grants carte blanche impunity to those who hold the power, first Diederich and later von Brietzen. Rather than throw Emmi into the street as he earlier threatened to do, he shows her 'unusual respect' after this confrontation:   

Through her sufferings, Emmi became more refined and to some extent more elusive. The attribute of 'fallen woman', unnatural and contemptible in others, lent Emmi, Diederich's sister, a singular shimmering air and questionable allure. Emmi was simultaneously more brilliant and more touching. (p. 401) 

Emmi's predicament forces Diederich to question society's norms and values as well as his own cut-throat ambition:   

Diederich witnessed that Power sometimes presented a base and vulgar appearance; it and everything that follows in its tracks: success, honour, loyalty. He looked at Emmi and was forced to doubt the worth of what he had attained or was still striving for. (p. 401)   

What he had considered as desirable examples of femininity—his wife Guste with her large dowry, and his other sister Magda who advantageously marries—seem common in comparison to Emmi. The similarity between her and Agnes is, ironically, not lost on the novel's anti-hero:  'He looked at Emmi and thought of Agnes. Agnes, who had fostered tenderness and love in him; she had been the only true thing in his life. He should have held to it tightly.' (p. 402) As Agnes had done previously, Emmi forces Diederich to confront the tenderness in himself which conflicts with his ideal of manhood. He inquires into Agnes's situation and is 'relieved' and also 'disappointed' to learn that she was in good health and married (p. 402). This is, for Diederich, far too prosaic an end to the story of Agnes Göppel. That she could move on after him diminishes her standing in his mind as the symbolic tragic heroine. It is this ironically naive sentimentality which prevents Diederich from learning from his experience.

The political and economic success which follows this scene reinforces Diederich's adoration of power, and he all but forgets that he once questioned the values he has been brought up to believe in. Mark Roche posits that in this scene and others in which the trope of 'tenderness' (Weichheit) surfaces, 'Diederich's softness cannot withstand the allure of power and theatre. His positions are naive and emotional, not reflective; they are, therefore, easily undercut by the rhetoric of power'.15 In the course of the narrative, Diederich morphs from a weakling child into an outward embodiment of the ideal of German masculinity and a 'model father' of three children. The birth of his son involves difficulties,  

[but] when it was over, Diederich informed his spouse that if faced with the decision, he would have simply allowed her to die. 'As painful as that would have been for me', he added. 'The needs of the Race must supersede, and I am responsible to the Kaiser for my sons.'  Women were there to produce children. (p. 442) 

Women are reduced to their reproductive function, a sort of necessary evil. His hostility to the group that threatens to undermine his gender identity is still strong towards the conclusion of the narrative. He questions society and its mandate to be manly but cannot or will not overcome the authoritarian ideology of his socialisation and education. He must exaggerate his attempt to embody the manly ideal in order to compensate for the innate emotional sensitivity he views as a source of shame. Diederich is, on the whole, socially successful, and his performance of his gender role is a source of too great a pleasure to him for it to be cast off.  

Sexuality and Satire 

Projectivity, one of the authoritarian traits identified by Adorno and his colleagues, is especially strong in Diederich. The 'revolutionary elements' he fears are many, but of these, women pose the greatest threat to his approximation of ideal German masculinity. Similarly, in I Am America, Stephen projects his rage, fears, and inadequacies onto various groups, including liberals, the media, scientists, and immigrants; but his homophobia demonstrates the potential for his heterosexuality to be undermined. Stephen projects his insecurity not onto women, as Diederich does, but onto homosexuals, transgressors of 'natural' sexual norms. Homosexuality is not absent from Heinrich Mann's novel, but is mentioned only once when a character uses his homosexuality as an excuse for an exemption from military service.16  By contrast, in Stephen Colbert's satire, homosexuality is one of the central topics. This centrality reflects the importance of this issue to American political and cultural discourses. Colbert parodies ad absurdum American right-wing vilification of the 'homosexual agenda'.17 Of the enemies of the 'American Way of Life' that Stephen identifies, homosexuals seem the most insidious because of the subtlety with which they undermine American values. Unlike immigrants who take American jobs, or liberal intellectuals 'spewing “facts” like so many locusts descending on America's crop of ripe, tender values', the mere existence of a segment of the population that 'chooses' not to conform to traditional gender and sexual norms is menacing (p. viii): 

Now I've got nothing against gay people. I just don't like how they flaunt it. I'm perfectly fine with someone choosing to be gay, as long as he marries a woman and has kids like the rest of us. And if he has to flaunt it, there's a place for that: in the privacy of his own home. Which should be a jail cell. (p. 109) 

Stephen identifies the problem as the ubiquity of affirmative images of gay men and lesbians in modern popular culture:  'Turn on the TV these days and it's a virtual Pride Parade of admirable homosexuals.'  (p. 109) It is essential to note, however, that when Stephen targets 'homosexuals', he has, unsurprisingly, little to say about lesbians. The inclusion of lesbians is implied—he does mention Ellen DeGeneres and Melissa Etheridge as 'admirable homosexuals'—but otherwise by 'homosexuals' he means gay men. The anecdotal 'evidence' he provides for his views and the images in the book focus exclusively on gay men. This is illustrative of the psychological motives that underlie the abhorrence which Stephen directs at this sub-grouping.

Such a concern over homosexuality, and in particular over gay men, is attributable in part to his authoritarian exaggerated concern over sex and the sexual behaviours of others. In general, Stephen is obsessed with sex, and this obsession is demonstrated by, for example, his implacable stance against intercourse outside of marriage: 'I'm on record as preaching abstinence. I talk about it on my TV show, elsewhere in this book, in pamphlets I hand out on street corners, and occasionally in sky-writing.' (p. 88) The function of marriage, for Stephen, is 'to provide men and women a safe, God-approved context for their wildest sexual romps, the sole purpose of which is to produce children' (pp. 6–7). Thus sex has its proper context, between husband and wife, and its proper purpose, reproduction. But this 'natural law' approach to sex is contradicted throughout: 

Sex is power—the power to create life, the power to ruin your life, and the power to sex it up good. If you refuse that power, you'll be cheating yourself, and in my case, hundreds of lovely ladies, out of something special (my penis). (p. 88) 

Clearly an ironic contention exists between his stated beliefs about the purpose of sex and his desire to brag about his sexual exploits and prowess. However, Stephen states that the parts of the body to which men and women are attracted support his claim that reproduction is the sole function of sex. For women, posits Stephen, the most attractive feature of the male body is large testicles and a generous scrotum. But worried that he may 'have heated the blood' of his female readers with this imagery, he follows with 'scripture sorbet to cool your palate' from 1 Thessalonians 4:3:  'It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.' (p. 89) He proceeds to cite another passage, Leviticus 20:13, for male readers who may have been aroused by this same imagery: 'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death.' (p. 89) Judging by the force of the second 'scripture sorbet', Stephen seems more anxious about the homoerotic potential of his imagery than he is about leading female readers into 'sexual immorality'. The book's margin commentary assumes a mocking stance towards Stephen's exaggerated anxiety about possible homoerotic titillation: this Levitical injunction 'is not homophobic, it's homo-cidal' (p. 89). The margin voice functions in the book similarly to that of the 'Wørd' segment of his television programme. The 'Wørd' is modelled after Bill O'Reilly's 'Talking Points Memo' segment of The O'Reilly Factor. However, whereas the on-screen graphics of 'Talking Points Memo' are bullet points that reinforce O'Reilly's spoken words, in The Colbert Report the graphics provide an unspoken voice, which is, as Geoffrey Baym explains, 'a second level of meaning that often contradicts, challenges, and undermines the spoken words'.18 In I Am America, the margins compete with the text blocks and highlight the irony of Stephen's concern. They may also poke fun at the insecurity that causes Stephen to make such an issue of his text's potential for homoeroticism. This is not an isolated incident, as Stephen's angst spills into his chapter on homosexuality. Authoritarian personality variables of concern about sexual behaviour and projection interact to uncover the potential for same-sex desire which Stephen represses in order to conform to society's heterosexual mandates.

Projection may interact with the authoritarian individual's concern over sex, and particularly over homosexuality. Since established moral authority has determined that same-sex passion is wrong, the authoritarian readily condemns deviance from the sexual norm. However, such a stance could be merely a manifestation of projection. According to The Authoritarian Personality, 'sexual content would hardly be projected unless the subject had impulses of this same kind that were unconscious and strongly active'.19 Thus the individual's exaggerated concern over the sexual behaviour of others may be a defence mechanism whereby attraction to his/her own sex is repressed: 

A strong inclination to punish violators of sex mores (homosexuals, sex offenders) may be an expression of a general punitive attitude based on identification with in-group authorities, but it also suggests that the subject's own sexual desires are suppressed and in danger of getting out of hand.20 

The 'Homosexuals' chapter of I Am America overtly demonstrates this hypothesis. Homosexuals are a present and very visible enemy, and are dangerous because of this visibility. Gay marriage is 'the biggest threat facing America today—next to socialised medicine, the Dyson vacuum cleaner, and the recumbent bicycle' (p. 113). Gay marriage undermines the institution; it runs counter to God's command to be fruitful and multiply. If God wanted pairs of men to reproduce, argues Stephen, 'He would have given gay men ovaries and breasts and luscious lips', but God 'only gave them the luscious lips' (p. 112). But the threat lesbians and gay men pose to society transcends the way which this segment of the population resists God's command. They challenge society's gender and sexuality strictures. Gay and lesbian identities, argues Butler, threaten naturalised heterosexuality which declares itself 'the original, the true, the authentic' form of sexual attraction: 

The parodic or imitative effect of gay identities works neither to copy nor to emulate heterosexuality, but rather, to expose heterosexuality as an incessant and panicked imitation of its own naturalised idealisation. That heterosexuality is always in the act of elaborating itself is evidence that it is perpetually at risk, that is, that it 'knows' its own possibility of becoming undone: hence, its compulsion to repeat which is at once a foreclosure of that which threatens its coherence. That it can never eradicate that risk attests to its profound dependency upon the homosexuality that it seeks fully to eradicate and never can.21 

As mentioned above, Stephen takes aim at gay men in particular, suggesting that this sub-grouping presents a personal and immediate danger to his identity. He admits the peril at which gay men place his sexuality, characterising his experience as universal. Men must resist the allure of the homosexuals. If you do not share his outrage about the way homosexuals are out to 'destroy our society', he argues, then 'the homosexual agenda has already got you in its velvet grip'; in other words it is already making you gay (p. 107). In the Butlerian view, the only way gay men threaten American society is, in general, by their uncovering of the socially constructed arbitrariness of normative heterosexuality; and, in particular, by their undermining of Stephen's heterosexual identity. Colbert makes this explicit to his readers: Stephen states that 'every single one of us fights a daily battle to suppress the insurgency raging in our loins. It's a long hard slog, and we've all had the urge to cut and run. But Americans are fighters' (pp. 107–9). Stephen's authoritarian aggression towards homosexuals is projected rage resulting from his own fears that his same-sex desires may get out of control and shatter his identity. Ironically, though, on Stephen's list of 'things that are trying to turn me gay and their success on a scale of one to ten', Clive Owen and baby carrots are the most subversive (scoring eight and eleven, respectively), whereas actual gay people have affected him relatively little, scoring four (p. 108). This is an element of Colbert's reductio ad absurdum parodic strategy with which he deconstructs homophobic rhetoric. Or perhaps Butler wrongly overlooks the transgressive force of baby carrots.

Parody is an integral component of the satire of Heinrich Mann and Stephen Colbert. The satirists use this device to expose a reality which is in fact a parody of itself. Mann uncovers a type of personality he believes to be a parody. The concept for Der Untertan was born in 1906 in a café in Berlin's elegant Unter den Linden boulevard where the author observed a 'dense crowd of the bourgeois public', whose 'provoking manners' and pompous and overbearing deportment betrayed 'their secret cowardice' for which their behaviour was a cover.22 In the preface to the 1929 edition, Mann writes that Diederich Heßling was a parody of a 'type of Imperial German' who lived their lives as parodies of 'national pride', 'male self-confidence', and a 'will to power which wants to dominate the world'.23 Parody of this type of personality is fundamental to Colbert's satire as well. In an interview with Stephen on The Colbert Report, Bill O'Reilly admits that his on-air persona is an 'act': 

O'REILLY:  I'm not a tough guy [...]. This is all an act. I'm sensitive.  

COLBERT:  If you're an act [...] then what am I?24 

Baym explains the significance of this admission for Colbert's satire:  'If the pretext O'Reilly is an act, then what exactly is Colbert?  He appears to be a parody of a parody. [Stephen] is indeed a fiction, but one that functions to deconstruct another, far more problematic, fiction', namely, personalities like O'Reilly who utilise propagandistic techniques to unduly influence the beliefs and opinions of their viewers.25 In the realm of gender roles and sexual identity, the parody-of-a-parody motif applies as well. Butler argues that no origin of gender and sexuality exists: they are parodies, compulsory repetitions of society's ideals that serve to reinforce these fictions.26 But like drag and the imitative effect of gay and lesbian identities, Mann's and Colbert's satires expose the constructed nature of gender mandates and naturalised heterosexuality. Their efforts are parodies of their respective societies' parodies. Diederich deconstructs male self-assurance projected by the Kaiser and imitated by the population, while Stephen exposes the nature and source of homophobia. These two works of satire demonstrate their characters' potential to be undone by the very things onto which they project their inadequacies. Therefore, the fear they demonstrate is not unfounded. These groups, women and homosexual men, threaten to undo the binaries on which the characters, and, by extension, the subjects of the parodies build their identities and worldviews.   

Birkbeck College, University of London

Notes 1. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, ed. by J. A. Cuddon, rev. by C. E. Preston (London: Penguin, 1999), p. 780.
2. I use the German title for Mann's work in this essay because the various English translations of the title, which also include The Loyal Subject and The Patrioteer, fail to convey the unthinking servility to the state and rigid social structures that 'Der Untertan' communicates in German.
3. Theodor W. Adorno and others, The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper, 1950), p. 228.
4. Karin V. Gunnemann, 'Heinrich Mann and the Struggle for Democracy', in German Novelists of the Weimar Republic: Intersections of Literature and Politics, ed. by Karl Leydecker (Woodbridge: Camden House, 2006), pp. 19–44 (pp. 20–1).
5. Fritz Fischer, Krieg der Illusionen: Die deutsche Politik von 1911 bis 1914 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1969).
6. For a discussion of propagandistic techniques on Bill O'Reilly's The O'Reilly Factor, see Mike Conway, Maria Elizabeth Grabe, and Kevin Grieves, 'Villains, Victims and the Virtuous in Bill O'Reilly's "No-Spin Zone": Revisiting World War Propaganda Techniques', Journalism Studies, 8 (2007), 197–223.
7. George Mosse, The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 55, 66–8.
8. Judith Butler, 'Performative Acts and Gender Constitution', in Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, 2nd edn (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), pp. 900–11 (pp. 903, 908).
9. Butler (2004), p.901.
10. Butler (2004), p.905.
11. Judith Butler, 'Imitation and Gender Insubordination', in Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, ed. by Diana Fuss (Routledge: London, 1991), pp. 13–31 (pp. 22–3).
12. Heinrich Mann, Der Untertan: Roman (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1995), p. 11. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text. Translations from the German are mine
13. Mark W. Roche, 'The Self-Cancellation of Injustice in Heinrich Mann's Der Untertan', Oxford German Studies, 17 (1988), 72–89 (pp. 72–3).
14. There are several opportunities for Diederich to speak in public, and his language parrots the rhetoric employed by Kaiser Wilhelm II. In particular, Diederich addresses his workers in exactly the same words the monarch had used at a political rally in 1892. Gunnemann (2006) writes that 'clearly, Mann could hope that contemporary readers who discovered these familiar terms in the text would newly contemplate their irrationality and sinister showmanship' (p. 23).
15. Roche, p. 76.
16. Considering the centrality of homosexuality to public discourse at the time, it is significant that the topic is broached so briefly. Mann conceived the novel in 1906, and it was published in full in 1918. From 1907 to 1909, Germany was embroiled in the Eulenberg Affair, a scandal with similar impact and effect to Oscar Wilde's trials for 'gross indecency'. The liberal idealism that directs the novel's satire also prevents invoking societal opprobrium directed at same-sex desire to discredit the national ideal. Many on the political left, however, were not above casting homosexual aspersions in order to score wins against opponents. See historian James D. Steakley's 'Iconography of a Scandal: Political Cartoons and the Eulenburg Affair in Wilhelmine Germany', in Hidden from History: Reclaiming Gay and Lesbian Past, ed. by Martin Bauml Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr. (London: Penguin, 1991), pp. 233–57
17. Stephen Colbert and others, I Am America (And So Can You!) (London: Virgin, 2007), p. 107. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.
18. Geoffrey Baym, 'Stephen Colbert's Parody of the Postmodern', in Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era, ed. by Jonathan Gray, Jeffrey P. Jones, and Ethan Thompson (London: New York University Press, 2009), pp. 124–44 (p. 130).
19. Adorno and others, p. 241.
20. Adorno and others, p. 241.
21. Butler (1991), pp. 22–23.
22. Alan Bance, 'The Novel in Wilhelmine Germany: From Realism to Satire', in The Cambridge Companion to the Modern German Novel, ed. by Graham Bartram (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 31–45 (p. 41); and Karin Gunnemann, Heinrich Mann's Novels and Essays: The Artist as Political Educator (Woodbridge: Camden House, 2002), p. 52.
23. Gunnemann (2002), p. 54.
24. The Colbert Report, 18 January 2007.
25. Baym, p. 141.
26. Butler (1991), p. 28.

Selected Bibliography
Primary Texts
Colbert, Stephen, and others, I Am America (And So Can You!) (London: Virgin, 2007).
Mann, Heinrich, Der Untertan: Roman (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1995).
The Colbert Report, 18 January 2007.
Primary Texts
Adorno, Theodor W., and others, The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper, 1950).
Bance, Alan, 'The Novel in Wilhelmine Germany: From Realism to Satire', in The Cambridge Companion to the Modern German Novel, ed. by Graham Bartram (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 31–45.
Baym, Geoffrey, 'Stephen Colbert's Parody of the Postmodern', in Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era, ed. by Jonathan Gray, Jeffrey P. Jones and Ethan Thompson (London: New York University Press, 2009), pp. 124–44.
Butler, Judith, 'Imitation and Gender Insubordination', in Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, ed. by Diana Fuss (Routledge: London, 1991), pp. 13–31.
—— 'Performative Acts and Gender Constitution', in Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, 2nd edn (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), pp. 900–11.
Conway, Mike, Grabe, Maria Elizabeth, and Grieves, Kevin, 'Villains, Victims and the Virtuous in Bill O'Reilly's "No-Spin Zone": Revisiting World War Propaganda Techniques', Journalism Studies, 8 (2007), 197–22.
Cuddon, J. A., ed., The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, rev. by C. E. Preston (London: Penguin, 1999).
Fischer, Fritz, Krieg der Illusionen: Die deutsche Politik von 1911 bis 1914 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1969).
Gunnemann, Karin V., Heinrich Mann's Novels and Essays: The Artist as Political Educator (Woodbridge: Camden House, 2002).
—— 'Heinrich Mann and the Struggle for Democracy', in German Novelists of the Weimar Republic: Intersections of Literature and Politics, ed. by Karl Leydecker (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Camden House, 2006), pp. 19–44.
Mosse, George, The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).
Roche, Mark W., 'The Self-Cancellation of Injustice in Heinrich Mann's Der Untertan', Oxford German Studies, 17 (1988), 72–89.
Steakley, James D., 'Iconography of a Scandal: Political Cartoons and the Eulenburg Affair in Wilhelmine Germany', in Hidden from History: Reclaiming Gay and Lesbian Past, ed. by Martin Bauml Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr. (London: Penguin, 1991), pp. 233–57.