By Daryl Cagle
All the pundits
are talking about the recent cartoon by the New York Post's Sean
Delonas, showing a chimp shot by two policemen who say, "They'll have
to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." The prevailing
view among the bloggers and talking-heads is that the cartoon is a
racist depiction of Obama as a monkey. Al Sharpton has taken the
opportunity to grab the media spotlight by condemning the cartoon. New
York Post employees are reportedly "unhappy and ashamed" of the
"offensive cartoon." The media love arguments about race.
was thinking of drawing a cartoon with the media frantically rushing to
cover the "racist" Delonas cartoon, while Attorney General Eric Holder
calmly stands in front of the melee telling Americans how they are
"cowardly" in avoiding discussions about race. I expect we're in for a
lot of this for the next four years.
Some cartoonists (Ben
Sargent of The Austin American-Statesman and Steve Bell of the Guardian
in Britain, for example) consistently drew George W. Bush as a monkey.
The cartoonists all chose to draw Bush with big monkey ears and a huge,
monkey-like upper lip, so drawing Bush as a monkey was a natural
progression. Now the cartoonists are all drawing Obama with similar,
big monkey ears and we're starting to hear complaints from readers
about how we draw Obama's lips. Presidents get shorter in cartoons if
they don't perform well -- and chimps are short. Cartoonists tiptoe
through a racial-metaphor minefield.
A standard, workday ritual
that editorial cartoonists do is to list the major news stories of the
day, and then think of how to combine two of the unrelated stories into
a cartoon. Combining two unrelated things in a cartoon is funny.
Monkeys are funny and the killer chimp was the big news one day along
with the stimulus bill. Delonas is a staunch conservative who didn't
like the stimulus bill; this cartoon is a formulaic "no-brainer." I'm
sure the reaction to the cartoon was a surprise to Delonas.
the reaction shouldn't be a surprise. I'd suggest that every cartoonist
should make a list of every racial stereotype to avoid regarding
African-Americans, and assume that every cartoon will be considered to
be a metaphor for Obama -- then go through the check list before
putting pen to paper, like a pilot goes through a check list before
taking off in his plane.
And watch for a lot more cartoon plane crashes.
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