Cartoons in the News Again!
The New Yorker cover controversy has sure made this an idiotic week. It has a little bit of everything, racism, terrorism, elitism, and a controversy that is 100% Terri Schaivo stupid. The fact that they're talking about cartoonists on TV at all is your first clue. Whenever cartoonists make it onto TV, it means that one of them has been caught in a "world's dumbest criminals" video or they've drawn something that's offended a figure claiming to represent an entire religion or nation.
It's Just Not Funny!
Humor is subjective, so you're always straying into dumb-ass territory when you claim to be the definitive judge of what is funny. But there they are, each and every one of the dopey cable analysts and commentators saying that the New Yorker cover is not funny. Or that it's badly drawn. Or that it fails to meet a standard of satire that exists only in the mind of that particular commentator. Many of them actually suggest that a drawing like that should not be allowed on the cover of a magazine!
When the real pro cartoonists are invited to chime in with their opinions, that's the second clue that you're in trouble. Now lots of cartoonists have come out saying, "Professionally speaking, the cartoon isn't any good because it lacks proper framing, was poorly executed, and lacks the little penguin in the corner to tell you what it all means, etc." Here's Daryl Cagle on why the cartoon sucks. By the way, if you read Cagle be sure to check out the comments, that's the chilling part. Ted Rall says that the cartoon sucks because they don't have a real political cartoonist (i.e. Ted Rall) doing the covers of the New Yorker. However Ted got in a couple of good quotes, so he did what he needed to.
Many of the cartoonists were eager to tell you what they would do to make the cartoon work (and not offend anybody). See, we cartoonists, especially ones who've made it to the major papers have a finely tuned sense of self-censorship. Anybody who's done editorial illustration, or comics that must be reviewed by editors, recognizes the kind of guidance offered by today's editorializers. "You've just got to make it a little more clear. I get what you're saying, but nobody else will. C'mon make it more literal. How about putting a sign on Obama that says 'right wing myths.' That's the solution! Now everybody'd understand! And it's truly funny!"
Anyway, that's the kind of omission Barry Blitt made that got him into so much trouble. Personally, I think cartoons are better by the more things that are left out. The more tenuous the strand of logic, the more funny the cartoon. Have I left out too much before? Too many times to mention.
Barry Blitt's cover cartoon was clever and funny. I would do something exactly like that. The myth of Obama being a radical Muslim terrorist with a shady background and a wife that goes off in church attacking "whitey," is a such a bunch of pathetic horseshit, idiotic enough to be believed only by such a base level of moron, that no other context is required. Sometimes all you have to do is to show a debased wingnut idea exactly as it is presented by its promoters. It's a simple and elegant solution.
I hope that his editors don't all chicken out on him at once. "Barry, eh, we love your work, but after the whole New Yorker thing, we're going to have to use somebody else for a while until this whole thing blows over."
If my cartoons were on the cover of the New Yorker, I'd probably be in jail.