Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

January 30, 2013

I Don’t Have A Ton To Offer On The Gerald Scarfe Cartoon

imageYou can read a nice summary of the story of a spectacularly poorly timed and alarming Gerald Scarfe cartoon here. I'm not sure that I have a lot of say about it. It's slightly fascinating, I guess, that the timing of it seems to be the headline hook as opposed to the content; it suggests that this is a public protocol issue, and I'm not certain that's wrong even when the mis-step seems much more tied into eyebrow-raising content. In fact, you're likely to see the timing issue and the content kind of dance like a double helix, the timing adding heat to the depiction but also allowing a discussion of it without censuring the cartoon itself.

I have to admit that I'm sort of sympathetic to deeply alarming content, even in the shadow of nightmarish cultural constructs like blood libel. When you're discussing awful stories, and this one qualifies, it's not like there are a lot of soft visual metaphors that seem appropriate. It seems to me like it should maybe happen a lot. Something like this cartoon seems to represent a more problematic hitch-step than editorial cartoonist depictions of people like Hilary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice in that it's hard to find the human side of these kind of grinding, everyday horrors as opposed to something focused solely on someone's daughter/wife/mother/father/son. And again, a lot of it may have to do with how we talk now. We've reached a point in public discourse where it seems like scorched-earth tactics are the only tactics to which anyone pays attention in the slightest. It's difficult for me to remember anyone doing a new story on a cartoon for being clever and articulate and trenchant: the Matt Bors cartoon about non-white birth rates, maybe, or perhaps one of the post-Obama re-election cartoons.

The paper's response is also interesting to me a bit because not only is running a cartoonist whose views you outright decry a trickier game than one would like to admit, I would suggest that if this is a timing issue that's on the paper even more than the cartoonist.
posted 5:50 am PST | Permalink

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