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

May 25, 2016

Zapiro Slammed For Monkey Grinder Cartoon; Tells Press That The Depiction Was A Mistake


I sort of get why editorial cartoonists remain attracted to the monkey grinder metaphor. It's visually odd, and the message is clear: this person is in service to the other person in a crass way. It thus can be used in a way that's critical of the monkey, critical of the grinder and/or critical of the entire monkey-grinder enterprise of pulling money from pockets via base appeal.

It's also, by general cultural agreement, deeply fucked up to depict anyone as a monkey, a billion times more so when that person is black, as is the case with political appointee Shaun Abrahams. It's hard for me to fathom that someone that is as generally astute and knowledgeable about the savage elements of visual metaphor as South African's institution of a cartoonist Zapiro could do this, or that any editor of an African newspaper wouldn't jump into the presses to stop it coming out. Zapiro concedes it's a mistake, which, um, yeah. My cursory reading of the backlash is that this so completely dunderheaded there's little chance that the cartoonist tried to slip one by or get it out there in a way that a retraction would cover his ass once that point was made (the way a TV lawyer might slip out banned information in front of a jury and then withdraw). Zapiro's own explanation seems to promote artistic hubris as the cause.

It's always seemed to me that Zapiro has a significant amount of goodwill built up with his readers, which has enabled him to pound on certain political issues in a way that would be difficult for others to pull off. I imagine this has a chance of wiping out vast reserves of it with a lot of people. At this point, the only things to do are listen and learn.
posted 11:25 pm PST | Permalink

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