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July 14, 2008

The New Yorker's Obama

This week's The New Yorker cover, by Barry Blitt, depicts a future President Obama and his wife as terrorists, and has stirred up quite a media firestorm.


Now, back in April, I did a comic using the same comic conceit, and it also generated some discussion.


There are some differences in the two cartoons, and it's not just that Blitt is ten times the caricaturist that I am (actually, it goes beyond that, from a quantifiable difference to a qualitative difference: Blitt IS a caricaturist, and I'm NOT).

Both comics are certainly satirical.  Even people who find them tasteless and offensive would agree with that.  The question is:  what is the satirical intent?  Is it that Obama is a crazy leftist who has Muslim leanings, so wouldn't it be "funny" if he ended up a terrorist President?  Or is it that people BELIEVE Obama is a crazy leftist who has Muslim leanings, so isn't it "funny" to mock their misplaced apprehensions by showing how absurd their fears are?

Because my comic is obviously longer and the premise is more developed, I could make it clear (or relatively clear) that I'm mocking people's misplaced fears about Obama, not Obama himself.  My comic shows explanations for Obama's nature and behavior that are clearly ridiculous, making fun of the paranoid, delusional explanations that are actually floating around out there -- Barack Hussein Obama is clearly not a "typical" American name that would be perfect for a Muslim Manchurian Candidate.  The people supporting him are clearly not terrorists disguised at young white idealists.

But it's actually less clear what the satirical intent of The New Yorker cartoon is.  It just shows an America-hating, terrorist President Obama.  Of course, I'm certain Blitt intended to make fun of people's paranoid perceptions of Obama, not how leftist/radical/Muslim Obama is.  But that's because I've seen his cartoons before, and because I know what could or couldn't be the stance of The New Yorker.  But if this same cartoon were created by Sean Delonas and published by The New York Post, I'd think it was satirizing Obama himself, and that's a very different (opposite) point -- it would be tasteless and offensive.

A cartoon shouldn't rely on the context of its creator and publisher in order to successfully make its point.  Some more indicators should have been utilized in the cartoon in order to make the target of its satire clearer.

I was able to do that in my comic because I had eight panels and many, many words.  (And there are those who would argue that I'm not someone who should be arguing that comics should have more words -- wait until you see this week's comic!)


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