|Cartoon that appeared in the Boston Herald on October 1st|
Photo credit: iMediaEthics
The cartoon, whose caption read “White House Invader Got Farther Than Originally Thought,” referred to Omar Gonzalez’s entry into the White House on September 19th. After being told by his cartoon syndicate to change the text, cartoonist Jerry Holbert quickly altered the words to read “raspberry flavored toothpaste,” but the original version was already being used by the Boston Herald. Holbert apologized for the mistake, explaining the innocuous origins of the decision to use watermelon toothpaste - “his son’s girlfriend had left Colgate Kids watermelon toothpaste at his house” - and saying that he “was completely naive or innocent to any racial connotations. I wasn’t thinking along those lines at all.” The Herald apologized as well, with the editorial page editor admitting “It’s my job as an editor to see around corners, to look at all the possible meanings and nuances of words and of images...it’s my job and two weeks ago I failed at it miserably.”
Cartoons are common in many media organizations, and are a form of picture journalism. As drawings, every element, every caricature, and every politically satirical detail is crucial - yet cartoons are often criticized for the way they portray groups or ideas. For example, the New York Times recently apologized (on Facebook, not on their website, according to iMediaEthics) for a cartoon showing a man “labeled ‘India’ wearing a turban. The man, holding a cow on a leash, is knocking on the door to an ‘Elite Space Club’.” And who could forget the 12 Danish cartoons published in 2005 depicting the Prophet Muhammad, one of which showed Muhammad standing in the clouds telling suicide bombers “Stop, we have run out of virgins!” and another that replaced the Prophet’s turban with a bomb.
Cartoonists have the difficult job of drawing politicized, sensitive content. They often bring satire to serious news. For that reason they must be hyper-aware of the implications of their work. Will all cartoons, by virtue of being caricatures, offend somehow? Or is there a way to balance the nature of a cartoon with its subject?
- Kate Davidson
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