Cartoon Violence Is Squinting At It, But It Still Doesn't Really Look Like That
Each week, the Comics Curmudgeon helps explain Today's Cartoons.
You know what would be pretty cool? Or, well, if not cool, then at least interesting from the standpoint of aesthetic philosophy? I'd like to see a sort of Dogme 95 manifesto for political cartoons. You couldn't depict your targets as animals, or metaphorical objects, or fetuses, or whatever, or have them flying in space, or floating underwater, or going to parties with Hugo Chavez, or any of that crap. Caricature would be permitted, obviously, within limits; your characters would have to be recognizable, and human, and even the non-famous ones have to be based one real human beings (you may use friends and family members for this purpose). And no labels. For God's sake, no labels. It would be an austere, ritually pure breed of political cartoon, where you would have to depend on the reader's knowledge of politics and your own ability to make relationships obvious by body language or facial expressions, and write trenchant, pointed dialog.
But since that's never going to happen, here's a bunch of cartoons where they talk about one thing by drawing it to look like something else.
This thing... The "credit crunch" or "housing bubble" or "market instability" or "total impending collapse of the American economy with the bread lines and the riots and the hey hey" or whatever we're calling it this week.
...looks like this thing: America's brave and noble Space Shuttle Endevour, which had a wee little hole in the bottom (note: hole enlarged to improve visibility) because they can't figure out how to stop bits of it from coming off and hitting other bits of it.
Big picture: Fortunately, Endeavour actually landed without bursting into flames and killing everyone on board, so perhaps this is a good omen for the stock market or something. The great thing about this cartoon is that just changing the labels could make it be about anything! Like, the hole could be labeled "WELFARE CHEATS", and could be about how all our tax dollars are being spent on Cadillacs, just like Ronald Reagan said! Or it could be labeled "MANNED SPACE PROGRAM." The "GOOP" label could stay regardless.
...looks like this thing: A mean, vicious junkyard dog, with a face like one of the cantina aliens from the first Star Wars movie and some weirdly improbably hat.
Big picture: Depicting America's Cross-Dressing Mayor as a snarling, sharp-toothed beast who treats any interaction with another being as an excuse to lunge for the throat never really needs any justification, I guess, but I'm not sure the metaphor really works with the "Leave my family alone and I'll leave your family alone" quote. Shouldn't he really be depicted as some kind of gangster boss, wearing a shiny suit and surrounded by glowering thugs? Or would that hit a little too close to home?
This thing... "Liquidity," which is code for "money the Federal Reserve loans to other banks, not so as to make a profit off of the interest, which is why most lending institutions make loans, but to stave off the total impending collapse of the American economy with the bread lines and the riots and the hey hey until it can be blamed on President Hillary."
...looks like this thing: Sweet, nourishing, delicious, life-giving booze.
Big picture: There's something about this cartoon that really reminds me of the bar scene in the Kubrik Shining movie, which means that the current economic downturn will probably end with your broker chasing you through a hedge maze with an axe. Good luck with that!
This thing... The ... bull market? Why the hell are good markets "bulls" and bad markets "bears"? Is it because when stocks are going down, it's like being eviscerated by razor-sharp claws, but when they're going up, it's like being gored by pointy horns and then trampled to death?
...looks like this thing: An actual bull, only one so obese from gorging on delicious hedges that it's no longer capable of locomotion, just rolling gently back and forth. Also, it's about to be turned into hamburger by a train.
Big picture: When I was a little boy obsessed with trains, I knew that the big pointy thing on the front of a locomotive was called a "cowcatcher," but it never occurred to me until recently that they really were for "catching" actual cows, and by "catching" we mean "killing on impact and hurling their mangled corpse off to the side." Would trains even bother stopping, back in the day? Would they grab the cow and turn it into dinner for the hungry passengers inside? Oh, and by the way: economic collapse, bread lines, riots, etc.
...looks like this thing: A delicious, juicy, hamburger ... BUT WAIT! That hamburger's been infested with disgusting worms! Hamburger worms! Don't eat it, Bush and Brown! You'll get a mouthful of worms!
Big picture: The obvious metaphorical tainted-food-product-with-worms-in-it icon would be an apple, of course, but apparently the cartoonist felt it necessary to change at the last minute. This is presumably because Americans (and Brits, since they watch all our TV, which makes them as bad as us) don't actually eat fruit anymore, and we wouldn't want a political cartoon that was unrealistic. --THE COMICS CURMUDGEON