Wednesday, July 16, 2008

NEW YORKER Cover Controversy

Yes, well, I've never seen something just get chewed over and over like the above Barry Blitt cover to this week's New Yorker.

I agree with what Ted Rall said regarding brain cells and lack of context in Dave Astor's E&P article Cartoonists Not Fond of Obama Art on 'New Yorker' Cover:

AAEC [American Association of Editorial Cartoonists] President-Elect Ted Rall said "everyone with two brain cells to rub together gets" Blitt's cartoon, but the drawing is "shallow and non-contextual."

"If The New Yorker wants to get into the political cartoon business, it ought to hire some political cartoonists," added Rall. "Until they hire some smart editors, The New Yorker ought to stick to what they do well: gag panels about Upper East Siders at cocktail parties."

What's Obama think? From China Daily:

Obama said he's developed "a pretty thick skin" running for president and has "seen and heard worse."

"I do think that, you know, in attempting to satirize something, they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead," he said. "But, you know, that was their editorial judgment. And as I said, ultimately, it's a cartoon, it's not where the American people are spending a lot of their time thinking about."

Daryl Cagle's Web Log (no permalink, but it's at the top of the page as of now) shows us several cartoonists' parodies of the Blitt cover. He also comments on the cover in the piece below it.

Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter posts many reactions here. My favorite is my pal Rod McKie's comments, which were so sparklingly written I can only cut and paste and say, "Uh huh. You go, Rod!" Here's his concluding paragraphs:

The New Yorker's target readership will get it because they can contextualize it in a second. The subscribers who have the thing delivered are not the problem though; the problem is that many, many, people won't get it because they are not hard-wired that way -- most cartoonists and satirists and John Stewart fans and arty types are, and the regular New Yorker readers are. But the problem is the thing has effectively moved from being Private Art -- for a select few -- to Public Art -- on display on newsstands and that means it is open to an infinite amount of interpretations. And the deliberate misinterpretations that Danny Hellman alluded to.

We should bear in mind that it's not just stupid people who can't read and understand visual language. A panel of literary critics on BBC radio were recently talking about how they don't know how to read, or interpret, graphic novels. They didn't know whether to read the words first and then look at the drawings or do it the other way round, or read them all together. I made light of what I saw as their stupidity at the time, because to comic book and comic strip fans like me, interpreting these things is second nature.


Rod McKie said...

Hey Mike, great blogging as per usual.

love the Mort Walker piece.

The NYKR furore is certainly gathering pace. I liked Obama's comment 'I've seen worse'.

In a perfect world, of course, we'd all 'get' the cover and laugh at the biting satire - but if that was the case, there would be nobody around to target with the satire in the first place.

Anyway, suddenly we cartoonists are all over the news. I'm already sick of us.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think that when a drawing strikes a chord - sour or otherwise - it usually has served it's purpose. There is nothing worse than working very hard to be ignored.

The conversation was sparked - and because the intent of the drawing is clear enough to anyone with half a brain, I liked it.

If you can't make 'em laugh, you might as well make 'em angry.

Interestingly enough, I doubt conservatives worried much about the content of the piece - the folks it was aimed at hardly noticed (they probably only use The New Yorker for fire starter). The controversy came from the left that produced the cartoon in the first place. That I suppose is a misfire of intention, but I contend that being misunderstood and famous is better than perfectly understood and completely overlooked.