Tuesday, 29 September 2015

It's about context, not taste.

Posted by Phill Evans

It's all about context, not taste.

Charlie Hebdo was recently criticised for publishing a cartoon using Aylan Kurdi's death by drowning (two, actually) as being in poor taste. So was Mac, the cartoonist for the Daily Mail who managed to concatenate the death of Cilla Black and the Calais migrant crisis into one drawing.

I've not been able to find comments about the cartoons by the actual cartoonists but whilst I *have* found discussion about the motivation for Mac's cartoon (that it was not racist and abusive but rather a subtle dig at white/christian privilege) I have found no such discussion of the Hebdo cartoons. Much of the criticism of Mac's cartoon was summed up as it being in "poor taste." Many of the DM readers who criticised expressed support for the gist but varying degrees of outrage at the taste.

My personal take is this. Each cartoonist was working for, and clearly shares the politics of, a publication which throughout it's history has been consistent in it's political standing despite much vilification. Each publication enjoys consistent popularity.

Hebdo is a left wing publication with roots in the iconoclastic situationist movement. It regularly and routinely publishes cartoons which lambast, challenge and undermine public "taste" as being rank hypocrisy. In their
 use of Aylan Kurdi (or rather the effects of the photograph of the little boy) they are unapologetically aiming to hurt the reader who has enjoyed the frisson of grief given by the original photograph but who permits such atrocity to continue whilst enjoying the bounties denied to Aylan, his siblings and thousands of others.

Left cartoon text "Proof that Europe is Christian. Christ walks on water. Muslim children sink."
Right cartoon text: "So near the goal..." and "Promo! Childrens menu two for the price of one"
Both cartoons seem to hammer at the fascist view that such a tragedy is a double win, a dead muslim who isn't in Europe...

On the other hand, the Daily Mail has a long history of right wing bias which goes back to Lord Rothermere being an out and out fascist and Hitler fan boy in the 1930's. It regularly exploits social division, and where possible some external "threat" such as jews, the Irish, black people, the internet, video games  etc to bolster the prevailing social and class system in the UK. So when Mac pens a cartoon in which a saintly Cilla (looking uncannily like DM saint Margaret) being threatened by a "swarm" of migrants I believe that there is unlikely to be any message, however couched, which runs counter to the prevailing political message of the publication itself. 

It is all about context.

Do you have any thoughts or comments?  Please let us know below!

No comments:

Post a Comment