Greta Lawler ‘23 News Reporter
Election time is stressful. It is exhausting to open up the news everyday only to be flooded with polling numbers, debate analysis, and the newest crazy comment someone made or refused to make: but for many, it is impossible to turn away. Political cartoons are an outlet for politically aware individuals on both sides of the political spectrum. Found most often in print newspapers, their relevance in today’s society is fading, but for those who view them, political cartoons provide humor and a welcome moment of levity. However, don’t be fooled into thinking political cartoons are all fun and games. While they are light on words, cartoons are often heavy in meaning and loaded with references to both politics and pop culture.
Political cartoons make a statement about the author’s political beliefs but are not typically intended to change the reader’s views or sway them to one side or the other. Most often, a newspaper has one to two editorial cartoonists, whose cartoons are published daily or weekly. Much like a columnist, cartoonists are free to express their opinions as they see fit. However, cartoonists’ political values are generally in line with the newspaper’s (and its readers) political leaning. Provided below are samples of three political cartoons published recently from different news sources. Notice the humor targets the political demographic most common among the paper’s readers. Which cartoons do you find funniest? Does the source it comes from align with your political views?
Washington Post (left-leaning):
The Economist (central):
Fox News (right leaning):
While each cartoon features a different style, all possess traits characteristic of the genre. Prominent figures are depicted as caricatures. President Trump’s face is large with prominent lips and obscured eyes. AOC’s mouth is huge, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes manic. These exaggerated physical features are used to make a statement about the intangible – a person’s integrity, character, and intelligence. Symbolism is another powerful element employed by artists. For example, the donkey portrays the Democratic Party. The Democratic donkey and the GOP elephant make frequent appearances in political cartoons from all sources.
Like paper newspapers, political cartoons have seen better days. They were once considered an accessible way to digest news for the general reader; now TV, podcasts, and short videos such as CNN10 have risen as the method of choice for brief, accessible, informative news. For political humor, most turn to SNL, other TV talk shows, youtube satire groups, or memes. In a way, these are the next evolution of political cartoons, optimized for the twentieth first century. Whether or not political cartoons in the traditional sense will ever see a comeback, their legacy as an original form of printed political humor will live on.
And finally, a little not-quite-political cartoon that anyone who tries to keep up with current events will most likely enjoy:)