Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Not Funny: Selective Controversy

There's some interesting criticism over cartoons that have appeared within the context of the Aurora tragedy. One in particular is this Broom Hilda strip by creator Russell Myers:

Art by Russell Myers/dist. by Tribune Media Services
   What's maybe just as tasteless is the faux outrage over the content of such work, as people just can't seem to help themselves from picking at the scab: it is a perfect example of the fetishistic media cycle that will obsess over the horror by simultaneously promoting it. Though it's an absolute given that it wasn't the motive behind drawing this strip (as it was done weeks in advance), Myers will now doubtlessly get more exposure for his feature than he's received for years, courtesy of the finger-pointers. It's like the simultaneous revulsion and fascination that will fuel the star-power draw of the killer in the news-cycle, giving him notoriety and attention instead of the plight of the victims. Case in point: aside from the couple websites that waved the flag over how tasteless or inappropriate this strip was, they are conspicuously the only ones who noticed, and in a self-serving way are more responsible for bringing it to the attention of the public than had it sunk without a ripple. Yet another reason to not use corporate syndicates.
    At the very least it should have run as an editorial, as it (accidentally) nails a cultural hypocrisy far better than the majority of other predictable syndicated panels drawn in relation to the Aurora tragedy. It falls into place alongside other artforms that get blamed for creating the societal conditions that glorify and profit from violence - read Boing Boing's resurrected essay by Marilyn Manson re: Columbine for a prescient perspective on such causal connections. But like any pearl-clutching over cartoons like the Broom Hilda above, or others, there is a telling tightrope of double-standards. Witness the scramble by DC Comics to stem another self-inflicted oopsie by delaying the release of the new issue of Batman that will undoubtedly offend the public's newly awakened sensibilities. And in the meantime, the American Psycho visits victims in the hospital.

    The Daily Cartoonist calls this cartoon "
ill timed" - but there is no better time than ASAP to examine underlying issues, before this, or any tragedy, ultimately fades from the public's unconsciousness (see The Onion's spot-on analysis). Jon Stewart astutely points out this paradox: that there's a longer waiting period on discussing gun control measures than there is for buying them. But then this is a society where the formerly reviled "Cop Killer" Ice-T is now respected by right-wingers as a staunch defender of gun rights, opportunistic scum like Rick Warren and the American Family Association capitalize on the tragedy to advance their twisted religious agendas, and puppet politicians line up to score rhetorical points:
“Even as we learn how this happened, we may never understand what leads anyone to terrorize fellow human beings. Such violence, such evil is senseless and beyond reason.” - President Obama 
   That from the leader of an administration who shamelessly participates and perpetuates daily horrors on a global scale. Perhaps instead of meaningless, conciliatory gestures like temporarily suspending campaign ads, maybe ending the goddamned wars would be better. As with over the Broom Hilda strip, instead of issuing empty platitudes, a more lasting and genuine change could be effected by exploring and discussing the potential reasons behind these tragedies (more insight and links here).

*Update: Two additional readings on the topic of the Second Amendment worth reading: 

To Keep and Bear Arms” by Garry Wills (1995 New York Review of Books)
Battleground America: One nation, under the gun” by Jill Lepore (2012 The New Yorker)

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