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Obama's cartoon lips too big?

Posted by Dan Wasserman  January 29, 2009 02:00 PM

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corrigankilledobama.gifMichael Cavna at the Washington Post's Comic Riffs detects racial stereotyping in cartoonists' depictions of Obama's mug. He posts a couple of examples where he thinks the Presidential lips are overexaggerated, including the caricature at left. It was drawn by Patrick Corrigan for the Toronto Star and killed by his editors for being too much of a "racial stereotype" (more details at Daryl Cagle's site).

I've spoken out in the past about the use of racial stereotypes in cartooning and their ugly history in the profession, but I don't see what Cavna sees. There may be crude drawings of Obama floating around, but the cartoons that I see in print and in the Globe's Ink Tank strike me as the same facial rearrangement any new chief executive gets, independent of race.

I received a few similar complaints when I started drawing Deval Patrick, and it's actually a subject I discussed with Patrick many years before he ran for office. When he was Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton Justice Department, I invited him to the annual meeting of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists to speak on the subject of -- racial stereotyping in cartoons. As I remember his remarks, he was troubled by the use of grotesque depictions of racial groups - big-nosed Jews and Arabs, ape-like blacks etc. - but was not too concerned that harsh caricatures of individual public figures betrayed some latent racial animosity. I'm curious what readers think.

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Dan Wasserman has been cartooning for the Globe editorial page since 1985. He has published two collections of drawings, "We've Been Framed" (Faber & Faber, 1987) and "Paper Cuts" (Ivan R. Dee, 1995). His cartoons are widely reprinted and are syndicated internationally by Tribune Media Services. He draws more quickly than he types.