Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sorry, this is being posted on the numb of the day, which distinguishes Sunday from Monday, but I had some trouble setting up my account.

In this Cartoon John Toles makes use of the English idiom “tilting at windmills” (meaning fighting futile battle), which alludes to Miguel de Cervantes well known work Don Quixote. In this satire the idealistic, fanciful hero Don Quixote mistakes these huge windmills as monsters invading the land, and attempts to attack them. The cartoonist in relating Obama to this ineffectual naive hero is using a form of humor akin to the early Greek Dramatists, by “tearing the mask form the pretentions of mankind’s ideals and reducing them to the ridiculous”. In the cartoon Toles is asking: if Obama, the warrior, has failed in tackling the (in Toles opinion) lesser problem of the health care, how is he going to handle an even larger monster or financial industry, or even make any kind of impact over the course of his presidency? In portraying these problem that face our country as windmills Toles makes the further argument that Obama is misinterpreting the problem in itself, and accordingly his whole tactic of combating these giants is ineffectual and misguided, based on a false assumption. Thus, Toles has undermined all of Obama’s idealistic speeches into the words of a babbling buffoon, he has made Obama into a “ridiculous creature”.

In this comic Obama has been made ridiculous in a double sense. Not only is he compared to the character Don Quixote, he also looks ridiculous, with his scrawny stead and primitive outmoded weaponry, matched against a windmill that is 20 times bigger than himself.

The author of our reading makes the argument that the” aim of the caricaturist is to transform the whole man into a ridiculous figure which nevertheless resembles the original …” In this carton I would say that it is the words and policy of the president rather than his features which strikes a note of familiarity. They are ridiculous, however there is an unsettling truth to them, regarding the thwarted (inadequate) attempts to change the health care system.

The author also mentions that Carracci stated that a caricaturist’s task is the same as an artist because they both “reveal the lasting truth beneath the surface. However, I would pose the argument that they are similar to art in that they reveal, not a truth exactly, but an opinion, or a specific way of looking at the world, or a situation, that they contain some essence of truth as well as exaggeration. I don’t think a single image, or something that covers such a specific statement as a cartoon can claim complete truth in such a complex changing world.

Something else that I found interesting from the reading is the link the author mentions between fear and laughter, and I will end with the query: Is this the reason why politics makes such good fodder for the cartoonist, because they border on the serious and frightening as well as ridiculous?

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