Fun With Stereotypes


I don’t think I’ve ever drawn a cartoon making fun of another cartoonist. I didn’t even consider doing so until I saw the story published in the top newspapers of the country and even ladies of The View discussed it. So how could I resist?

A little back story in case you missed the story:

Jerry Holbert is the editorial cartoonist for The Boston Herald.  A couple days ago he drew a cartoon on the Secret Service just letting anybody get into the White House. In the cartoon President Obama is brushing his teeth and this average ordinary guy who obviously doesn’t have a security clearance pops out of the bathtub and asks Obama if he’s tried the new watermelon flavored toothpaste.

Yeah.  It sounds like Jerry played into an old school racial stereotype.

Jerry says he saw the toothpaste in a store and he used it. His editors at The Herald totoally missed it. His editors at his syndicate caught it and had him change it to raspberry flavored toothpaste. Jerry apologized and so did his newspaper while standing behind him (which was nice to see).

I believe Jerry. Jerry is a moderate to conservative cartoonist in my view and I’ve been reading his work for about 20 years. During that 20 years I’ve never seen him draw anything bigoted, sexist, homophobic or racist. I don’t think Jerry is a racist. Actually, even though I rarely agree with him I think he’s a really good cartoonist.

The point (which better writers than I have brought up) which bothers me the most is how does a journalist with several decades of experience not realize there’s a watermelon joke is racist? It’s a tasteless stereotype and totally vulgar and quite common. I can’t find it funny in any context.

Several years ago I was on a TV talk show. The host showed some cartoons and one had a metaphor of Hawks and Doves.  Hawks are those who are pro war and the doves are the peace lovers. That’s pretty common, right? Another guest on the show was a political consultant for campaigns. He said he didn’t understand the cartoon because he had never heard of the Hawk/Dove metaphor. Right then I asked rhetorically “you’re not familiar with the Hawk/Dove metaphor and you’re a political consultant?”. The entire audience roared with laughter. This was during the rehearsal and when we did the actual show the consultant knew everything about the Hawk/Dove metaphor. Stupid rehearsals.

Seriously, how can you be a professional, with years on the job, and not have any experience or familiarity with common themes of your surroundings?

I can understand if someone who doesn’t know Holbert’s work very well doesn’t buy his reasoning. I do. He’s not a racist. I’m sure being a racist is worse than being bad at your job. Jerry’s not bad at his job, but he might want to find another excuse. Same goes for his editors.

One comment

  1. He may not be a racist, but he’s a mediocre cartoonist. Given that this stereotype was invoked before and after Obama was first elected and several people got in a great deal of highly publicized trouble for it makes me think that he is intellectually incurious. How can you possibly be an editorial cartoonist and not understand a wide variety of symbols? It’s pathetic.


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