Cartoonist’s note: The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists Political cartoonists invading Salt Lake City is in town and I’m featuring some attendees in my usual space.
Matt Bors is no sucker for sentimentality and sticks a pitch fork in the old St. Peter-at-the-gate-greeting-some-recently-deceased-famous-person cartoon by turning the usual tribute on its head in this 2011 send-off of Steve Jobs.
Bors is one of our youngest members and finds fault with the lazy tropes that cartoonists reflexively trot out: Lady Liberty weeping over (your tragedy here), Uncle Sam comforting victims of (the latest disaster), and, of course, St. Peter at the Pearly Gates greeting (random famous person).
Bors has a point, but it’s a hard habit to break. We’ve been doing these set pieces since Thomas Nast refined the political cartoon in the 1870s.
The other problem is that readers love these sentimental cartoons. Did I say, “love”? I mean we Americans LOOOOOOOOOOVE mawkish, sentimental, Hallmark card-y, tear-soaked cartoons in times of national tragedy. It’s the cartooning equivalent of a “gimme”: an easy cartoon with guaranteed payoff.
It is possible to address a national trauma without using old, moth-eaten images, it just requires that extra stretch of imagination.
By the way, on Friday, June 28, 10am, Salt Lake resident Fiona Deans Halloran will be addressing us at The Leonardo on her new book, “Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons”. You’re invited.