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‘Close to Home’ Cancelled in Canada – updated

Cartoonist John McPherson’s Close to Home comic panel was cancelled
by Postmedia newspapers after running a cartoon deemed offensive:

Postmedia, owners of the National Post and dozens of papers across Canada, has cancelled a syndicated cartoon after an “offensive” post was published that depicted the Lone Ranger and Tonto in a bar.

“Last Friday, an offensive cartoon appeared on the comics page of three Postmedia newspapers and online,” Phyllise Gelfand, vice president of communications for Post Media, said in an email to APTN News.

“We sincerely apologize to anyone offended by the content.”

APTN News reports on the the objectionable cartoon, along with a bit of history about a couple other cartoons that made light of Canada’s First Nations.
APTN notes that Postmedia is done with Close to Home:

APTN requested comment from McPherson but didn’t receive a response.

As for Close to Home, Post Media said it’s finished with it.

“The cartoon, Close to Home, is syndicated by a third party and Postmedia has made the decision to no longer publish this cartoon,” wrote Gelfand.

For it’s part Andrews McMeel Syndication, the distributor of the comic panel,
has deleted the February 21 cartoon from its Close To Home page.

 

Update- later that same day

Canada’s Global News carries more of the story,
including apologies from the cartoonist and the syndicate.

The news site explains:

The Siksika Nation said the comic “reinforced negative stereotypes” and “emboldens non-Indigenous bigotry” at a time of “political tensions between two cultures.”

“The underlying message of the racist image implies all First Nations people are subservient, alcoholic and relegated to unsophisticated ‘feathers and leathers’ imagery.”

“The Herald’s apology isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. The right thing to do is educate the masses with objective, fair and balanced information from the point of view of the oppressed.”

 

Global News relayed cartoonist John McPherson‘s apology:

In a statement from Andrews McMillan Syndication, McPherson also apologized for any offence caused by the piece.

“I in no way meant to characterize anyone in the comic in a racist way,” McPherson said.

“My comics are meant to entertain, and I’m sorry that this one was hurtful to some readers. As the great-grandson of a Shawnee woman, I have always been interested in and concerned with the plight of native people, and I would never disparage them intentionally.”

and from Andrews McMeel Syndication:

The syndicator itself also apologized to “any reader offended by the Close to Home comic.”

“The fictional Native American character of Tonto was part of American entertainment media for more than 85 years, and though the portrayal of Tonto in this comic panel was not in any way an attempt to degrade Native Americans or members of any indigenous community, we regret having distributed a comic that could be interpreted as such.”

 

An Our Windsor article identifies the three Postmedia papers that ran, then cancelled, the panel.

The cartoon was published Friday in the Calgary Herald, the Windsor Star and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, and on Tuesday the company that owns the newspapers, Postmedia Network Inc., issued a statement, acknowledging the offensive image.

 

UPDATE February 27, 2020

It took a week but the Bangor Daily News has also apologized for running the panel:

The Bangor Daily News has published the comic strip Close to Home daily for several years. The content of the Feb. 21 strip, which showed an especially ugly version of the bigoted Lone-Ranger-and-Tonto imagery, was racist. It offended many of our readers and us. We apologize for publishing it.

The BDN will review its screening process of comics and be more sensitive.

 

disclosure: The Daily Cartoonist is a part of Andrews McMeel Universal.

Community Comments

#1 Boise Ed
February/25/2020
@ 6:29 pm

Does this mean that the whole Lone Ranger series is somehow offensive now?

#2 Mike Peterson
February/25/2020
@ 7:02 pm

No. It means jokes about natives and alcohol are particularly offensive. Right up there with bone-in-the-nose cannibals and watermelon-eating darkies and buck-toothed, near-sighted Asians.

Jay Silverheels (Harold Smith) who played Tonto is deeply respected in the First Nations community not simply for the dignity with which he approached a role that didn’t always offer much, though, for all the broken English in Tonto’s dialogue, he was treated more as a partner than a servant.

In any case, he was very active in promoting and mentoring young native actors and is deeply respected. There’s nothing wrong with Lone Ranger and Tonto as long as you don’t insult his race.

Or make him wear a dead bird on his head.

#3 Denny Lien
February/25/2020
@ 7:17 pm

I hadn’t even noticed the drink in Tonto’s hand or the (arguably?) drunken expression on his face; I vaguely assumed the outrage was for how gawdawfully horribly he was drawn. (And of course by those standards CLOSE TO HOME has been insulting the entire human race, and probably the rest of the universe as well, since its Day One.)

So — thanks for the explanation, which now makes more sense. I’m still inclined to think blanket nation-wide cancellations, as opposed to multiple ‘what the hell were you thinking, bozo?’ letters to the editor, is arguably an over-reaction, but I’m neither Canadian nor indigenous and will defer to the opinions of those who are.

#4 Tom Falco
February/26/2020
@ 7:23 am

I am the first one to not find racist cartoons or anything of that nature acceptable but I’m not getting why it is offensive unless you are looking for it to be.

Tonto listens for horses approaching by putting his head to the ground, now he is listening for last call. I don’t see him as being drunk or being made fun of because he is native American. The Lone Ranger & Tonto are being parodied. If the Lone Ranger listened for horses and put his head to the bar listening for last call, would that make it better?

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