Serena Cartoon Passes Muster – ‘Non-Racist’


The Mark Knight cartoon that showed Serena Williams throwing a temper tantrum on her way to losing last September’s U. S. Open has been determined to be “non-racist.” The cartoon had garnered international outrage and condemnation.

After complaints that the cartoon was offensive, showing a “prejudicial racial stereotype” and “sexist representation,” the watchdog Australian Press Council took up the matter.

At the time News Corp Australia’s executive chairman, Michael Miller, who published the cartoon in his (Melbourne) Herald Sun, said

“Criticism of Mark Knight’s Serena Williams cartoon shows the world has gone too PC & misunderstands the role of news media cartoons and satire. Poor behaviour in any sport needs to be called out.”


The Council’s ruling as presented at Mumbrella:

“Specifically, concern was expressed that the cartoon depicted Ms Williams with large lips, a broad flat nose, a wild afro-styled ponytail hairstyle different to that worn by Ms Williams during the match and positioned in an ape-like pose,” the Press Council wrote.

“Ms Williams’ features contrasted with those of Ms Osaka who, while of Japanese-Haitian descent, is depicted as white with blonde hair, lacking any particularly distinguishing or exaggerated features. It was also noted that the cartoon should be considered in the context of the history of caricatures based on race and historical racist depictions of African Americans.”

The Council accepted the publication’s argument that…

it wanted to capture the tantrum using satire, caricature, exaggeration and humour, and the cartoon intended to depict her as childish. The Herald Sun said it had no intention of depicting any race or gender negatively.

The Council accepted the publisher’s claim it did not depict Williams as an ape, but rather showed her as ‘spitting the dummy’, ‘a non-racist caricature familiar to most Australian readers’.

The ruling:

“As such, the Council does not consider that the publication failed to take reasonable steps to avoid causing substantial offence, distress or prejudice, without sufficient justification in the public interest.”


More at The Guardian and at The Big Smoke.