CSotD: Commentary in Context

Humor specifically and cartoon commentary in general require context. The context of Paul Fell‘s cartoon is immediately clear to anyone who watches Daytime TV, but perhaps less so for those who work 9 to 5. His hapless character here has succumbed to a catalog of really bad ideas being foisted on the daytime audience.

Back when cable TV was mostly distant channels, I admired a late night movie from California that was sponsored by Big Sur Waterbeds. The commercial breaks consisted of a mellow guy talking about how comfortable the waterbeds were, the contextual connection being that anyone up at that hour watching some wretched B-movie likely had trouble sleeping. It was beautiful marketing!

Daytime TV is equally clever but considerably more exploitive. My current workday runs from 3 to 9 AM, so I can watch news or “Law and Order” reruns in the afternoon, but I don’t think I’m typical of the audience. The ads in that daypart seem geared to exploit people who aren’t working, which is to say, the elderly, the underemployed and those with debilitating health issues.

The commercials aimed at this vulnerable population remain within the law, but consist largely of appeals to make terrible decisions, as outlined in Fell’s cartoon, including cashing in their structured settlements, their life insurance and the equity in their homes for immediate pennies on the long-term dollar.

He doesn’t mention the ambulance chasers seeking people with asbestos claims or companies selling auto repair insurance, but you get the idea: A fool and his money are soon parted.

It’s all perfectly legal and very clever, but “fool” is an unfairly judgmental term. I once covered the situation of a Vietnam vet with serious brain damage, apparently from Agent Orange, who ordered nearly everything on one of the home shopping networks, couldn’t afford to pay for it and wasn’t able to return most of it.

Sometimes when you really understand the context, the humor evaporates.

Andy Marlette (Creators) pokes dark fun at one of the founders of Moms For Liberty, who, together with her husband, head of Florida’s GOP, got caught in a legal kerfuffle over a threesome they’d been having with another woman.

Marlette barely has to break a sweat, given how she had been crusading to ban books and govern teaching of sexual topics in the schools. The school board, of which she was a member, has called for her resignation but can’t force her to quit, while her husband, who faces a charge of rape, is demanding millions of dollars to follow Ron DeSantis’s call for him to step down.

All this just after the Republicans managed to get rid of George Santos. As Lucy Van Pelt once remarked, it’s like bailing water with a pitchfork.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Clay Jones

Pedro X. Molina — Counterpoint

When Elise Stefanik was grilling college presidents the other day, she was careful to phrase her questions in ways that made context sound dishonest, and both Jones and Molina point out how that approach would work if applied to the GOP’s pet topics.

Jones makes the point through a bit of innuendo, given that we haven’t seen the Elon and Alex Show hauled up in front of the Republican Inquisition, but Molina focuses on a debate we are getting to witness, in which the context, as mentioned Wednesday, is that the GOP doesn’t care about Ukraine but wants to give Biden a bloody nose over something.

For instance, we don’t have a clear context as to why Ted Cruz has blocked a bill to eliminate uranium purchases from Vladimir Putin, and perhaps we won’t get one. As Bloomberg reports, “the attempt is being blocked by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz over unrelated matters, according to people familiar with the issue. Cruz referred questions about the hold to his press office, which didn’t respond to a request for comment.”

Context? We ain’t got no context! We don’t need no context! We don’t have to show you any stinking context!

And to return to the original setting, while I usually agree with David Horsey on things, the essay accompanying his cartoon is rooted in generalities that make this seem more like the accusatory hypotheticals posed by Stefanik and her colleagues than actual reporting.

The first panel depicts a possible happening, but, IRL, the response would depend on context. Did the masquerading student just wear the hat, or did he darken his skin and adopt a Frito Bandito accent? Colleges have asked students not to wear racist costumes, but it seems the students work most of these problems out themselves.

The second panel, in my experience, does not encapsulate how a college president would respond. Cartooning includes hyperbole and requires significant compression, but, having known and interacted with a few college presidents, I’d bet there would be (A) an examination into precisely what was said and (B) a sympathetic response to the upset student, even if the speech were dismissed as — in context — a load of sophomoric hot air.

Which is what those college presidents tried to explain.

Juxtaposition of the Day #2

Steve Kelley — Creators

Dana Summers — Tribune

No context necessary for Kelley’s cartoon. It’s just insult humor with no context beyond “I hate Joe Biden. And his wife.” Merry Christmas to you, too.

Summers’ piece also seems to arise from personal dislike rather than political analysis, but raises an issue of clashing insults, contexts and facts.

Hunter Biden was certainly a screw-up, by his own confession and even his father’s affectionate but pained admission. But he has paid his back taxes.

That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact. The context is whether the false accusation is the result of laziness or dishonesty.

Juxtaposition of Shifting Contexts

John Darkow

Matt Davies

Bill Bramhall

So the GOP House has voted along party lines to investigate President Biden to see if they can finally come up with anything to justify an impeachment.

As Darkow contends, they don’t have a terribly clear idea of what they want to impeach him for, and Davies is more encouraging than Bramhall in suggesting that they’ve got a pathetic little bottle rocket to power their probe, rather than bupkis, diddly squat, nada and zilch.

But let’s allow the Speaker of the House to explain the context in which an impeachment should properly occur:

4 thoughts on “CSotD: Commentary in Context

  1. OT, but I gotta give a shout-out to “Crabgrass.” Tauhid Bondia could have just done yet another in an endless series of “cute kids in the ‘burbs” strips, but his Halloween haunted house series and the current track with Santa’s elf are wonderfully creative. Of course, the artwork is excellent as well. (and as the owner of a ’76 Camaro I love the frequent references to Camaros and Kevin). Add in “Phoebe and her Univorn” and “Wallace the Brave” and readers have a nice trio of creative strips taking tired themes in fun, new directions. May Santa bring all three cartoonists something nice to put under their tree this year (Maybe a Camaro!)

  2. I have this fantasy where if I’m ever hauled in to testify in front of Congress for something, before I answer any questions I ask “wait a minute, I’m a taxpayer—aren’t you people supposed to be working for ME?”

    Sure, big university presidents have a lot more money and power than the average person, but that still shouldn’t mean that they, or anyone really, should have to risk their careers playing this stupid “when did you stop beating your wife?” game with some nimrod who’s only doing it to generate a good clip to replay on Fox. Isn’t “I’m not going to answer anything until you phrase that like a normal person” an option? These idiots keep pulling these tricks because people play along—when is someone finally going to refuse to play?

    1. Exactly ! Elise’s outrage over antiSemitism would be more convincing if she wasn’t advocating the annihilation of Immigrants, Blacks and Democrats.

  3. Shout out to Steve Kelley for not making Lucy Van Pelt look like Helen Kudlick. I know that took effort on your part so this Bud’s Coors’s for you!

Comments are closed.