May 10, 2011

The Circle of Life

Hajo de Reijger, 5/2/11:
This particular cartoon has been attracting attention as being racist, primarily because Obama has been put in the position played in the movie The Lion King by a monkey. (And the "black people are monkeys" equivalency is still unfortunately alive and well among the American right-wing, as recently seen in California.)

But I'd like to ask, instead: is this cartoon racist if you didn't remember, like me, that the creature holding up the baby in The Lion King was a monkey? (I had a vague confused image of the daddy lion with a cub in his paws.) And is it racist if you, like cartoonist de Reijger, aren't American, and haven't grown up with that particular slander? (Of course, he still had to make some kind of cognitive leap from "American President with some African heritage" to "Disney movie about talking lions.")

And, even more importantly: does it make any sense? In the movie, the monkey displayed the new heir to the throne for everyone to see and worship -- but cartoon-Obama is here doing pretty close to the opposite. And what's up with his expression?


  1. It's terrible.

    It's racist if he's to the right or center. It's nuanced if he is to the left.

  2. My problem is that I can never remember that mandrills are monkeys. Whenever they come up, I think that they're apes, and get ready to smugly correct people who call them monkeys.

    But they're totally monkeys.

  3. Whenever they come up? Mandrills come up often? I mostly get to discuss Spongebob and Squidward whom, I smugly point out to my six-year-old, is not a octopus but a squid, hence the six appendages. Duh.

    If I used "whom" incorrectly, I did so sarcastically. If I used it correctly, I did so smugly.

  4. It's not a good cartoon because it doesn't work. Why in the Hell would anyone wanna put a cartoon that's just confusing in their newspaper or on their website (except to talk about how it's messed up).
    Is it racist? Is it not? I'd have to understand it before I can level an accusation at it other than "it doesn't work".

  5. Yeah, I messed that up when I was putting in my name.


Please remember that the purpose of Editorial Explanations is to explain and to expand knowledge, rather than to engage in any partisan bickering. All cartoonists are completely correct, in their own worlds.