Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Left Wing Cartoons

Yesterday The Omnivore looked at a sampling or right-wing (leaning) comic strips. The goal was to try to figure out how conservative attempts at humor would work--as one of the identified issues with Republican messaging (by Republican analysts) is that they're not hitting all the necessary points with humor.

Today we'll look at some left-wing comic strips to see how, if at all, they differ. This XTREME research will be done with the following method (the same as for the right wing ones).
  1. Take the most recent strip as a sample.
  2. Look 3 strips back to see if anything changes.
  3. If I can't figure out what's going on in the strip click around either from the front or going back far enough to see if there's a story-line.
  4. Make a decision on the bases of XTREME SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE. 
I think we can all agree this is better than what passes for science in most journalism.

The Comics
I didn't find a single, perfect list for these--but there are a few on the web that come close. These are what I dug up from Google.

If there is a gold-standard in political comic strips it's Doonesbury. My spellchecker knew what it was. It's been around for ages. It's definitely left-wing.
The Character Is James (Jimmy to his friends) Crow
What's The Content? Doonesbury has a sprawling multi-generational cast. Great amounts of the strip don't involve the politics of the day at all--but rather look in on the lives of characters (or, today, their offspring) we've seen for decades. Although this is a 3-part arc about the SCOTUS ruling on the Voter Rights Act, if you go back before that, it's family and character drama.

Humor Mechanism: The character driven drama has a large generational component: The Doonesbury readers are, I think, presumed to have college aged kids so they'll find the old characters being 'out of touch' with the youth funny. The political component is certainly satirical but is also meant to be informative (i.e. it calls out facts or 'facts' which the reader is supposed to read and be enlightened by).

The Boondocks
It got its own TV Show which is pretty impressive. It's a distinctly African-American comic and it has a political bent (although it's certainly not political-joke-of-the-day stuff).
Because Old People Are Always Funny
What's The Content? In this case--for this sample--it was all character-driven (Grandpa is old). Going back four comics I found some stuff making fun of (or maybe supporting) survivalists. In any event there was nothing overly political about it.

Humor Mechanism: Character-driven. Even the politics of the characters in The Boondocks serves to illustrate how quirky they are. I suspect if I studied it carefully I'd find some characters (the main kid) speaking with the "voice of the author" but really it's a cast of weirdos who bounce off each other.

This one was entirely new to me. It seems to have a large (mostly?) African-American cast and it's definitely political.
It's Justice Kennedy's World: We Just Live In It
What's The Content? Definitely political and decidedly left-wing--but not, to my read, radically so. It makes moderately gentle points and isn't especially mean-spirited to its characters in the sample I saw. It also has some character-driven strips that aren't political at all.

Humor Mechanism: Like most of these it juxtaposes political events with dead-pan commentary that is either ironic or insightful (or attempting to be). There isn't any back-and-forth and there aren't opposing view points. One character dispenses hilarious and non-political bad advice in what appears to be an on-going gag.

When you Google Left-Wing Comic Strips you get as the second list--so, okay. I'm including it even though I don't think it appears in newspapers.
Not Really All That Funny
What's The Content? Long, wordy commentary (hey--why did I feel a sudden pang) that takes a while to get to the point. It mixes some definitely left-stuff (like the above and one about raising the minimum wage) with some more general griping about Washington in general.

Humor Mechanism: It illustrates some injustice or 'misunderstanding' that the reader will find ironic. In several strips it does use a lot of back-and-forth where one person plays a straw-man and the other a straight-man.

There's a lot more character-driven humor here (strips that are not political or only vaguely political) and if Mallard Fillmore is the top of the heap for right-wing cartoons (appearing in many papers nationwide) compared to Doonesbury, I suspect it hardly registers (I can't speak to how successful each is--but I suspect Doonesbury with decades of existence and high relevance is much more well known). 

I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine which set of cartoons they feel are more sophisticated.

No comments:

Post a Comment