Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Too Black, Too Strong

Okay, I'll admit it, I first heard about the Obama cartoon through the radio. I used to subscribe to the New Yorker. Every weekend I would carry my copy with me everywhere I went. I would hold my copy just high enough so that the title was clearly visible while not obscuring my face. There I sat in the Wal-Mart parking lot, waiting for the wife to finish her shopping.
It was that same wife who brought me to my senses one day. Her bladder was full and she needed some reading material to get the pipes flowing.
"I thought you didn't read the New Yorker." I said in a snide voice clearly illustrating to all in range that I was the better person for being a reader of said magazine.
"I don't" She replied, "but it's perfect for reading on the toilet."
that was when the damask fell from my eyes. The edifice I had built in my head crumbled to rubble, I became aware for the first time of the sycophantic celebrity billionaire profiles, the so far behind the bleeding edge music coverage and Talk of the Town? Why should I care what that town is talking about? I live in Rockford, Illinois and sometimes I shop at Wal-Mart. There, I said it. Oh God, I feel so much better now, like an elephant has just stepped off my testicles.
Don't get me wrong folks, I still read Anthony Lane's movie reviews, Peter Schjeldahl's art columns and how could I turn my back on a mag that has both Spiegelman and Crumb scribbling in the margins. It's just that now I know that I am the scruffy bum standing outside the window of the shiny restaurant while well dressed couples make well phrased comments at my expense.
Despite all that, I had to see this cartoon that has caused such an uproar. You can see it above. From a magazine whose staff and readership are almost entirely white and upper middle class this is a bold statement. I have read around five years of this mag's recent publishing and this is the first black guy or girl I have ever seen in a cartoon. They did do a cover featuring a Hassidic Jew and a brown skinned woman kissing back in the nineties but this obama cartoon reminds me of aanother magazine altogether, a magazine that was in the bathroom of many homes in America before it stopped being funny. It was a magazine that often satirized presidential candidates and, unlike the New Yorker, also celebrities. It's mascot, much like Aloysius P. Thunderbum or whatever the top hatted fop is called, is a puzzled slightly sub normal young man named Alfred E. Newman. How sad that the New Yorker, whose previous role was to represent the lifestyle of a cloistered elite should be the magazine which manages to record forever the view from a million trailer park windows. Sadder than that even is that if you leave the isle of Manhattan, past Brooklyn and New Jersey you will find an obese nation who happen to believe that Barack Obama is a "musselman" and you want to know the worst part? I live there too.