Admittedly, I arrived at work this Monday morning a bit out of sorts. It’s the first Monday in the summer, news is flat, I’m down on the quality of work I’ve been doing recently, so basically, I wasn’t in much of a mood for cartooning today. Apparently this afflicts people in other jobs all the time, but for me it’s a rare thing. I like cartooning – usually. But today following a period of melancholy, I decided to shake things up a bit – to test my boundaries more than usual. Forget about drawing something on Stephane Dion’s Green Shift carbon tax or on Hamilton’s LRT proposal, I thought. The gruel was thin in this morning’s reports and I couldn’t pin down a newsy subject that was worthy of cartooning on… except for the passing of the great comedian George Carlin:
Perhaps to little surprise this cartoon was spiked. I went into drawing this thinking it had a chance since newspaper editors often enter into heated discussions regarding the appropriateness of printing swear words. I suppose in this case the very act of making people think
of the words I’m alluding to is too hot for print in a family newspaper, even though they were the very words which audiences expected to hear George Carlin utter whenever he took to the stage.
George Carlin was arrested for speaking these words before an audience back in the early 1970’s, and even after it went to the Supreme Court, the words were deemed obscene and to this day remain unmentionable on American network TV. Still, he was a pioneer of pushing the envelope on a vast array of touchy subjects and legions of comedy writers thereafter were able to expand the boundaries of expression thanks to the trail blazing of comedians like George Carlin.
In a perfect world the editorial cartoonist should be able to use his little rectangle on the Editorial page to state what ever opinion he wants to draw on the same way a comedian uses a microphone to state whatever opinion he wants to say. The fact is there are limitations on both professions of satire with examples ranging from the no-no of drawing an Islamic prophet to the taboo of uttering the “n-word” in a comedy club. Making people think dirty words in this particular mainstream daily family orientated daily newspaper is apparently another no-no. I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing because I simply don’t have the energy to argue my freedom of expression over this cartoon all the way to the Supreme Court, or more realistically the Editor-in-Chief.
As a father of two little girls I’m like any other well meaning parent protectorate shielding their ears and eyes from the dirty words and images of society and teaching them not to say any of those words if they happen to get through the filters. (I’m not exactly an advocate of swearing anyway, as it would take the severing of a limb or a similar calamity before anyone would hear me drop the f-bomb.) Eventually, my kids will learn that the inappropriateness of swearing is as mythical as the existence of Santa. When they move on in later years to their jobs be they in retail stores, factory floors, or seated at boardroom tables, they’ll hear how George Carlin’s 7 dirty words have become an ingrained component of English dialogue.
What is it with the English speaking world that swearing is so tolerable and pervasive in conversation off the record but so taboo when in print or when recorded? Does this go on in other world languages? My impression is no, but who knows? What I do know is that making people think of bad words in an editorial cartoon is a taboo. Fine – lesson learned, now back to drawing boring politics cartoons…and… rest in peace George Carlin.
Related to the issue of tribute editorial cartoons, Daryl Cagle asks on his cartoon blog why so many cartoonists drew George Carlin arriving at the pearly gates
even though he was an avowed Atheist. He should’ve asked why cartoonists keep doing pearly gates cartoons everytime some personality dies. Pearly Gates cartoons are lame.
Recently discovered is this ancient stone engraving which may very well be the first pearly gates cartoon in the history of mankind. From a cavern from the western flank of Arabah valley in Jordan: