The Elephant Man

The Elephant Man

I’m trying to develop something on the topic of extra-judicial execution following last weekend’s targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. I have a few ideas, but I haven’t settled on any of them, yet. In the meantime, I came up with this cartoon on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the latest potential Republican Presidential candidate-of-interest since Rick Perry followed Michelle Bachmann after Donald Trump. Does the GOP have some form of electoral A.D.D., or is it just the news media?

Like Trump, Christie hasn’t announced his candidacy. Unlike Trump, he seems to have pretty clearly denied it, instead of milking coyly-dropped hints like an attention-starved prima-donna.

Indeed, Gov. Christie is about as far from any form of starvation as you can get. It’s a cheap shot, I know, but unavoidable in the field of caricature. I mean, look at the guy. He looks like John Candy ate William Howard Taft. Instead of “Yo mama” jokes, we’d have to start telling “Yo President” jokes. It’s Air Force One, not Sail Barge One. I’ll be here all night, folks, remember to tip yer bartender.

I don’t understand how anyone in the Republican Party could’ve thought, even briefly, that Christie would have a chance without first dropping about 200 pounds. Americans tend to want a President who’s as in-shape and good-looking as they imagine themselves to be, instead of being as fat and slovenly as they actually are. They put Sarah Palin up for VP in 2008 because of her looks, more than anything else, and other tea party darlings like Christine O’Donnell and Rick Perry have seemingly fit the same bill, more or less. None of ’em made it to primaries or elections on the basis of their oratory skills, that’s for sure.

Is Christie supposed to be another “establishment” candidate, like Mitt Romney, or Newt Gingrich?? I don’t know. It’s not like it’s gonna hold anybody’s attention long enough to Look, over there, it’s the Herman Cain Train! Sure to be followed by the next big Republican candidate, Shiny Set of Jingling Keys!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 at 9:00 am and is filed under Cartoons & Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to “The Elephant Man”

Ya know, I’ve followed you for several years now, and my husband has followed you for much longer via his membership at Something Awful; and this is the first time I’ve been utterly repulsed and thoroughly disappointed by your work. Cheap shot? Yeah, you don’t say. More like “lowest common denominator” humor. A fat joke? Really? That’s all you’ve got? You’re usually one of the most intelligent and clever cartoonists out there. (Your “fox entering the henhouse” cartoon comes to mind.)

Why not make a cartoon about the absurdity of this country’s obsession with the weight of it’s political candidates? Or how about the absurdity of the presumption that all fat people are unhealthy *because* they’re fat? Or how about the ridiculous and dangerous obsession this country has with thinness? (Runway models dying of anorexia, athletes and actors starving themselves to succeed, etc…) Or how about the logistical fallacy in equating weight with brains? Or, I dunno, a scathing commentary on how Christie will never get elected no matter what media games he plays *because* of this country’s bias against fat candidates?

I know fat acceptance and the HAES (Health At Every Size) movement isn’t on many people’s radars. And hey, maybe you hate fat people and everything I’ve just said is going to end up in a vicious screed on Reddit or SA. But this? This is over the line Dude, over the freaking line. Please, stop drinking the Fat Haterade.

Or how about the absurdity of the presumption that all fat people are unhealthy *because* they’re fat?

Sorry, but there is no way Chris Christie is healthy in spite of his ridiculous proportions. Unless he’s, like, a pufferfish who inflates in the presence of cameras, or something. I agree that there’s a grey area for people who look both over- and under-weight, but he’s clearly well, well outside of it.

You should have noticed that I briefly addressed the topic of attractiveness vs. electability in the text that accompanies my illustration. And if you noticed that, you should also have noticed that I strongly implied many of the more camera-friendly, in-shape candidates during recent election cycles have been total morons. So who’s equating “weight” with “brains” here, again?

I considered addressing the idea that Obama is probably one of the most attractive American Presidents in a long time, if not the most attractive in history. Like it or not, that’s an act the next President is gonna have to follow. That doesn’t mean somebody uglier than him can’t get elected, but it does mean somebody in significantly worse shape probably can’t. The next President will be compared to the current one in terms of both actions and appearance. That’s the nature of contextual memory.

I don’t see how you can bring up the very real problem of anorexia, while at the same time militantly defending extremes on the opposite end of the scale. “Health at Every Size” ought not to discriminate one way or the other, should it? You do know what the word “every” means, don’t you? I find the willingness of the “fat acceptance” movement to point out the specks in others’ eyes while ignoring the KFC Famous Bowls lodged in their own to be far more unattractive than any excess baggage they might be carrying around their waists–which is to say, I can agree with them on many specific points, while disagreeing with others that are seemingly inseparable from the overall movement.

This argument kind of reminds me of my reaction to the Critical Mass movement, ironically enough. I agree with them that communities and roads ought to be more bike-friendly, but I can’t sympathize with them as a group because I find that they don’t want to share the road with motorists; they feel cyclists are more entitled to it than people in cars, and choose to express this opinion by making obnoxious road hazards out of themselves. This’d be like if Martin Luther King had argued that blacks should be able to enslave whites for a few hundred years. You do have to account for privilege when making up for centuries of cultural wrongs, but you can’t do it simply by reversing the roles of the discriminator and the discriminatee.

Returning to the topic of body-image and “Health at Every Size,” I’d like to ask why you haven’t taken me to task for portraying President Bush as short as he is stupid? Personally, I feel short men are discriminated against by society and/or made fun of at least as much as fat people, if not more. Lucky S.O.B.’s like Dennis Kucinich aside, it seems to be mandatory for women in general that they can’t be taller than a man before they’ll consider dating him. Fat fetishes aren’t uncommon, but I sure as heck have never heard of a “short guy” fetish.

Even though this is my opinion, I don’t cry foul every time I see jokes that equate shortness with hilarity. I rarely find myself talking about it one way or the other, in fact, and can join in on the laughter if a joke is clever or funny enough.

The nature of my art, here, is exaggeration, be it merely metaphorical, or an extension of literal reality. Wherever you consider “the line” to be, that means I’m bound to step over it from time to time. I try to be tasteful and thoughtful about it, but sometimes certain images are so taboo, it doesn’t matter how intelligent or appropriate the commentary is, because someone will find it offensive. And sometimes certain people just can’t get over themselves. I prefer not to censor a good idea that can’t be expressed in any other way in the former case, but I don’t see it as my responsibility to do so in the latter at all.

When I chimed in about this last time, it was for representing corporate greed with obesity, which I feel was justified because I don’t find it appropriate to equate physical attributes with negative personality traits. You wouldn’t portray flamboyantness with a stereotypical gay person, or irrationality and vindictiveness with a woman, and you wouldn’t portray thievery or primitiveness by giving someone a brown skin tone. The (arguable) illusion of choice in body size should still not become a justification to use my body type or those like mine in a vindictive symbolic portrayal of negative character traits.

I was going to reconsider my position in this case, because I have no love for Christie. However, I find myself coming to the same conclusion I did last time.

Stereotype jokes aren’t funny, they’re annoying, and a surer sign of laziness than any fat on a person ever will be. A Larry the Cable Guy move. When a comedian can’t tell a joke and has to resort to dragging marginalized groups out on stage to mock, not so much them, as his perception of them, just to get a laugh from the audience, the comedian isn’t very good.

Christie’s greedy, and you’ll hear no objections about that from me. However, there is no correlation to that and his body size, he’s just greedy, and instead of calling him out for his greed, you’re trying to shame him over something completely unrelated to the real issue, which is what Lizzie was trying to say. His fatness is not the issue, it’s his corruption, and he’s as corrupt and unscrupulous as any thin or middlin’ member of the GOP.

When you mock his weight, rather than the man in his entirety, you’re no better than the GOP-acolytes who mock instinctively stereotype gay people, women or black people. They’re bullies. It’s in their nature, and in doing this, you’ve shown that it’s in your nature as well. Choice or not, you’re still dragging a group of people on stage and mocking them instead of telling a relevant joke. It’s humiliating for me, a fat person, to not only have my body expanded and exaggerated to cartoonish proportions, but then equated with corruption and greed, qualities I do my best not to exhibit. I have never seen you render someone like Paul Ryan skeletal, why is that? Childish joy at mocking someone for how they look. Leave the shit-flinging to the lesser mammals.

Oh, and one last thing: I absolutely agree with you on the “short people get it much worse” angle. It’s terrifying sometimes to see how openly little people are mocked and dehumanized (in the literal sense!) in the media. It’s interesting, to say the least, that you can outright acknowledge that mockery and discrimination against little people/dwarfs is a problem, and then go ahead and do it anyway so you “don’t miss out on a joke.” If that was the first place your mind went, then you should have spent more time brainstorming, and if you absolutely couldn’t keep from doing it anyway, then I’d like to introduce you to a good friend of mine. His name is Mr. Self-Control.

I will continue to enjoy your cartoons, unless you forget to add a punchline like you did this week.

Expect reactions like this from your audience whenever you employ a lazy and unintelligent tactic like stereotyping.

Jesus christ this isn’t that complicated:
Chris Christie is fat / obese.
He himself has said that he knows he is fat / obese, and does not care about fat jokes about him “as long as they are funny.”
This is a funny cartoon, and its poking fun at Gov. Christie (A Fat Man) and at the stupid ADD of the GOP in its search for anyone but Romney. Just because a cartoonist makes fun of a fat politician doesn’t mean they are making fun of any random person for being fat. The problem is that apparently Lizzie is unable to distinguish themselves from Gov. Christie (here is one difference: one is a governor I disagree with but who can take a joke, and one is a fat person complaining about fat acceptance on the internet).

By » EveryonePlease (October 5th, 2011 at 7:12 am)

Stop taking yourselves so seriously. Unfortunately, many jokes that are politically inclined have a tendency to be offensive. Especially political cartoons. While it is entirely fair to explain why something offends you, it is rather unreasonable to assume that this must be how the author feels about people who are overweight. It is offensive, but it is a caricature.

“A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person or thing to create an easily identifiable visual likeness… Caricatures can be insulting or complimentary and can serve a political purpose or be drawn solely for entertainment.” – Wikipedia

“Exaggeration by means of often ludicrous distortion of parts or characteristics.” – Merriam-Webster

I know he’s not just making fun of any old fat person. I know the subject is Christie. Never said I didn’t get the joke, Mike. The point is that this point could have been made without inflating the man until he no longer even resembles Chris Christie anymore, in which the punchline just becomes “Chris Christie is fat. Oh, and theres the GOP in there too, somewhere, but mostly he’s just fat. That’s a joke, right?”

The fact is that the joke about the GOP going after anyone could have been a lot better if he just drew Christie the way he actually looks. The “towering fat person” thing works better when he’s using it as a symbol for big government or corporate giants, and Christie, an individual, is no GOP powerhouse. Depicting him as a giant distracts from the punchline he’s actually trying to make, and when the reader has come to expect symbolism from Hurting, it’s even more confusing given Christie’s low GOP status. In the end, all Hurting is doing is mocking him for being fat simply because he’s fat, rather than making an intelligent point about him, which is a lot more childish than I’ve come to expect from him.

And like I said, he’s never rendered thin GOP members as skeletons, so the exaggeration in this case just confounds me (but at the same time, it paints a clear picture of how the artist feels about someone of my body type, so while Christie is NOT me, it’s clear to see how the artist would feel about someone like me, given that the massive depiction of Christie is a cheap shot and has no real relevance).

I’d make a comment about this cartoon breaking Christie’s “only if they’re funny” policy, but then, I don’t like Christie, so I don’t care about him, as much as I agree with that particular policy.

By » Iron Patriot (October 5th, 2011 at 1:30 pm)

I like it. Khristie Kreme is a bulbous, lazy man. A more obvious, though, apparently less hurtful, joke would be Christie riding a helicopter up to a podium to say the same line.

By » deephurting (October 5th, 2011 at 3:35 pm)

…he’s never rendered thin GOP members as skeletons…

Maybe not “skeletons,” but I’ve definitely exaggerated Romney’s thinness at least once:

…For the purpose of mocking his body type? I doubt it… and that would be one, against how many fat exaggerations? Hardly levels the field.

You’re morbidly biased, man, and that bias looks real nasty on you.

I didn’t read the comments – but I as I scrolled down did end up seeing some anger. I think that my post is a bit different. I don’t have a problem with a cartoon poking fun at a fat guy. I’m American and Americans have a weight problem. Getting angry at a fat joke cartoon – to me – is like shooting the messenger.

>> I mean, look at the guy.

I have. So?

>> unavoidable in the field of caricature

My complaint is that an uncreative cartoon is not “unavoidable”. It is must certainly avoidable.

When I see an editorial cartoon with a donkey or an elephant or there’s somebody at the tv I groan “Not again.” ‘Christie is fat” is as equally groan-worthy and disappointing.

I’m guessing the people who have a problem with this had no problem with similar jokes about Michael Moore.

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