The original idea for this cartoon dates back to an earlier work I produced at the end of 2017. As mentioned then, initial sketches for that cartoon juxtaposed The Resistance™’s raving condemnations of current President, ridiculously inept businessman, and probable inspiration for Gene Hackman’s 1978 take on Lex Luthor alongside their gleeful embrace of former President, ridiculously inept painter, and brain-damaged mass-murderer George W. Bush.
However, I felt it narrowed the older cartoon’s scope too much, while also making any composition I could work out far too busy, so I stripped away all the explicit references to W. and the pussy hat brigade, instead making it about Trump’s tone compared to his (and all other Presidents’) actions.
This was a topic I’d already discussed alongside other cartoons, without yet having made such a naked, blunt comparison in the illustration itself.
I never expected I’d be able to revive the excised concepts for their very own piece, but I guess I’m still less-cynical than I ought to be, as lazy daytime talk-show host, mediocre comedienne, and gay icon Ellen DeGeneres was spotted about two weeks ago yucking it up like a member of Ronald Reagan’s entourage with the ol’ pretzel-choker himself at a baseball game.
This touched off a surreal debate you wouldn’t think we’d need to have in the first place; the type of absurd question Keith Olbermann’s whale character from BoJack Horseman might pose as the subject of “Tom Srant”: “SHOULD anyone, especially prominent gay celebrities, be friends with homophobic war-criminals?”
According to unscrupulous, wealthy white women, the answer to that question was a resounding “yes!” After all, it doesn’t matter if you’re red or blue, because the only color that really matters is green!
To that end, Ellen tried to distract from the issue of Bush’s many heinous and appalling crimes with the red herring of mere political differences, earning cheers of “you go, girl” from Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Bell, and probably numerous other interchangeable, blonde bobble-heads the average person couldn’t pick out from a complete line-up of Roger Ailes-Approved Fox News hostesses/human set-dressing.
Luckily, a lot of people weren’t easily fooled, and even some celebrities remained steadfast and emphatic in their moral outrage, combining the brain of their views with the brawn of their social reach to remind their audiences of just what a horrible President Bush was, and what a loathsome, unrepentant, and untalented tool he continues to be.
One clever video editor placed footage of the tortures and murders Bush oversaw on the screen behind Ellen—because, I guess experienced media pros still haven’t realized that appearing alongside a blank space that can be easily keyed out just invites mischief—fortuitously syncing the pose from the most infamous Abu Ghraib photo, also referenced in my cartoon, with a pose the Wonderbread of gay celebrities happened to make during her self-righteous spiel.
Ellen’s people have responded by issuing copyright takedown notices, I assume because Ellen is a tyrant and an asshole. I want to be clear that I’m blaming her specifically here, rather than her PR department or her lawyers, because despite her maudlin, insincere calls for tolerance of one another’s differences, she has a reputation of ruling her productions through a culture of belittlement and fear, and is on record (correctly) banning other homophobes from her platform in the past, not to mention openly mocking Dick the Birthday Boy, so—at best—she’s demonstrably inconsistent and hypocritical about her stated values.
Well, go ahead and try to get this taken down, Ellen.
See, in an age where everyone can design and disseminate sharp political and social commentary with memes, this is the purpose editorial cartoons still serve: the powerful and elite may be able to leverage copyright law to smother criticisms expressed through reappropriation, but when it comes to original illustrations generated with good, old-fashioned pen-and-ink on a fresh sheet of bristol, they still can’t do anything about these damn pictures.