From Aristophanes to Knight Or “Is something else going here?”
By George Theodoridis
It is a case -as it bloody nearly always is- of relevance deprivation and diminution, thanks mainly to the prodigious proliferation and ever burgeoning of social platforms and the largely bored hoi polloi, bored by celebrities who have nothing to offer but the empty, irrelevant minutiae of their lives. The celebrities, like the emperor in the famous tale by Hans C. Anderson, have shown the full nakedness of their existence.
So, they’re out and about -celebrities of all sorts- and they are using anything and everything they can, including cartoons, as platforms (already well lit up by their adoring hoi polloi,) to stand upon it and yell at us, “hey, look here! Here I am! This way! I am a celebrity, listen to my rants, watch my outrages! I can still perform! I’m still a celebrity. Someone give me another contract!”
This includes the cartoonists themselves, of course, the tennis players, the hollow-headed authors like Rawlings whose credentials as moral and art arbiters are questionable if, quite arguably, non-existent.
This is a cartoon by a satirist and all satirical messages, from those by the very first ever and arguably the very best ever, Aristophanes, (c. 446 – c. 386 BC) whose world was no better nor worse than ours, if political chicanery is the measure, to Knight (born c. 1960s) all satirical messages are about exaggeration, exaggeration about everything from the shape of one’s nose to the shape of one’s words, to the colour of their budgie smugglers and the pitch of their Hanson-like squealing. Cartoonists are satirists and the identifying first sign of a satirist is exaggeration. No exaggeration, no satirist. It’s that simple! The other sign is that they condemn or criticise, or ridicule someone in a powerful position, be it in the political sphere or in the social one. From fathers of children to fathers of the Church or the State. Aristophanes depicted most brutally politicians Cleon among many, a Military man, Lamachus among many and philosophers, Socrates, among many. Most brutally!
We can like that sort of thing or we can hate it and we can express that love or hate by any means we can. Cartoonists do it by drawing cartoons.
Knight is a satirist and he did his satirical work, not only on Serena but on many other people, and did it in his own inimitable style which we all know and -as I said- either love or hate, laugh at or spat the dummy at. I can’t remember any such similar bellowing noise and social media turbulence generated by any of his other drawings, all of them satirical, all of them critical of someone or other.
Serena mucked up badly. Knight portrayed that.
Here we have a glowing emblem of an athlete, an icon of the best of them, rightly adored and admired by millions, acting like a spoilt child, “spitting her dummy,” as Knight put it. Something that does not fit that icon. Not at all! She happens to be black. Her opponent was an American-Japanese. Both were women, both non-anglos. The umpire was a non-anglo too and would most definitely have felt the excruciating pains of racism -as have I and anyone with even the slightest difference in the spelling of their name or the shape or colour of the skin on their face. No doubt, Carlos Ramos, the umpire would have heard the word “dago” as I have heard the word “wog” (among many other equally vile epithets) countless of times and felt its mind-numbing, stomach-churning jab often. He would know the excruciating hurt that racism can cause and he -as do I- would try his utmost to avoid delivering racism to anyone.
It also so happens that he is a male.
Would this ridiculously outraged, bigoted crowd, feel better or as bad if the incident were reversed and it was Osaka on the receiving end of the umpire’s penalties?
What the fuck are they on about?
Knight did the same thing many times before and is unlike to stop now -probably especially now and probably especially because he is now a celebrity. He sees the bullshit and he calls it for what it is and he draws a cartoon about it, satirising it. The bullshit, that is.
The Herald reminds us of these cartoons, also by Knight: Tony Abbott depicted as Hannibal Lecter with the caption “Banned: Big ears, cannibal mask,” and a topless Kim Jong-un with the words “Blocked: Belly fat, Asian stereotype.”
I can only conclude that all these “celebrities” from all over the world who have added their penny’s worth, thinking it was worth a pound, commented on this issue because they are desperate to be seen again and to be read again and to be listened to again and to be re-admired and, so as to jog our memory about their vacuous existence. They did so because they saw this incident as a platform, a stage where they can jump on and once again play the prima donna or the primo uomo.
The rest of us, the non-celebrities, we are either rational enough to see that there’s nothing to see here or not rational enough and so we behave like gangs of cowardly thugs who put the boot into some who’s down. A boot, by the way, which I and as I said the umpire, have felt and still feel now, at times, most painfully. Being kicked like that leaves great scars on you, scars that can flay not only your body but also your soul, scares that never leave you.
And, let us not forget that the umpire is a male who sits high up, above a couple of females -in the form of an idea as well as in that of reality- and it is therefore unequivocally and duty bound, in fact, ok for us to put our boot into him!
And that the cartoonist, of course, is a male also and also with a power mightier than a sword, and therefore it is also unequivocally and duty bound in fact, ok for us to put our boot into him as well!
The other reason is that, as a gang, we love to hate. We love to kick, we love to shout and show outrage. It’s an easy thing to do and, to some sick minds, it’s also an entertaining thing and something that gives us the power we have lost in almost all other areas of our lives. We’ve been made lesser in worth and dignity than overloaded donkeys, so we “kick.” We kick at anything and anyone, given half an opportunity. Knight’s cartoon has all the makings of such an opportunity for us to exert some of the power that’s been taken away from us.
Are we saying that the umpire is racially prejudiced against blacks but not against yellows? What sort of racial prejudice is that?
Are we saying that Knight has similar predilections to those of Carlos Ramos? WTF ARE we really saying? Whom are we accusing of what exactly and why? Based on what evidence?
Racial history of the world is brought into the court. Questions about the umpire’s integrity are raised or comments are made about Serena’s glowing sportsmanship, or about the umpire’s inconsistency of awarding penalties and Zeus knows what else, are all proffered to the judge as evidence that something is dreadfully wrong here! But none of these questions and comments and exhibits should even be heard or seen by the judge or us the jury.
They are all irrelevant to what had happened in that court on that day. They have nothing to do with the participants playing that particular game of tennis. They are simply hollow drums beating wildly! Loud shouts of wannabe celebrities. Loud shouts of hollow heads. Blistered tongues talking bullshit like our Prime Minister is so keen to do almost non-stop!
None of it should persuade the Goddess Justice, who should be blindfolded and unable to be persuaded by anything outside that single event on that single day in that single court.
Racism, misogynism, prejudice of any sort is disgusting. Utterly unacceptable to a society that wants to call itself civilised. So is bigotry, even if our erstwhile attorney general, George Brandis is otherwise convinced. According to him, we have the right to be bigots… but not be racist!
Well, Zeus be praised now it’s all made very clear!
Over sixty thousand years of Indigenous history of white torture has always and still is being treated with neglect, scorn and disdain but we’ve spent copious amounts of ink and intolerable decibels of noise arguing about the depiction by a cartoonist of a tantrum thrown by a tennis player. The hypocrisy is exasperating! The outrage is baffling.
Is it racism, sexism or is it cultural supremacism by the supreme supremacists we all know supremely well?
Serena has done wrong. The umpire penalised her.
END OF FUCKING STORY!
Henceforth it has become a boring ochlobabble!
Can we now shine our torch on the new champion, the new real sportsperson, the youth, the serene, the graceful and gracious, the true lover of tennis and not of vacuous notoriety, Naomi Osaka, please?
She beat the other player. She won the match. She did not yell or insult the umpire and -may the gods bless the young woman- she played by the rules, such a rare thing these days of spoilt sports and overpaid celebrities.
Yes, Naomi Osaka had won the match and the day. Three cheers for Naomi!
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True, but sad.
Whether Knight is broadbrush style, hamfisted or another bigoted Bill Leak, I am not quite sure. Maybe the clumsiness is due to the down market demographic he and his employers, the Murdoch Press, speak to.
Still, I basically went along with the message because I am one of those people who has come to loathe the gimmickry, gamesmanship and bad sportsmanship of finacialistic professionalised sport.
I do believe there are racist and sexist overtones in the cartoon due to the cartoonist’s clumsiness, but still think the ‘toon is firstly about brat sports people and their gamesmanship and tantrums in this hyped up commercialised sports world.
After all, he also did a very similar cartoon very recently on another even worse superbrat, Nick Kyrgios.
George Theodoridis, my sentiments, just more eloquently expressed…..
Not so long ago an Aboriginal footballer was called a monkey by a young girl, no doubt rabbiting her own parents; the masses, the bloggers did not see it as racist…
Not many expressed sympathy for the winner, Naomi.
Serena behaved badly, King was not racist.
Twas a little bit, Helvi.
But for proponents of the sexist racist argument to ignore the cartoon within the context of brat tantrums that have turned people off tennis for ages is close to unforgivable.
OK, not a fan of JK Rawlings, nothing wrong with that, but how does author “George Theodoridis” possess such information regarding her morals? Evidence?
So George doesn’t approve of celebrities weighing in with opinions? Many people would agree.
Does that include opinions with which he may approve? If true, such high moral standing, George.
Speaking of high profile people, George gives Mark Knight special privelege, no nuance here; a Herald-Sun cartoonist, above criticism. Who’da thunk it? A cartoon is always satire, apparently, any who care to differ need to get over it. Such depth of thought.
George mentions appalling treatment by whites of First Nation people here in Australia. Apart from relevance as to whether Mark Knight’s cartoon was a racist/sexist stereotype …
… What if Serena was Australian and not American?
Just a thought.
Diannaart, many thanks for your comments and your questions.
JK Rowling has praised the savages who have taken over a land that belongs to others and who have formed a fantasy “country” in that land; who have committed and are still committing atrocities that would shock even the rock-hearted on this planet.
Her “art”, her novels show that she understands nothing about art and everything about pulp.
As for celebrities, perhaps I didn’t make myself clear enough. I was commenting about those particular celebrities who did enter the court room and “weighed in” with their opinion. I found these particular celebrities and their particular comments worthy of my weighing in of them and their comments.
It was not their right to comment that I disapprove of: Zeus forfend that I come to think of myself as such an austere fascist. I simply “weighed in” with my views of their views.
I give no special or otherwise privilege to Mark Knight. In fact, you’d have seen that I said that he, too, is merely another celebrity, even more so now. He is doing what all the other celebrities are doing -using his medium of expression.
No, I didn’t say that a cartoon is ALWAYS satire but we should be able to see that this cartoon IS a satirical one and conforms with the rules -loose though they might be- of the genre. Cartoons, even satirical ones can be hurtful in many ways, from being violently racist, to simply being vile. They ought not to be. They should merely be critical. Aristophanes’ treatment of Socrates brought him to his death. That was not the satirist’s fault but the fault of a jury of 500 Athenians. His “Clouds” is hilarious. Do we prohibit its staging?
I don’t understand your last hypothetical question. Why would my view about Serena, were she Australian or Greek or Lebanese -or indeed a man- tweak my thoughts in any direction at all? She behaved badly and Knight, just like a photographer, took a picture. What if the cartoon was a photo by a celebrity photographer?
Re the question of whether Australians would have condemned another Australian as quickly as Serena Williams, I think the examples that come to mind would be Pat Cash at his worst and nowadays Nick Kyrgios, also a subject of a recent Knight cartoon.
It IS good fun to jump on American brats because America has produced so many of them, but when locals behave badly, my tendency has been to shrivel up in embarrassment and hope no attention is drawn to them.
I think there is a small component of ethnic prejudice involved in the Kyrgios cartoon also, I think he has even called himself “a wog boy” and agree that the relationship between Kyrgios and anglo aussies is a bit fraught, with undertones of suspicion and resentment mutual.
He doesn’t help his own cause, but then again, has he been taken to the aussie breast in the way a Newcombe or Roche would have been?
paul , Kyrgios has a Greek father and his mum is of Malaysian background, does that make him a double wog in the minds of the racists…
Aussies usually love their top sportspeople; the fast runners, boxers and wrestlers, don’t have a problem in being accepted into the fold….
Thank you for taking time to respond to my comments.
Last question first, if Serena was a First Nation person, and her image a crude rendering of an aboriginal Australian woman, you would have no issue?
I do have an issue with racist depictions of people. This includes drawing of Jews with big noses or fat, hairy Greeks or black Africans with bones through their noses. These are racist tropes.
There is a distinct difference between satire and stereotypes.
Knight’s depiction could be any African-American, it is not a caricature of Serena.
As for your rant regarding JK Rowling (good we’ve got the spelling correct this time), celebrities are people too, which means they are as entitled to expressing opinions as anyone else, they are also as prone to be right or wrong as anyone else.
However, George, you are not alone, there are many who agree with you, here at AIM and most definitely the Herald-Sun readership.
Diannaart we diverge on the issues of what is crude rendering and on the term “racist depictions of people.”
Satire, by and large, is the use of a stereotype , simply because they are more readily recognised. here’s another hypothetical: would you object if the cartoonist did the opposite, ie, draw someone extraordinary handsome (greek god, Adonis, etc) or super gorgeous (a la Aphrodite?) all of which would be portrayals of the real person with his/her features exaggerated?
I don’t buy this argument about how Knight drew Serena as “any African-American woman. This is the only issue that has been brought to the argument of Knight being racist. His drawing of Serena is unquestionably of Serena. The whole context of the cartoon, its motive, its scenario screams of that. This is a person who has lost her cool. I can hypothesize -and did so- as to why she did that but that is irrelevant to the question of Knight’s agenda.
I do not see a Jew with a long nose, a fat, hairy Greek or a black African with a bone in his or her nose in Knight’s cartoon.I see only a black American throwing a temper tantrum like a child with a dummy in her mouth. That’s all. Others saw what you saw.
I would also like to take the opportunity to mention this view and it is that if Knight was a serial offender on this very issue drawing african-american people in an offensive way, then I would say that the satire has been turned into a tool of attack. Whilst I disagree vehemently with the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, this is not similar. From my understanding, I don’t think Knight has a concerted attack on a race (as did the magazine on the muslims by drawing highly offensive pictures of the most significant entity in the muslim religion, the Prophet Mohammed).
Knight has seen a person who is highly regarded to shout, accuse, belittle and threaten the umpire. It is a great scenario for a cartoonist. They’ll grab it every time.
I’m sorry typos offend you so much. They offend me too. Why did you call my passage on Rowling a “rant?” Are you being satirical? Racist? Sexist?
Quite so, celebrities are people too and I’ve said before they have every right to voice their opinion, as I, a non-celeb have the same right. BUT their pulpit and their microphone are much more omnipresent and audible.
Free speech, ey? It ain’t free if it’s only one way. He who speaks should have his ears more open than his mouth.
Thank you Helvi and Paul.
Good points from both of you, of course.
At the end of my thinking about that cartoon came the question, which to me was the essence of the accusations and it is this: what is the evidence that the cartoon and the cartoonist are racist?
The only point that I thought had elicited some response was the way Knight portrayed Serena and, his accusers assert, he had portrayed her in a way that black people were portrayed in the dark years of slavery; dark years, incidentally which have not become any brighter since then and, quite arguably we have made that darkness even more hellishly so. Indeed, this is a sickeningly inhumane behaviour on our part. The lives of the everyday back American have not improved and it looks like they won’t do so for quite a while. And that (as has Diannaart said above) Knight’s portrayal of Serena is one that could be applied to all African-Americans and therefore it’s a stereotype and therefore a racist statement.
I fail to see how else he could portray her, given the scenario. When people get angry, their faces become distorted, anger begets a mean face. The usual sweet features are knocked away and we have a face bloated and distorted. Not a pretty face. It would be a bad cartoon if Knight had her looking as she looks when she’s calm and happy, a serene, Serena, if I may be permitted a silly pun.
The point Helvi raised about Kyrgios is a good one. What does a satirical cartoonist do about people with DNA from multiple ethnicities? How does one draw a “double wog?”
I suppose to balance it, you can ask if Knight is honest or a propagandist. I feel that would be the point Diaanart is making.
I’m not sure if that’s at all relevant, Paul but Dianaart can ask Knight that uestion. My interest is the cartoon itself, as it would be of any work of art. What am I seeing here? From then on it’s speculation which may or may not be right. I know racism intimately and my antenae are honed well and always out looking for it. I daresay I’d see it in that cartoon if it was there. I suggest it’s not.
By the way, the following would be easy meat for Knight?
Dutton is found to have lied to parliament as to au pair girls at the same time as this:
Will rush out for tomorrow’s copy of the Hun.
George, you were posting as I was posting.
On the issue we discuss, I’ve largely agreed with you but believe it is complex and Diannaart’s comments deserve fair context given certain realities.
Mark Knight’s cartoon is perceived by many as crude and insulting – where is the humour?
There is none, unless it is a type of schadenfreude where Serena is perceived as getting what she deserves for “getting uppity”. She “threw a tanty” and must be punished.
As Paul has noted, the issue is complex.
I note those who do not perceive the cartoon as racist are mostly white and Australian, just sayin’.
Will end here, enough has been said, enough red herrings to fill a rabbit hole (deliberate mix of metaphors). I will leave it to the AIM reader whether claims of a celebrity’s morals is a valid argument in this particular debate. Or whether yours truly was in such need of lengthy ‘splaining of the art of satire.
Firstly, a cartoon doesn’t have to be “funny”. “Funny” is for Walt Disney’s cartoons. This is satire which can be, and usually is, very dry but presents a powerful statement. Such is the nature of Knight’s cartoon.
You ask where the humour is and I ask you, “where is the racism?”
Yes, the issue is complex, IF one brings into the argument extraneous and irrelevant issues. My observations are made simply by looking at the cartoon and there, there inside the cartoon, I see no racism, the sort that I, yes, a “white male” felt and felt quite violently -feel it even these days- often enough to know it hasn’t gone away.
White, “australians” are not excluded from the slings and arrows shot by morons and psychopaths. They too are subjected to racism, sexism and whatever other -ism you care to mention.
I did not make a case about celebrities the way you put it. I’m not quite sure why you choose to twist and distort my words so horribly. Is it because you haven’t read the essay? You haven’t read it with an open mind, you’ve read it, with your mind already made up that “here we have another white male – a wog no less, making judgements on black women and on racism!”
Please read the relevant paragraphs again.
Or is there some other reason?
Please tell me what you mean by your opening word, “Perception.” What were you aiming to express by starting your post with it?
Perception is a house, the doors of which belong to the perceiver.
I won’t comment on your final sentence, other than to suggest that we all have our needs, yours, as you see it, does not include reading a “lengthy explanation” of satire. Others do.
It is a subject close to my heart and have studied it with great interest and enthusiasm. If you go to my website you will see that I have translated all the satires extant from ancient Greece. I can assure you, satire is far bigger than my few words in this essay.
Paul, re Dutton.
I was deeply disappointed that Knight did not draw an almost identical cartoon the very next day when Dutton threw and identical tantrum in Parliament (as he will most probably throw one again today) when he was challenged about the au pair girls. The only thing that would be missing from the said cartoon would be Serena’s huge plume of hair.
I was deeply disappointed at that. Knight should have drawn it!
Nowhere have I stated that cartoons must be funny. Please reread my comment on humour and schadenfreude.
Are you so desperate to win an argument which is very much about perceptions that you will make false claims about what I have stated quite clearly above?
There are no winners here. There are subjective responses to seeing a cartoon, as evidenced here at AIM and globally.
The cartoon under discussion is one where schadenfreude may be felt by some viewers of the cartoon – that being their perception, for others it is a nasty derivative stereotype of a black woman who dared to complain.
There is no need for you to throw in everything from the “Doors of Perception” to lectures on satire to Greek kitchen sinks (metaphorical sinks, George). I know both perception and satire are massive subjects – please drop the condescension.
It is this patronising tone you have taken with me that is poor form of debate.
The issue is the reaction, both here and globally, to Mark Knight’s cartoon. Not evidence of your education. I am sure you are very intelligent and erudite. Others who post here may not be so well educated, however, their opinions count and are worthy.
I will not be changing my opinion that the cartoon is very poor form. I know you won’t change your opinion either – although I suspect you are more about winning, than because you really care about Mark Knight, much less Serena Williams.
Serena threw an ugly childish tantrum, her being black did not make it worse, a white player behaving badly is equally deplorable…
I have always judged people by their behaviour, not by their race, colour,gender or educational standards…
Where was her solidarity towards the modest well-behaving winner girl, Naomi; it was after all Naomi’s day in the sun…
Feminism, is it just a word for some ?
Thank you, Helvi. My sentiments exactly.
George, he won’t do Dutton. It’s a Murdoch tabloid..they own stereotypes the way Rothschilds own banks. If one thing has come from the thread, it is the role of tabloid media and press in reinforcing stereotypes and false memes.
Knight HAS done Dutton.
Is the dark guy in the ‘toon the aboriginal guy they are trying to deport to PNG?
Wait..now I remember. These are the interpreters who worked with Aussie troops in Afghanistan that the diggers are trying to get over here to safety.
He was telling us what a nice bloke he is parliament today during his censure motion.
Obviously, Bishop and the other persecuted subjects of his “bullying” tactics before the leadership spill thought that they should endorse him rather than voting for because he is a good bloke. After all, he said so himself.
Politics Australian style is a funny game, isn’t it?
Good one and poignant as pretty much always.
But the next day after the Serena incident, Dutton was in Parliament spitting all of his dummies one after another. What a great exhibition of that phrase he delivered. I was hoping Knight would repeat the cartoon above only this time, in Serena’s place he had drawn Dutton and in Naomi’s place, one of the children in Nauru. It would have be a cartoon to laminate and stick on one’s wall.
But this is also good.
This morning the papers report Morrison again offers up evidence of his Christianity in refusing children from Nauru.
Btw, re earlier post typo or just muddle, should have been “against” not “for” 2cnd to last para, annoyed when I wrote it.
The entire leadership are fit subjects for caricature.
paul, it’s how “speakers in forked tongues” think and speak. They trip over their morality.
Speaking of forked tongues:
Add the Labor Party over the FTA and the Doncaster freeway in Victoria at state level and the Liberal women and it is hard to find ANY people in Parliament worth the time of day.
Only bad behavior rewarded these days.
Here is another example of dirty, dirty deeds done dirt cheap:
ABC management responding to deliberate blowouts for junk funding to cripple real stuff, this time by castrating 4 Corners with a massive funding cut to prop a no doubt distorted future election coverage based on lack of information.
Note the timing
Note the timing.
I should have mentioned the Liberal women voting AGAINST the censure motion of their alleged bully Dutton yesterday, but god knows what response THAT would get.
PW, Phelps is the Lib woman that the Lib Party couldn’t get.
Where they sit in the chamber does not indicate their political proclivities.
Sorry, can’t comment further. Cant think of a more nauseating day.
Not only Cartoonists and Serena matter, what about Referees and Naomi….?
Thanks Helvi for bringing Shelley Lloyd’s well written and well thought out article to the debate.
Indeed, it is never only the effect upon us but upon those around us and in this scenario, upon the referee and upon the other player, the young Naomi Osaka who won that match utterly fair and square.
We have invested a lot of love and loyalty upon our celebs and we want to defend that investment by defending them; by defending their reputation, the image we have of them and we do so, we “defend” this investment and this celeb’s reputation by attacking the reputation of those who dare tell us that we are our investment is ill considered and simply wrong or by simply falling into the state of denial.
“Yes, the umpire and the cartoonist are racist, No, Serena did nothing wrong.”
This bit in Shelley Lloyd’s report is exactly what I saw in Knight’s cartoon -with the slight variation of names and places:
“‘I’ve been told by junior umpires about frightening times when they’ve had grown men standing over them and yelling at them — that’s a lot to deal with when you’re 15 years old,'” Mr Russell said.”
Here’s a celebrity, many times the size of the umpire’s fame and reputation -the umpire’s and the cartoonist’s put together!- shouting absurd accusations, absurd disparagement of his character and his ability of doing his work, lethal (in career terms) threats and insults that kids in the playgrounds of High Schools would eschew. This is bullying exhibited in the most phosphorescent way. Nothing is more obvious than Serena’s shameless bullying. “You will never be in my court again,” she shouted at Ramos among many, many other things!
I ask you!
And there are people who deny this litany of errors and who attack those who shine a torch on them by doing what the celeb herself is doing: By putting the boot in!
It’s a puzzle in the human recipe of morals, an x factor of some sort, but it certainly is there, and it blemishes our human dish.