For a long time, satire has been a source of semi-serious entertainment, as it makes those who consume it either laugh at the irony or cry at the reality of it. Political cartoons are an essential part of the political journalism system. They provide a colorful complement to traditional news reporting, offering a welcome break from the increasingly bleak political discourse. Cartoons provide open insight and interpretation on current events due to their ability to distill news and political opinions down into a caricature.
A political cartoon, according to Dan Backer’s A Brief History of Cartoons, is the fusion of two things. First, the genre uses caricature and allusion. The second thing is meaning, or whether or not the subject matter is well-known. To put it another way, the subject matter shown in cartoons is familiar. The caricature will mock the person, while the allusion provides meaning. As a result, political cartoons will exaggerate people’s faces and pull out their true selves to humorous effect. Initially, these caricatures and allusions were perceived primarily as interesting, but perhaps not viable, artistic works.
However, cartoons offer a distinct type of journalism. These caricatures have the ability to offer a powerful understanding of political news. They are able to illustrate and discuss stories in ways that essays and articles are unable to. They capture the inimitable human essence of their subjects in order to humanize the theme they represent more effectively than a piece of writing or film could.
This type of journalism’s sarcastic nature contributes to its appeal. Cartoonists will support the message behind their art by mixing humor with current political coverage, drawing on the often-ridiculous essence of stories. Nonetheless, rather than despise this interrogation of their identities, politicians often justify themselves with it instead, using their portrayals as evidence of their importance in public life.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of vaccines against the virus, a significant number of people have been against the vaccine altogether. To bring this issue to light, cartoonist Chris Britt created a cartoon of a white man wearing a shirt that says “Anti-Vaxxers” and hugging the Grim Reaper, who has a chat bubble above his head that reads “Love you, guys.” The meaning behind the cartoon is that those who refuse to get vaccinated are risking themselves by, essentially, consorting with death. The cartoon’s message reflects real issues, such as the contentious political climate surrounding science and the beliefs of radical people on the right side of the political spectrum.
Cartoons should be seen not only as news sources but also as a historical archive of the moment’s political climate. Political cartoons have remained a timeless form of political satire in an age where journalism and artistic creativity are continually changing. The ability of cartoons to convey a persuasive and detailed message has unquestionably stood the test of time, particularly in an era of massive media output.