Another week, another supposedly racist Herald Sun cartoon penned by the irrepressible Mark Knight. Didn’t he learn his lesson after all the outrage and vitriol directed at him after having the temerity to depict Sudanese teenagers as having (gasp!) dark skin?
For those of you who wisely chose to refrain from watching the US Open women’s final, here’s what happened – Serena was losing, which provoked her considerable ire and resulted in her accruing several code violations, for which she was duly penalised. It was a truly McEnroe-style tantrum, bitter, petulant and wholly unedifying. Mark Knight decided to depict this ugliness in the form of a caricature, a style which requires the exaggeration of unpleasant physical characteristics to emphasise something about the subject. Serena behaved in a grotesque way and was represented accordingly – positively furious in the act of destroying her racquet (which she actually did, by the way).
No prizes for guessing what happened next:
The reaction to the cartoon reveals two deeply unsettling truths about the perceived nature of sexism and modern racism. Firstly, Serena believes she is entitled to act however she pleases on the tennis court as this is merely part of her crusade to fight for ‘women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff’. How disgusting is that? She’s arguing that she can’t be held to account for acting like a spoiled child because violating the (objective) rules of grand slam tennis is part of her crusade to further the cause of womenfolk everywhere. If you’ve ever wondered what non sequitur means, you couldn’t wish for a more instructive example.
Secondly, all this media weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth proves yet again what we already know – you just can’t criticise someone for their shitty behaviour if they happen to be black, especially so if they’re also a woman. This raises an interesting corollary – what are the acceptable cartoon depictions of any minority figure who disgraces themselves in public? Is caricature the exclusive domain of the Caucasian? Have a browse through Mark Knight’s past work; he’s not exactly afraid of making fun of white people too. I’m sure Clive Palmer would attest to this, if he isn’t already putting together a lawsuit to reap punitive damages for being repeatedly fat-shamed.
To anyone who earnestly and honestly believes that maybe Mark Knight’s detractors have a point I ask you this – how would you go about teaching a toddler that race is not an important personal characteristic? Would you endlessly seek to make every issue about race and highlight to them the various mechanisms by which racism supposedly affects everyday life? Of course not – that’s ridiculous. You can’t pretend as if race means nothing while simultaneously interpreting everything through a racial lens.
Toddlers are remarkably good at learning by example. I’ve heard that teenagers are too. What kind of generation are we raising then, when we teach them that Serena Williams is beyond reproach for anything thanks to her high melatonin levels? What if Mark Knight authors cartoons based not on his deeply held belief of white supremacism but as scathing commentary on the behaviour of highly public figures?
Illustration: Mark Knight, Twitter.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.