Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Offensive Non Sequitur Cartoon Strip

Challenge: replace "French" and "Canadian" in the following dialogue (from today's Non Sequitur comic strip) with another pair of nationalities, or a pair of religions or ethnicities, to produce an inoffensive scene. (Like "German" and "Swiss," or "Catholic" and "Episcopalian;" but those seem not to be inoffensive, either).

Petey: "So, Dave is your ...uh...boy-friend?"
Lucy: "Yeah...Isn't he dreamy?!"
Petey: "OK...I don't know what girls find "dreamy" but..."
Lucy: "But. But what?"
Petey: " know...he's...he's..."
Lucy: "He's what, Petey?"
Petey: "French."
Lucy: "Actually, he's Canadian"
Dave: "Vive la difference, eh, cherie?"

Tough, isn't it. So what exactly makes the "French"-"Canadian" pair humorous and not offensive? Perhaps nothing. The scene is about what Petey perceives to be a shortcoming, a flaw, an objectionable attribute; to choose a nationality, any nationality, as an objectionable attribute without making clear why it is objectionable in the context is offensive, a gratuitous insult, and not humor.

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Certainly not his best comic, but the POINT of the cartoon is the stupidity of prejudice, and how often the person demonstrating the prejudice is wrong about both the big picture and the details.

Offensive characters and offensive statements appear often in cartoons. Usually, the intent is to satirize the character/attitude, rather than enforce the prejudice.
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