Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A tale of two magazine covers

While the New Yorker is known and respected for many things, the biting wit of its cartoons isn't one of them. Traditionally they span the spectrum from mildly amusing to vaguely depressing. But the magazine's latest front cover depicting Michelle and Barack Obama sees it plumb new depths in the humour department.

According to New Yorker editor David Remnick, it was intended to be a satirical statement about right-wing depictions of the Democratic presidential candidate and his wife, but it gets this horribly wrong: as a satire it is both cloddishly heavy handed and, importantly, not really funny. Sure, it will spark debate, but only in the same way your least favourite uncle might when he starts a joke during a family dinner with the words, "I'm not a racist, but..." I mean, even John McCain's campaign immediately condemned it.

When I first saw the illustration, I immediately thought of the Onion's front page headline earlier this year: "Black Guy Asks Nation For Change." Not only does this make me laugh pretty much every time I think of it, but it also nails the issue by making it crystal clear exactly who the joke is aimed at: us and our attitudes to race, not the candidate himself. New Yorker take note: leave the satire to the satirists.

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