American Caricature

I like reading caricatures. The exaggeration of a celebrity in a drawing makes the hidden satire much more lively and unforgettable. I appreciate the artwork as much as the message conveyed through the image. I once subscribed to the New Yorker magazine. In the end, I was more interested in the humor and cartoon section in the magazine than the long-winded articles. Perhaps, drawing is like music. Both can reach a wide audience without geographic and cultural boundaries.
I notice that the American president is the most publicized caricature in the American media. For example, when President Bush junior was in office, his caricature with his distinctive monkey-like face was everywhere in the political humor. Now it is President Obama’s turn. His big ears, long face and his signature cheek-to-cheek smile appear in nearly all sorts of newspapers and magazines. During the last election year, Obama’s caricature had a new companion, or I shall say a new rival. The American media was also thick with Mitt Romney’s caricature with his overly-groomed hair and protruding chin.

Leaders in China are not made fun of. For centuries, Chinese people have regarded their emperors as deity. Those who disrespect the leader of the country were as sinful as a Christian insulting his God. Even in modern days, despite that freedom of speech in China is relatively open, the Chinese media is still careful about criticizing, say, President Xi Jinping’s policies in the form of caricature.

As a Chinese, I find Americans are really bold in expressing their mind, regardless of right or wrong. I saw a caricature of Hillary Clinton portrayed as an evil woman at the Benghazi hearings. I saw the caricature of Speaker of the House John Boehner pounding the gavel with crocodile’s tears. It was so much fun to read and re-read these caricatures. They mark a period of history. After all, American celebrities are quite expressive and dramatic.

I don’t know if there is a limit for caricaturists in America. Are there any rules of what they can draw and what they cann’t? Is their satire subject to liable? Will the caricaturists receive warnings from the authorities if their work offends a particular interest group? Chinese officials hunt down the people who slander them or make them look ridiculous.


Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America