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Editorial Cartoon; A Double-edged Sword of Journal

If you are currently subscribing to a newspaper, you’ll find a one-frame cartoon somewhere in it. You can also see these newspapers on the internet, and almost all of them have that kind of one-frame cartoon. If you want to know the day’s main news or the current trends of society nowadays but you don’t have much time to read, it is good to find a one-frame cartoon in a newspaper.

Every day we can watch conflicts and debates over political issues and social values through newspapers, broadcasts, magazines, and so on. Opinions always are extremely diverse, and it’s utterly your choice to follow one opinion. Of course, making clear decisions might be difficult because of demagogy and fabrication. When numbers of opinions come out over one issue and sometimes the truth is distorted, the best way to let people know that another view of the issues exists is through ‘satire’.

Here are four one-frame cartoons, and each one of them is from a different newspaper. They were published in newspapers on the day of the College Scholastic Ability Test, so some of the cartoonists drew parodied cartoons, comparing the criminal investigation ability of the prosecution to the test, and showing the citizens demanding the president to step down using the image of a test paper. If you got the point of the current situation before or due to these cartoons, you might burst out laughing, “Oh, the cartoonist drew that social issue in this way in sarcasm.” Like this, cartoons as a kind of a social outlet based on sarcasm show political issues implicitly in a simple way for those who don’t understand social phenomenon much or even who cannot read and write but still whose life is closely connected with social issues. Those kinds of cartoons make people decide how to feel about a specific issue, in a super easy way. We call this an ‘Editorial Cartoon’ or a ‘Political Cartoon.’

An Editorial Cartoon is usually a one-frame cartoon criticizing current social and political issues. A cartoonist who usually draws Editorial Cartoons is called an editorial cartoonist. The difference between Editorial Cartoons and other cartoons is that the purpose of an Editorial Cartoon is to create a satire on something, so the keyword 'satire' is a main point here. As 'blaming' and 'criticism' are totally different things, satire doesn't exist just for laughing at someone or something. Yet, satire is just one opinion, so it might be one-sided or biased, but it helps a small but important opinion to be underlined when the views of specific issue are mostly lopsided, and reflects the loser’s or the weaker side’s position rather than the winner’s. This plays an important part for balance between gain and loss in our democratic societies.

Editorial Cartoons first arose quite a long time ago. However, they have become very popular since modern times and mass society began. The oldest Editorial Cartoon in history is one from the 1360s B.C. in Egypt. The cartoon is about sneering at leaders who were inactive and unpopular, from Cleopatra to a low-ranking government official. From ancient Greek and Roman times, some Editorial Cartoons have been discovered drawn on walls and ceramics. Editorial Cartoons printed on posters, which were sporadic and irregular, were popular in the Renaissance. As with other forms of mass media, the production level of Editorial Cartoons increased in the Industrial Revolution of the early 17th century when the iron printing press was invented, so they started to be published on newspapers and in magazines and widen their influence. Editorial Cartoons in Europe started to become popular in the 17th century around the Netherlands with the development of printing, since artists and the public could express their own opinions in a political atmosphere of freedom. In the United Kingdom, people could buy printed media at a cheap price after the 1830s. At first, the printed cartoons were mostly about daily life because the photos and cartoons from magazines were hung on the walls of pubs, cafes, and personal offices, but as time passed, political and social cartoons increased. In Germany, the first Editorial Cartoon was a caricature of Napoleon Bonaparte from an unknown cartoonist after the Leipzig massacre in 1813. Editorial Cartoons played a big role in information delivery at the time of the French Revolution when the nation experienced political and social upheaval. Also, Editorial Cartoons spread propaganda of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, praise for and criticism of nobles, comparisons between wealth and poverty, and arguments over the aggression of outside countries.

Through the Editorial Cartoons about royal authorities and nobles, we can check out society's flow at that time: a feudal power structure changing to a centralized power structure, the collapse of the nobles, the rise of the democratic society, the collapse of royal power and anger toward them. Many records, including cartoons, satirizing the morality of royals and nobles, reveal much about those times. For example, in the 18th century in France, right before the Revolution began, there were several contradictions in society because of the imbalance of the earnings among people. Simply, some of the common people who started to accumulate wealth became known as the ‘third estate.’ Due to these social and governmental inconsistencies coming to the surface, the civil uprising began in 1792 in Paris. Let's see in 1789 from an unknown cartoonist. In the cartoon, the third estate wakes up, cuts off its chain, and grabs a gun. A noble and a monk seem to be surprised at that sight, and the crowd holding a long stick with a severed head of an executed person in front of the Bastille stands behind them.

Here, you must not forget the people who joined the efforts when the fruits of the Revolution weren’t distributed evenly to all people. They're all common people, including suffering farmers, workers who went to the cities due to the industrialization, and all of the struggling people who joined the Revolution in order to gain a livelihood. Except for a few people who could accumulate wealth, more and more people were falling into poverty. In the 17th century in France, the farmers fell into hardship because the war lasted so long; what was worse, the country experienced a poor harvest, so the whole country was devastated. This made wanderers gather to the cities and suffer. Another unknown cartoonist's in 1789 is about a farmer's life which was burdened by the royals and priests. In the cartoon, the well-dressed royal and the priest get on the farmer's back. In the meantime rabbits and birds are eating the farm crops cultivated by the farmer. The farmers' wish is in the cartoon: lift the burden or share their burden with other classes.

Editorial Cartoons show many conflicts in modern European society. However, Editorial Cartoons are a kind of a creation of an individual, and a value of Editorial Cartoons can change a lot depending on the creator's purpose and the public who consumes it. At some time, the line between high culture and pop culture might be blurred and communication among different classes can increase. However, the propaganda by the elites toward the public – can it be proof of democratic interchange? Cartoons are one of the easiest ways to make the lower classes understand social and political issues. It is certainly a positive side of cartoons, but it is also a negative side. Not only the cartoonists’ intention but also the readers’ biased thoughts affect Editorial Cartoons. This is also a goal of satire. Editorial Cartoons are the easiest way of forming public opinion and inflaming popular passion. Especially during a war, it has been used widely by nations to justify war and depict their enemy as a devil.

This Editorial Cartoon, , was drawn by George Cruikshank, who was a famous editorial cartoonist, in 1849. There are ribbons and decorative pins on wigs of the judge and the lawyer, and there is a big flower vase on the lawyer's table. In the court, women are embroidering or knitting, eating snacks, and fanning themselves. The middle of the 19th century, when this Editorial Cartoon came out, was the time when women were struggling for their rights, but were still living in a male-dominated society. Cruikshank satirized this: if women started to enjoy equal rights with men and hold important roles in a court, like a lawyer and a judge, that in itself would be ridiculous.

, drawn by an unknown cartoonist in 1626, is a cartoon about blaming a woman who was possessed by the devil and who killed her seven children in different ways and disposed of their bodies. It shows a 'witch-hunt', which was practiced all over Europe from the 16th to the late 17th centuries, and portrays women as weak so they're more likely to commit wicked and abnormal crimes. After Renaissance Humanism and science developed, people started to be interested in certain and clear things, and witch-hunting naturally ended. However, these whole sets of circumstances show that in European society poverty was concentrated on women but nothing was politically done for them at that time.

As society changes in modern times, women have become more and more confident and the voice of concern about repulsion of this phenomenon has grown louder. Many Editorial Cartoons handle this issue, and most have drawn women as one’s mom or wife, not as individuals, equal with men. However, women have also been used as peaceful and merciful images, and to make people band together in a society and patriarchal order. During this period of change, people didn't think women were different from men-they thought women are essentially inferior to men. So, it's natural to criticize and satirize women as though they are kind but weak, righteous but easily fallen into temptation, and dependent upon men, so they don’t fit into public and governmental positions.

The positive and negative side of Editorial Cartoons, the same as the media's, have been clearly shown as they treated these distorted perspectives from the past in the society. No doubt, 'Women have to be obedient' was a common idea before, but it has changed as an idea that has needed to be improved over time. This means a change of values and awareness by people who read Editorial Cartoons. Satire doesn't always stand on the side of the right, and everything is dependent on how people would use and accept this convenient tool.

Editorial Cartoons function as a form of social and political commentary. The purpose of social commentary is to support people against the establishment. Editorial Cartoon are created based on satire, and they come into existence because of criticism and resistance to all powers and authorities. So, Editorial Cartoons work as a form of journalism to reveal the contradictions and dishonesties occurring among the established powers. Also, as I mentioned above, as a value or awareness of the affect of Editorial Cartoons, the democracy level of the society has to be developed for them to be effective. Editorial cartoonist Terry Mosher of Canada has been publishing cartoons for 47 years. He said the key to publishing Editorial Cartoons for so long is 'Be sharply critical, but don't make the target feel insulted'. By protecting people's right to know under the freedom of speech, Editorial Cartoons will serve their function.

*some ideas in this article were found in 전경옥, 『풍자, 자유의 언어 웃음의 정치』, 책세상, 2015.

Jung Minhee  07alsgml@naver.com

<저작권자 © 홍익대영자신문사, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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