"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates

- - scatterings of ideas sent to my younger self, a sensitive girl who was fooled into believing she was a boy because of anatomy - -

Wednesday 30 January 2019

It's Not Always About Us

The context of a cartoon is important. 

C’mon. I hardly think we need to mention that these rights also pertain to transgender citizens when we’re writing it in a roomful of men in high heels and wigs. 
Dan Piraro is the creator of the cartoon strip BIZARRO. The panel above is a prime example of his irreverent style. In his blog he discusses the typical reactions people have expressed about this particular cartoon, including reaction from supporters of the trans community. In their comments to him they were critical “because it isn’t an accurate representation of transgender people, and that it leads people to believe that transgenders are nothing more than men who like to play dress up …

As he says: "The only point I was trying to make is that all Americans should be granted the same rights and respect as long as nobody is getting hurt. Being different always leads to scorn by the small-minded and insecure but it needn’t and shouldn’t. That’s among the things that laws and bills of rights are meant to protect."

Apropos of my previous post, it seems to me that understanding the history and context of a document, whether it be the Constitution of the USA or the New Testament is very important. Important, unless you have a vested interest in a literal interpretation - perhaps a member of the NRA or someone leading an evangelical "church". 

We need to remember that the men portrayed in that room, living in the time of Mozart, just before the French Revolution, wrote about all men being created equal while at the same time, they really meant men, not women, and by all, they meant all men who owned property. In other words, men like them were all equal. The "founding fathers" probably all owned slaves and they certainly didn't consider a slave to be anything but property. That is context. 

I can understand reacting poorly to the cartoon. After all, it is a serious topic for some of us, and the situation depicted is silly. But I have read enough BIZARRO cartoons to know that it wasn't meant in a malicious way. It was created to make you think and give you a chuckle. 

In general, we need to believe that others are doing the best they can. If I'm walking by a group of people and I hear laughter, why should I think they were laughing at me? The big reason might be that I am lacking in self-confidence. If I don't believe there is anything laughable about my appearance, then I will assume these folks are sharing a funny story. It definitely has nothing to do with me. 

Overthinking a cartoon is wrong on so many levels. Reading cartoons is about having fun (remember fun? ... not taking it personally and remembering it isn't always about you) or at the very least, seeing the humour in a situation. If you feel insulted, maybe you need to remember how to laugh at yourself. It might also help to remember what a truly bizarre world we live in. 


  1. Hi Halle,
    You make a lot of excellent points about a talented cartoonist. I got to appreciate just how insightful some of these guys are during my period when I became a regulator letter writer to The Australian Financial Review, whose editor often included a large cartoon with a clever caption that I would not have imagined. They were always funny in contrast to the normal sombre broadsheet. Sadly, they no longer feature cartoons in the paper as the once mighty Fairfax media empire struggles to compete with the on line news.
    Best wishes

    1. We are fortunate to have had and still have some really fine editorial cartoonists here in Canada. Duncan MacPherson and Sid Barron were definitely my favourites.

  2. I have to confess that I found this cartoon very amusing. There must always be room for laughter, even against oneself. And this cartoon clearly was not meant to be an in-depth discussion of transgender people, or any others.

    I have just re-read this excellent post and realise I somehow missed your final paragraph. It appears we are once again in agreement.