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For once, I know exactly where the idea for this cartoon came from. A story a couple of years ago about a model who took a mocking photo of a fat woman at LA Fitness:
Mathers, 30, was Playboy‘s 2015 Playmate of the Year. She was banned by the LA Fitness health club chain for surreptitiously taking a photo of a woman in a shower area and publishing it along with the caption, “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either.”
When it announced the ban, LA Fitness called Mathers’ behavior “appalling.” Saying it had revoked her membership, the company added, “It’s not just our rule, it’s common decency.”
In the fallout that ensued, the model lost her job at Los Angeles radio station KLOS, where she was a contributor. In November, the criminal charge was filed, leaving Mathers facing a potential six-month jail term.
As negative responses poured in at the time of the initial posting, Mathers sought to apologize.
“That was absolutely wrong and not what I meant to do. … I know that body-shaming is wrong,” she said, as member station KPCC reported. “That is not the type of person I am.“
That last quote – “that is not the type of person I am” – has really stuck with me. (I even worked it into panel 2). Because, I mean… You’re exactly the type of person who secretly takes mocking photos of women changing in the locker room. We know you’re exactly the type of person who does that, because you did.
Ms. Mathers, of course, isn’t alone in expressing this sentiment. Every time a celebrity gets into one of these scandals, we hear them saying some variation on “that’s not the type of person I am.”
I think what they mean is, I did do that awful thing, but that’s not all I am. I am more than this one bad thing I did.
And that’s absolutely true. Ms. Mathers is the type of person who’d do this thing – but, if she genuinely works at it, she can become the type of person who wouldn’t do that thing.
But to make the claim – “this isn’t who I am!” – without actually doing the work is evading responsibility. We’ve seen this very recently, of course, with Kevin Hart, who told a series of worse-than-typical homophobic jokes, never once apologized for them, and then took an “I’ve apologized enough, it’s time for the haters to move on!” stance.
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg has written about the distinction between forgiveness and repetance in Judaism, and I happened to read that while working on this strip, which seemed very serendipitous. (It’s just a twitter thread; I recommend reading it, whether or not you’re Jewish.)
I had Mel Gibson in mind when I wrote the kicker panel – an antisemitic, racist, wife-beating movie star who not only made a huge comeback, but who has even claimed that he is the real victim.
Artwise, this cartoon (I thought) needed to be very simple to work – one figure, one camera angle, no background. As an artist, this makes things easy for me on one level, but difficult on another – because I don’t want every panel to be alike, and I do want to giver readers something to look at. So I concentrated on varying the expression and body language.
This is something that matters to no one in the world but me, but the biggest challenge of this cartoon, for me, was the last panel, because he’s tipped his head back so the underside of his jaw is facing the viewer. For me, that is the hardest angle of head to draw – but it was also perfect for the attitude I wanted to convey with is body language in that panel. I hope y’all think it came out well!
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels, plus an small extra “kicker” panel below the bottom of the strip. Each panel features a man in a suit, standing at a podium, speaking directly at the viewer.
The man presses one hand against his chest, in a “this is me” sort of attitude.
MAN: When I got drunk and said all those things about Jews and gays… That’s not me. It goes against everything I believe.
The man spreads his arms wide, indicating that this is a big sentiment.
MAN: And when I was recorded using the “n word” over and over… That is not the type of person I am. I don’t have a racist bone in my body.
He raises one index finger, making a concluding point.
MAN: As for pleading guilty for battering my wife… That’s not me. That’s not what I stand for.
MAN: And regarding my many other scandals: Nothing I’ve said or done has anything to do with me, my beliefs, or my character.
He folds his arms and tips his head back, looking a bit above-it-all and a bit strict. He’s putting his metaphorical foot down.
MAN: And now that I’ve taken full responsibility, it’s time to move on. Let us never mention this again.
“KICKER” PANEL BELOW THE BOTTOM OF THE STRIP
The same man, now smiling and holding up an Oscar.
MAN: And in conclusion, I’d like to thank the academy for this award…