Cartoon: Dear (Some Of) My Fellow Lefties


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When Trump won the Republican nomination, I wasn’t worried about what he’d do as President, because I was confident that Clinton would win. (If the 2016 election taught me anything, it’s not to trust my own abilities as a prognosticator.) Instead, I was dreading the inevitable fat jokes about Donald Trump I’d hear coming from the left until November.

And there have been fat jokes. (But many fewer, I think, than I would have heard ten years earlier. The fat acceptance movement has made some progress.)

But it’s still pretty common for me to hear fellow lefties say things that make me inwardly wince. Not every time I talk to a lefty, not even most of the time, but often enough so it’s not surprising. Sometimes I say something to them. Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t feel up to a possible conflict, or I don’t want to be a killjoy, so I let it go by.

Once after a comic-con, I was hanging out with some other cartoonists as we prepared to go home. We were talking about a cartoonist who was not present, and who has a rep for being full of himself and hard to deal with.  And one of the other cartoonists – a woman who I have loads of respect for, and who is extremely “woke”  – included “fat” on a list of the third cartoonist’s bad traits. I don’t remember her exact words, but it was something like “that smug, lying, fat, entitled jerk.”

I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t want to bring the mood down, and anyhow I was exhausted and I like this woman. Honestly, it happens pretty commonly, and I generally shrug it off. But that doesn’t mean I don’t notice it.

What was extraordinary about this occasion is that the cartoonist wrote me that night, unprompted, to apologize. That’s never happened to me before. She said she should have known better, because she’s read my cartoons.

Wow. Now, that made me feel good. (And made my respect for this cartoonist rise.)

It’s not just fat jokes, of course. This cartoon touches on a bunch of areas, and I could have included more. (I didn’t because I figured that eight panels of lefties saying bad things is as many I could do without causing readers to sigh and skim the strip).

I don’t mean the final panel, of course. The “personality” of my comic strips is often harsher than I am in person; political cartoons work best when they’re not wishy-washy. I don’t want everyone who’s ever said one of these things to get off my side. (I’ve said some of these things, in my life. Maybe you have too.) All of us mess up sometimes. And we can all – like my friend who used “fat” as an insult – take the opportunity to do better. That’s what I want.

Strips like this one, with a different character in each panel, are the most fun strips to draw, and I usually enjoy looking at them once I’ve finished. In this strip, since I’m teasing people on the left for a change, I decided to draw caricatures of the kind of folks I see around Portland. (Yes, there really are people who look like the dude in panel 3!).

(Quick aside: Once I was waiting at the bus stop across the street from my studio, with a middle-aged lady I didn’t know. While we were waiting there, six or seven bike riders, all naked, whizzed past us. After a few moments, the woman sighed deeply and said “Portland.”)

The guy sitting on the sidewalk, in the second-to-last panel, originally had round eyeglasses. But they made him look even more like a muppet, so I erased them.

Do you like the spot reds? I don’t do that often, but maybe I should be doing it more often. In this case, there’s no symbolism in which objects I colored red; I just did it to make the art pop a bit more.


TRANSCRIPT OF COMIC

This comic strip has nine panels. The first eight panels each show a single character (a different character in each panel), speaking to the viewer.

PANEL 1

There is a caption at the top of panel 1.

CAPTION: Dear (some of) my fellow lefties:

The art shows a man sitting at a desk, laughing. He’s wearing a white collared shirt and a necktie.

MAN: Ann Coulter is a man! Haw haw!

PANEL 2

An older woman, with white hair and a floral-print blouse, is holding up her hands and laughing, as if she’s telling a joke.

WOMAN: Clarence Thomas’ parents should have named him “Tom.” Get it? Like Uncle Tom?\

WOMAN: As a white liberal, it’s totally my place to say that!

PANEL 3

A man with an enormous beard, wearing sunglasses, a bowler hat, and a coat with big puffs around the collar and wrists, speaks to the viewer, smiling. There’s a bike parked next to him.

MAN: I bet all these anti-gay conservatives are secretly gay!

MAN: Let’s laugh at them for being gay!

MAN: (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

PANEL 4

A thin woman, wearing a red knit cap, a hoodie, and hoop earrings, is speaking angrily.

WOMAN: Trump just keeps pulling lies out of his big fat ass!

WOMAN: God fat people disgust me!

WOMAN: Er… I meant, Trump disgusts me!

WOMAN: Whichever!

PANEL 5

A man, wearing glasses and a “this is what a feminist looks like” tee shirt, stands pointing to something on the screen of his tablet. There’s a hillside with paths and a couple of trees behind him.

MAN: When I see pro-life women, I think, who’d even want to get them pregnant?

PANEL 6

A person sits at a small round table, a coffee mug in front of them. They have heavily tattooed arms, the side of their head is shaved, and they’re wearing a small ring on their nose and several more in their ear. They’re smiling and holding one hand up to their mouth as if telling a dirty joke.

PERSON: Guys obsessed with protecting big guns are just making up for they lack downstairs, ifyaknowwhatImean.

PERSON: You do know what I mean, right?

PERSON: I mean penises!

PANEL 7

A woman stands outdoors, dressed for a cool day. She’s got a jacket, a scarf, and a big knit hat. She’s looking a bit aggravated as she speaks.

WOMAN: You know who votes Republican? Inbred, flyover state hillbilly retards!

PANEL 8

A redheaded man sits on a curb, leaning on one hand. He’s wearing a button-up collared shirt, open, over a striped long-sleeved tee. He’s grinning.

MAN: I love it when right-wingers get sent to prison. “Don’t drop the soap!” Ha!

PANEL 9

There is no art in this panel. Instead, the entire panel is black, except for a caption in big white letters.

CAPTION: Shut up and get the hell off my side.

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39 Responses to Cartoon: Dear (Some Of) My Fellow Lefties

  1. 1
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Many shy away from criticizing their own side, which contributes to partisanship as people on both sides feel that those on the other side are very accepting of outgroup-bashing. When the bashing involves hypocrisy with regard to the claimed ideology, this also adds to the perception that the ideology is a stick to beat with, rather than something that is consistently applied.

    So good on you for doing this.

    As for the colors, I think that the reds would work better with more neutral background colors.

    The background colors are not consistent in the cartoon anyway. In panel 2, the sky is fairly light blue, with the ground being a darker hue. But then panels 4, 6 and 8 have the darker hue as a base color. The yellowish panels also have this inconsistency, with 3 and 5 having a light base color, while 1 and 7 have a darker base color. With 9 panels in total, the cartoon is already quite busy, so standardizing on the lighter blue and yellowish colors might be better.

  2. 2
    dreadfullyawry says:

    Just to throw some extra points into the BBQ sauce (not saying they belong in the cartoon, but some stuff I have seen in US politics with a similar dynamic).

    1) Making fun of Trump for having bad hair. It’s not on par with fat shaming but there is really nothing wrong with having a bad toupee / dyed hair / whatever you think is going on with Trump’s hair.

    2) Making fun of Michelle Bachman’s husband for supposedly being in the closet, for all kinds of reasons.

  3. 3
    Harlequin says:

    I have, unfortunately, heard all of those as well.

    I find the one about anti-gay conservatives being gay particularly pernicious. Not only does it imply there might be something bad about being gay, but it implies that homophobia (and its attendant discrimination and violence) is something that queer people do to each other, with no involvement or interest from straight people.

    Edit: I shouldn’t have said “particularly pernicious”–the one about prison rape being okay is obviously worse, for example. More that it has additional implications beyond being awful on its face.

  4. 4
    Mandolin says:

    A lot of trump bashing is weird. Omg he eats steak prepared in a déclassé fashion.

  5. 5
    Ben David says:

    I actually like the limited color palette here – I assume subdued colors were chosen to not overwhelm an already full layout – but I have trouble with the blue-hued people, who seem to pop out of the checkerboard layout. The lower left person looks sick – blue skin surrounded by russet red and warm toned landscape. Why isn’t the darker sepia used as a skin tone?

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    Not only does it imply there might be something bad about being gay, but it implies that homophobia (and its attendant discrimination and violence) is something that queer people do to each other, with no involvement or interest from straight people.

    This is a really good point – had I thought of it, I might have written that panel differently.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    The “Trump and Putin are lovers” jokes are super annoying, as well.

    I shied away from doing too many Trump-related panels in this one, because I’m hoping the cartoon will still be current when Trump is a bad memory. (As it is, I’ll eventually have to update the anti-fat panel, but that one is so general that it’ll be easy to update. Alas.).

  8. 8
    dreadfullyawry says:

    Giving the pro-choice guy a “This is what a feminist looks like” Tshirt was totally brutally. IN a good way. Well played.

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    Ben David, you’re right – I’ve used blue for skin tones successfully in some cartoons, but in this one it was distracting. I’ve updated the image.

  10. 10
    J. Squid says:

    A lot of trump bashing is weird. Omg he eats steak prepared in a déclassé fashion.

    I’ve always thought the funpoking at Trump and his eating habits has to do with how what he eats is viewed as low class/poor food and how that’s at odds with his gold-plated, rich man image projection, otherwise.

  11. 11
    Chris says:

    I honestly think the hair thing is fair game, along with the whole…”orange” thing. Those are choices he’s making on how to present himself to the world, and the fact that he thinks they look great doesn’t reflect well on his perspective of the world and his place in it. It’s obviously not the most important factor to evaluate when examining his funhouse-mirror version of the world, but it is a factor that’s always there and in your face.

    The steak thing is stupid, though, and yes, a bit classist. Let people enjoy the food they enjoy.

  12. 12
    Petar says:

    Ampersand, you most definitely do NOT want all those people to get off your side, except if by that you mean that you want them to stand far away from you.

    These are perfectly human ways of debasing the opponent, and if you want everyone who is ever tempted by them to be on the other side… you’ll find yourself very lonely.

  13. 13
    Harlequin says:

    This is a really good point – had I thought of it, I might have written that panel differently.

    Lots of people say that, though, so I think it’s appropriate here. I was pointing out a problem with the cultural meme, not the cartoon :)

  14. 14
    Michael says:

    The idea that homophobes are latent homosexuals is often claimed to have scientific support:
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-weird-science-of-homophobes-who-turn-out-to-be-gay
    But the science used to support it is very iffy. The penile arousal study is particularly bad- yes, some homophobes show signs of arousal when looking at gay porn but victims of attempted rape also sometimes show signs of arousal. The most likely explanation is anxiety sometimes causes arousal.

  15. 15
    Mandolin says:

    There’s also a difference between physiological and psychological arousal. Your body might be reacting to a signal in the environment that sexual activity is potentially an important consideration right now (this applies to rape) and decide it needs to be just-in-case prepared.

    That said, I have totally has experiences where a closeted person has acted homophibically toward me. I know why there’s pushback against overgeneralizing this—because it’s only one possible configuration of opinions—but I sometimes feel weird about it when conversations seem to elide that there’s a noticeable group of people who are like this, and sometimes you have to figure out the best ways to react to them personally.

    This thread did not deny that happens, I’m just kvetching.

  16. 16
    Mandolin says:

    The arousal thing – like imagining your body manufactures saliva based on the smell in the environment because the smell signals potential food even if it’s clearly repellant. In a super gross way, this applies people in fire rescue and investigation, because most people’s bodies will give a physiological food-prep response to the smell of burned humans. They’re not secret cannibals.

  17. 17
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Thanks. Very much too the point.

    I’m happy with the colors.

    There’s more varied appearance-shaming from John Oliver and Stephen Colbert. At least Trevor Noah generally doesn’t do appearance shaming.

  18. 18
    Michael says:

    @Mandolin#14- The other reason for pushback against this is that there’s a difference between closeted- the person is, for example, having sex with men and hiding it- and “straight but someone else claims they’re REALLY gay”. In the studies I mentioned, the researchers were arguing that even if these men thought they liked sex with women and never had any homosexual experiences, the studies showed they were REALLY gay. The idea that someone else knows that you really want to have sex with someone even if you repeatedly say you don’t is just creepy- and deservedly so.

  19. 19
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    @Chris

    What is considered good looking is very subjective though and probably highly informed by tribal markers.

    If you look at conservative criticisms, complaints about the looks of progressives are quite common: long haired men, short haired women, unnatural hair colors, clothing that is not considered fancy enough, etc.

    I think that such criticisms often are little more than ‘not like us’ phobia, which is not inclusive and certainly not a substitute for arguments.

  20. 20
    Ampersand says:

    Ampersand, you most definitely do NOT want all those people to get off your side

    I feel like I said something like this in the post. :-p

  21. 21
    dreadfullyawry says:

    “Those are choices he’s making on how to present himself to the world, and the fact that he thinks they look great doesn’t reflect well on his perspective of the world and his place in it.”

    I really, really don’t agree that the fact that somebody makes what we perceive as bad fashion choices can be generalised to mean that there is something wrong with their perception of the world.

  22. 22
    lightly says:

    Thanks for this work.

    I have reached the point of being genuinely afraid to post at Kos, because they have drifted so far into the direction you are highlighting. Over there last night I watched members respond with a gut-wrenching level of hysterical rage to a young guy who suggested that Democrats should close our overseas bases and actually start talking to the Russians and the Chinese.

    Easy to despair these days, I guess. So special thanks Amp for this great site and your solid values.

  23. 23
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks, Lightly! (And others who have said nice things about the cartoon).

    Regarding Trump, I do think it’s important that we feel free to mock Presidents and the like. It’s the prerogative of ordinary people to mock our rulers, and people running for President should expect that and be good sports about it. I’m more concerned with HOW we mock them – that we mock them in ways that don’t cosign mocking marginalized people for their class, race, body shape, etc. But, done without those things, mockery itself is good.

    In my anecdotal experience, there’s nothing working-class about eating steak well-done with ketchup. If steak is a once-a-year treat, most people want it prepared so they can really taste the steak. To me, Trump’s steak habits are an eccentricity, not Trump eating like working-class folks, and so can be fair ground for mockery.

    My theory is that it’s part of Trump’s need to be ostentatiously wealthy, like the gold toilet seats and so on. Trump wants everything around him to be The Best. Steak is known as The Best beef, so Trump eats steak. But he likes it for its status as the Best Meat, not for the actual texture or taste of steak, so he has it prepared in a way that minimizes the texture and taste. (Or that’s my guess, anyhow – obviously this sort of armchair character assessment is dicey).

    That said, the WAY people make fun of the steak definitely can have class issues – it comes off as “he used the wrong fork for the salad course” sounding. Just as Mandolin, Jake and Chris said. So I’m not really disagreeing with people here, just going off on my own digression.

  24. 24
    lightly says:

    My apologies. My last comment wasn’t really on-topic. Nobody in the thread that bothered me was doing the kind of shaming you are talking about here.

    I guess I suspect there is some kind of progression from the kind of thoughtless shaming you are looking at here to the full-on, Nathaniel West-scale mob pile-on I saw at Kos.

  25. 25
    Ampersand says:

    No worries, Lightly!

  26. 26
    lightly says:

    Thanks so much for that response Amp.

    Thinking of people who could be critical without sliding into questionable tactics, I went back and watched the video of Gore Vidal making William Buckley so mad that Buckley started coming out of his chair threatening to throw a punch. It still makes me laugh and judging from the grin on Vidal’s face he seemed to enjoy it too.

  27. 27
    J. Squid says:

    I think that Trump should be mocked less for his taste in steak preparation and more for his eating pizza with a knife and fork. Anybody from the New York area has good reason to mock this – he grew up here, how does he not know how to eat pizza?

    Honestly, though, I find it weird that people are mocked for what they eat and how they eat it. How does Trump’s diet or meal etiquette affect anybody who isn’t Trump?

    Maybe that’s just the radical lefty in me.

  28. 28
    Chris says:

    I really, really don’t agree that the fact that somebody makes what we perceive as bad fashion choices can be generalised to mean that there is something wrong with their perception of the world.

    Of course not, which is why I made it clear that it was not the best indicator of that fact in the very next sentence.

    And Trump doesn’t just make bad fashion choices. He looks and acts like a cartoon. I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that the two are related.

  29. 29
    dreadfullyawry says:

    “nd Trump doesn’t just make bad fashion choices. He looks and acts like a cartoon. ”

    Ultimately I think the way politicians look does not effect their competence. This is true regardless of how we describe their appearance (cartoonish/non-cartoonish, fashionable/unfashionable, etc etc).

  30. 30
    Tatterdemalion1983 says:

    I’m much less phased by generalised, over-the-top mockery of politicians than I am by more specific mockery.

    The point is that when you say something nasty about a characteristic of someone, you’re not just being nasty to them, you’re implicitly being nasty to everyone else with that characteristic.

    So “Trump looks like he has a rabid ferret on his head” is fine, but “Trump looks like he’s wearing a toupe” I’d rather steer clear of (although I don’t think it’s a big deal), because no-one else is going to extrapolate to “I look like that too” from the former, whereas the latter is making toupe-wearing out to be a bad thing, and thus insulting other toupe-wearers.

  31. 31
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    I see a lot of nouveau riche behaviors in Trump. A desperation to fit in with the upper class, but with a very high level of tone deafness, because of a lack of intuitive feel for what to do. As a result, the nouveau riche often overdo things, in both directions. Trump shows off his wealth too much, but he also went too far to connect to the common people when he got fast food for a bunch of football players.

    Both showing off wealth and ‘slumming’ are expected upper class behaviors, but you have to do it in the right way, or else it is gauche.

    The disdain for the nouveau riche can be due to a general disdain for a perceived lack of sophistication, in which case it is often coupled with a disdain for the less educated and/or less well-off. One of the major complaints by many in the Western working class seems to be that they are looked down upon by progressive elites who largely ignore what they want and instead fight for what they think that the working class should want. With the increasing stratification of society, certain forms of myopia (what’s good for me is good for anyone) seem to be quite high.

  32. 32
    dreadfullyawry says:

    “A desperation to fit in with the upper class, but with a very high level of tone deafness, because of a lack of intuitive feel for what to do.”

    The irony is that Trump doesn’t really fit the proper definition of ‘nouveau riche’. He was born into wealth, and so was his father. The Trumps have been upper class since 1900. That’s a long time, especially by American standards.

    Contrast to well known billionaires who were born working class or middle class, like Howard Schultz or Jeff Bezos. They fit the textbook definition of nouveau riche, but don’t display behaviour anything like Trump’s.

  33. 33
    RonF says:

    There is a lesbian Episcopal priest who is a gay rights activist and blogs about it at aninchatatime.blogspot.com. As you might imagine she was a strong advocate for the legalization of gay marriage both secularly and within the Episcopal Church. As you may not know there are many bishops both in the Episcopal Church and within the Anglican Communion (those churches in various nations who like the Episcopal Church share their origin from having been started by the Church of England) who oppose gay marriage and indeed gay rights in general.

    One American Bishop who was a strong opponent of changing canon law to legalize gay marriage within the Episcopal Church is/was obese. The woman running the blog posted several pictures of the man and printed ridicule of him. The regular commenters on the blog joined in with enthusiasm. When I pointed out that such commentary clashed with their philosophies I was ignored. Soon after that I decided that I was out of there.

    They fit the textbook definition of nouveau riche, but don’t display behaviour anything like Trump’s.

    Actually, it’s been my observation that the nouveau riche tend to be ostentatiously sophisticated in dress and conduct, whereas “old money” doesn’t give a f**k.

  34. 34
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, I’m glad you objected to the fat-bashing. But are you sure that aninchatatime.blogspot.com is the correct address? It doesn’t look like what you described.

  35. 35
    Chris says:

    dreadfullyawry:

    The irony is that Trump doesn’t really fit the proper definition of ‘nouveau riche’. He was born into wealth, and so was his father. The Trumps have been upper class since 1900. That’s a long time, especially by American standards.

    Contrast to well known billionaires who were born working class or middle class, like Howard Schultz or Jeff Bezos. They fit the textbook definition of nouveau riche, but don’t display behaviour anything like Trump’s.

    Yes, this is notable. And it somewhat ties in with my thoughts about how Trump chooses to appear. He’s lived his whole life in the public eye, with every resource imaginable…and he still can’t figure out how to present himself properly, either in dress, speech, or behavior. And it’s not like I’m expecting him to behave with manners associated with the upper class…just, basic manners that I would expect from anyone. It’s indicative of an unwillingness to learn or engage in self-reflection.

    RonF:

    Actually, it’s been my observation that the nouveau riche tend to be ostentatiously sophisticated in dress and conduct, whereas “old money” doesn’t give a f**k.

    This is also a possibility.

  36. 36
    Michael says:

    @dreadfullyawry#32- Well, Trump’s father wasn’t really born rich rich. Trump’s grandfather had the equivalent of a half a million dollars in today’s dollars when he died. Fred Trump suffered some losses in the Depression and by 1933 he was reduced to owning the first supermarket in Queens. Ironically, it was the New Deal that really made Fred Trump rich through the Federal Housing Administration- in 1936, Trump built his first 400-home development. But yeah, his family was wealthy for a decade before Donald was born.

  37. 37
    desipis says:

    In my anecdotal experience, there’s nothing working-class about eating steak well-done with ketchup.

    It is in my anecdotal experience. I grew up with “steak” meaning a fairly thin (5mm) slice of beef that had been thoroughly cooked. As such it never really appealed to me. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s till I experienced a decent cut of properly cooked steak. Over time my parents adjusted their understanding of steak to preferring reasonably thick cuts cooked medium rare.

    Having talked to relatives about it over the years, I think the “well-done” approach to steak comes from two things. They both align to the working class aspect and why steak is a western style of food.

    The first being affordability. If the only steak you can afford is so thin that there is no meaningful place between raw and well-done, then the distinctions seem rather pointless.

    The second (and perhaps more significant) being concern over food poisoning or parasites. If you only have access to low quality meat, low quality butchers and substandard food storage, then the idea of meat that isn’t thoroughly cooked can become quite unappealing. It’s a real sign of privilege to see meat that isn’t fully cooked as something that’s safe to eat.

  38. 38
    Sebastian H says:

    “A lot of trump bashing is weird. Omg he eats steak prepared in a déclassé fashion.”

    It’s especially weird because it gets the class connotations exactly wrong for the fight we’re in. “Oh he’s so low class, and low class people are so gross” is not the right message for people who want to keep workers on their side.

  39. 39
    RonF says:

    Whoopsie – it’s inchatatime.blogspot.com, not aninchatatime.blogspot.com. And if you go to look for that particular post it will have been some years ago. I would not be sure that you can find it.

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