Love This Cartoon By Clay Butler


I came across this cartoon on Facebook – where it was poorly reproduced and had Butler’s credit at the bottom cut out (why do people do that? I can see why people reblog and repost cartoons that lack a credit line – I do that myself – but who cuts out the credit line in the first place, and why?). To me, the cartoon is clearly about rich people who yell “class warfare!” every time someone criticizes, well, rich people. But reading the comments on Facebook, many people seem to take it as a straightforward cartoon about postmodernism.

(With only a small change to how the stepped-on character is drawn, it could also work as a cartoon about racism, or misogyny, or transphobia, or homophobia, etc.) (ETA: Well, actually, you don’t need to change it at all to potentially be about transphobia or homophobia.)

Anyhow, Clay Butler’s “Sidewalk Bubblegum” archive is here, and well worth checking out.

This entry posted in Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Comics I Like. Bookmark the permalink. 

14 Responses to Love This Cartoon By Clay Butler

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    “To me, the cartoon is clearly about rich people who yell ‘class warfare!’ every time someone criticizes, well, rich people.”


    “But reading the comments on Facebook, many people seem to take it as a straightforward cartoon about postmodernism.”

    Makes sense to me. And you find this surprising? Again – why?

    The comments sound interesting. Do you still have the Facebook link?

  2. 2
    Sebastian says:

    RonF, the cartoon is about rich and poor. A casual perusal of the artist’s other work is enough to tell you that.

    As for this particular cartoon, the clothing (expensive vs casual), the body types (solid vs scrawny), and the implied levels of education (college vs unclear) also hint at different social groups. And, honestly, those with the power are usually the ones with their foot on others’ necks, aren’t they? And money is power.

    As for the Facebook comments, I agree that it makes sense that many will see it as a comment on postmodernism. We (the species) are extremely good at taking anything as reinforcement to what we already believe. The guy who posted it took the author’s credits out, probably because he did not like the author’s views, and deliberately wanted the cartoon disassociated from the author’s ideology. Chances are, his Facebook audience shared the poster’s views, so they were not primed to see class warfare.

    And really, did you two need this explained?

  3. 3
    Decnavda says:

    Why does this have to be an either/or? I see it as critiquing both, and I agree with both critiques. The critiques work both separately and combined. The fact that the right-wing can (and does) so easily deploy post-modernism in defense of oppression is a powerful indictment of both right-wing politics and post-modernism.

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    The only example of the cartoonist’s work I’ve seen is this cartoon here – and that may well be the case for the Facebook commenters. And it’s a suit. Suit = rich?

    I thought it was an attempt to advance the proposition that a college education often involves indoctrination in the imposition of injustice masked in rhetoric more than an actual education.

    The guy who posted it took the author’s credits out, probably because he did not like the author’s views, and deliberately wanted the cartoon disassociated from the author’s ideology.

    Or, alternatively, the credit was already cut out at the source that the Facebook poster picked it up from and he had no idea who the cartoonist was or what his views were (as Amp’s comment anticipates might be the case). I might form a better idea of that if I saw the original post and other posts by the person whose Facebook page this was picked up from.

  5. 5
    Abbe Faria says:

    The historical context is that the cartoon was published a year after the Sokal Hoax (which was a very big thing, frontpage news). Sokal’s argument was that postmodernism was nonsense, but also that relativism undermined leftwing criticism of the powerful.

    In short, my concern about the spread of subjectivist thinking is both intellectual and political. Intellectually, the problem with such doctrines is that they are false (when not simply meaningless)…

    POLITICALLY, I’m angered because most (though not all) of this silliness is emanating from the self-proclaimed Left. We’re witnessing here a profound historical volte-face. For most of the past two centuries, the Left has been identified with science and against obscurantism; we have believed that rational thought and the fearless analysis of objective reality (both natural and social) are incisive tools for combating the mystifications promoted by the powerful–not to mention being desirable human ends in their own right. The recent turn of many “progressive” or “leftist” academic humanists and social scientists toward one or another form of epistemic relativism betrays this worthy heritage and undermines the already fragile prospects for progressive social critique….

    I say this not in glee but in sadness. After all, I’m a leftist too (under the Sandinista government I taught mathematics at the National University of Nicaragua). On nearly all practical political issues–including many concerning science and technology–I’m on the same side as the Social Text editors. But I’m a leftist (and a feminist) because of evidence and logic, not in spite of it.

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    I read it as rich/poor very clearly, but then after reading Amp’s further notes, I wondered if that was because A) I encountered it in this space, and B) I’m priimed to read things with the symbolism that Amp has set up in his cartoons.

  7. 7
    Sebastian says:

    Decnavda, I am not saying that this is purely a rich/poor cartoon at all. It is absolutely obvious that it is a critique of postmodernism – using a movement’s philosophy to arrive at absurd conclusions is at least as old as Classical Greece. I am just saying that I am pretty sure the author meant to draw attention to class disparity.

    As for what you see in the cartoon, my point was that it depends on who you are. I have one of Amp’s cartoons in the lobby (the one with the government superhero rescuing the financier) and you’d be surprised how my customers interpret it. Of course, I would not place an obviously leftist cartoon there. Most of the people who employ me are very far from center, to the right.

  8. 8
    Robert says:

    Amp, why are you providing a platform of aid and comfort to the longtime oppressors of my people? The wickedness of the neck-tripping monsters is a constant source of pain in our history. And now Alas has turned into a redoubt of neck-tripper propaganda. For shame, sir, for shame!

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    Robert! It’s been weeks since your last comment. I was beginning to hope er pardon me “worry” that one of the neck-tripping comrades er no heroes wait I mean criminals had gloriously tragically gotten you re-calibrated to have correct opinion er no re-educated wait what’s the word? Got it. “Killed.”

  10. 10
    Robert says:

    I was lying low to see how long it would be before you started repressing me.

  11. 11
    Ledasmom says:

    RonF, in general I would say that a suit of that type – the striping in particular – plus tie does equal, if not rich-in-general, at least high-up corporate executive, or possibly lawyer, at least in cartoon visual shorthand.

  12. 12
    RonF says:


    But reading the comments on Facebook, many people seem to take it as a straightforward cartoon about postmodernism.

    Does that surprise you?

  13. 13
    Clay Butler says:

    Normally I just prefer to be a bystander when people comment on my work as I think it’s important that people interpret my comics from their own life experiences. But in this case I will clarify. When I drew it I was using postmodernism (which I was currently reading about) in it’s most extreme, to talk about how those in positions of power come up with very creative and self serving explanations to avoid acknowledging the most blatant and obvious abuses from their privilege. So yes, I used visual cues to demonstrate the power difference between the two characters (not necessarily rich versus poor, but more powerful versus powerless) and I was playing around with the cconcpets of postmodernism, class, double speak, privilege, and education and how these are endlessly manipulated by people to server their personal agenda. So, you’re all correct. It has multiple layers of meanings and and that was my intent.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for the comment, Clay! And for your cartoons – I had a lot of fun browsing your archives.