Cartoon: The Five Stages Of Finding Out Your Fave Is Trash

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This cartoon is particularly salient, I think, on the left. I think virtually everyone on the left has had the experience of finding out that someone we admire has done something terrible; has been abusive, in one way or another; has leched at his underlings; or refused to hear “no”; or had a long term relationship with an underage girl; or habitually masturbates in front of surprised and unwilling women. Etcetera, etcetera… the list is depressingly long.

Most of us are very attached to our favorite artists (how could we not be)? It’s genuinely hard to find out that someone who has given me so much pleasure, so much to think about, and in many cases communicated a humane and warm viewpoint, is also someone who has harassed and taken advantage and assaulted and harmed.

It’s a kind of grief. And thinking about that led to this cartoon, mashing the famous “five stages of grief” with finding out that yet another celebrity has turned out to be trash. I can relate to this cartoon, and maybe some of you can as well.

The art in this cartoon is a bit unusual for my work. Inspired by some of my favorite cartoonists – Edward Sorel, Barbara Yelin, Posy Simmonds, and others – I wanted to try drawing a cartoon with a loose, sketchy surface, not hiding my construction lines, and held together by the colors.

To tell you the truth, I chickened out a lot. I left some construction lines in, but I erased many, many more. But it was still at least a bit freeing, and I had a lot of fun doing more modelling of form with linework than I’d usually take the time for. And being able to use light, sketchy lines, rather than feeling obliged to make all the lines crisp and black, made the party scene drawing in panel five come out much better.

I might come back to this style again – it’s good to try and shake things up now and again.


This cartoon has six panels.


There is nothing in this panel but title lettering. The title lettering is done in large, friendly white lettering, but the letters are casting some gritty-looking shadows.



This panel shows a woman with black hair yelling angrily at something she’s read on her tablet. She’s holding the tablet in one hand and pointing angrily to something on screen with the other hand.


BLACK HAIRED WOMAN: Unfounded rumors! Jealous attention seekers!


A man sits in front of his laptop. His hair is messy and his eyes are wide, and he looks desperate as he taps taps taps at the keyboard.


MAN (typing): What he did was bad. But not Weinstein or Polanski bad, right? Right?


A person lies in bad, with the bedsheet pulled up high enough so that all of their face is covered. They are, however, holding one hand up, forefinger extended, in a “making a point” gesture. Next to the bed, a somewhat bored-looking friend sits in a chair, her face resting on one of her hands.


PERSON (in a shaky word balloon): I never want to see a movie again. Or read a book. Or look at a picture. Or…

FRIEND: Er… Wanna try hiking?


A cocktail party in an art gallery. We can see people milling about and chatting to each other in the background. In the foreground, a person wearing a bowtie is speaking somewhat self-importantly to a couple of other party goers.


PERSON: I never liked his work.


Two women are in this panel. One, with curly hair, is looking inside a large book of art. Behind her, the black-haired woman from panel one, still holding her tablet, leans towards the curly-haired woman.

CURLY HAIRED WOMAN: Wow, these paintings are amazing!

BLACK HAIRED WOMAN: They are! Too bad the painter’s a creep.

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115 Responses to Cartoon: The Five Stages Of Finding Out Your Fave Is Trash

  1. 101
    Mandolin says:

    I actually think it may be “like damask” here – like a satiny fabric. Also, there’s a damask rose. That’s just my superficial reading though.

    You may well know better thanI!

  2. 102
    desipis says:


    That’s not in any way implied by the question “is this movie sexist?” etc..

    Yes, sorry, I rushed that comment. The missing and important context was that the question was asked in a way of “should I therefore avoid it or feel guilty for having appreciated it?”

    Got a link?

    The criticism over Green Book getting the Oscar comes to mind. E.g.: If the Oscars wanted to honor a progressive movie, they should have chosen “Black Panther” over “Green Book”

  3. 103
    desipis says:

    Their “I don’t wanna watch girls” is definitely a political position, and a stupid one, but they’re allowed to decline to watch things based on it

    That’s a straw-man argument. The objection to the 2016 Ghostbusters wasn’t that it was girls. It was that the formula of “Beloved franchise + Girls + Feminism” is cheap and obnoxious. Notice how there’s no fuss over there being girls in movies like Tomb Raider, or Alita or Annihilation.

  4. 104
    LimitsOfLanguage says:


    Ironically, LOL – in the name of not wanting discussions and views closed off – you are the one arguing that even asking people what they think the purpose of art is, is “a very dangerous question.” And that stating an opinion LOL disagrees with – that all art has political dimensions – is also “very dangerous.”

    I don’t see what’s ironic here. Do you also think that it is ironic when those who are in favor of the right to demonstrate encourage activists to not use violence during demonstrations? Or when gun rights advocates encourage people to use guns safely and responsibly?

    I was trying to open up the discussion beyond the implicit frame that was presented to suggest a different kind of categorization, with ‘purposes of art’ rather than a ‘purpose of art’ & to suggest a recognition that it’s important not to force an interpretation of the purpose of art on (people in) society.

    Richard is not the one, in this dialog, suggesting that certain thoughts are very dangerous to even speak or think. You are.

    I never said that they are too dangerous to speak or think. You seem to not have understood my comment at all.

    My argument was about the danger of trying to force dogmatic ideas about the purpose of art on society. The solution to that is not to ban speech, but to open people’s eyes, so they don’t support very dangerous things with the best intentions, as is the common cause of suffering.

    An issue with such dangerous behaviors is that they often derive from a culture that tends to overlook certain dangers and uses language that implies certain things and/or doesn’t carefully delineate between moderate beliefs and extremism.

    PS. Note that Mandolin in #84 said some very similar things, although with a rather optimistic view about the resistance of art to censorship. Although I do wonder how inclusive her “leading political classes” was intended and interpreted. Ampersand, do you see yourself as part of the “leading political class” on Alas?

  5. 105
    LimitsOfLanguage says:


    Also, a common complaint about this movie was that it is appropriation to remake a movie with a very different ‘feel’ from the original.

    Of course, this is a typical complaint in art anyway. For example, many people dislike it when books are being turned into movies, for fear that a fairly shitty movie will overwrite their memories of the book, replacing good memories with worse memories.

  6. Jeffrey,

    I’m going to go back to what I originally wrote way upthread:

    For myself as an artist, I have always made the distinction between the fact that all art is political—meaning it is both, inevitably, an expression of an artist’s position within the socioeconomic, cultural, political status-quo and, therefore, an implicit argument for that position—and what it means consciously to produce politically engaged art, meaning art that is explicitly intended to foreground that status quo and in some way critique it. (Emphasis added)

    This was a blog-post comment and not a fully thought through piece of writing, so I will own that there might be parts of it that are not as clear as they could be, but my intent in the part that I have put in boldface was, I think, pretty much what you mean when you say:

    What is the purpose of placing art in a category called “political,” especially if the category is so broad as to include any action by any human who’s the product of a political world. It all seems so circular to me, and that when you boil it all down, all that is being communicated is that humans are just political beings, and I don’t think anyone anywhere would disagree with that.

    In other words, I think you’re right. At the most abstract level, the statement “all art is political” is so obvious as to be almost meaningless. On the other hand, if you think about art as playing a role in society, in culture, as something more than value-neutral entertainment, then the question of how and in what way art is political—not at the abstract level, but at the level of specific works of art, of artistic practice, of how art is received and used in a culture—then I think it becomes interesting and even important to think about what it means that all art is political in some way. It’s why I wrote the post about Anders Carlson-Wee’s poem, which is certainly an attempt at what I call “politically engaged art” (though I recognize it might be get a little too much into the weeds in terms of craft for some people); and it’s why I asked the question about Shakespeare’s sonnet that Mandolin responded to with, to me anyway, some very interesting thoughts; and it’s why I think it’s worth pointing out that art which is in some way congruent with the political status quo is, at least implicitly, an argument for that status quo (which does not mean I therefore think such art is necessarily bad or inferior).

    None of which, I hasten to add, means that I think everyone should always look at, read, listen to art through this kind of critical lens. I certainly don’t. Nor does it mean that I think that only progressive politics produces good or worthwhile art. Nor does it mean that I think my understanding of what “political” means in this context is inherently better than anyone else’s. I just think the conversation is worth having, as long as we don’t remain at the very abstract level.

  7. Desipis,

    This was your original question (and I am going to assume that you mean “propaganda” the way I defined it upthread, not the broader definition that Amp gave it in his response to me):

    If political analysis of art outright tells people how they should feel about the art (and how they should feel about themselves, and what they should do about it), and inhibits people’s ability to explore the symbolism of human experience for themselves, does that transform the art into propaganda?

    Granting, for the moment, that you are right about what you think the piece you linked to regarding Green Book versus Black Panther is supposed to represent—and I will say outright that I don’t think you are—why would that transform the art into propaganda? Why wouldn’t you simply describe the criticism that you find problematic as propaganda about the art? I don’t want to get into a discussion of whether or not art criticism is, or is not, propaganda (though I think it certainly could be). My point in asking this question is why you think the criticism has such power, or why you would think that I think it has such power (since your question was directed at me), that it can transform a work of art from something it was (art, according to my definition) to something it originally wasn’t (propaganda, again, according to my definition).

  8. Mandolin,

    As I said in my comment to Jeffrey, I think that’s a really interesting series of responses to my question, all of which seem to me pretty spot on. A couple of things: I got the definition of damasked from a gloss in Norton’s complete Shakespeare; and I think your teacher might not have been wrong about why the description goes from the head down. If I remember correctly John Donne’s poem “Love’s Progress” is a satire on just that convention.

  9. 109
    lurker23 says:

    How could all art not have political dimensions? I’ve heard people say that “if all art is political, then none is” which is like saying “if all people are biological then none are.”

    thanks alot, now i am going to think of a world where there was alot of people saying “all people are biological” at the start of alot of sentences and articles like it was something important and with alot of meaning. that will make for a funny day, haha!

  10. 110
    Ampersand says:

    LOL, quoting me, wrote (emphasis added by me):

    Richard is not the one, in this dialog, suggesting that certain thoughts are very dangerous to even speak or think. You are.

    I never said that they are too dangerous to speak or think. You seem to not have understood my comment at all.

    You said they are “very dangerous,” more than once (iirc), which is what I correctly wrote. It’s true that you didn’t now say “too” dangerous, but I never said you did.

  11. 111
    Mandolin says:

    If there were a lot of folks arguing “people aren’t biological” then yeah, other folks would probably talk about why they are. “People are animals” is a similar obvious thing, and yet bears a lot of explanation and repetition because of its contested history.

  12. 112
    desipis says:

    now i am going to think of a world where there was alot of people saying “all people are biological” at the start of alot of sentences and articles like it was something important

    I feel like that might actually be a useful reminder in some contexts. Philosophical models of human behaviour seem to regularly ignore the underlying complexities of human biology, in favour of abstractions that are often at odds with reality (e.g. rational choice theory). I also think it’s a lot easier to ‘other’ people when we conceive them as abstract metaphysical entities rather than tangible biological creatures.

  13. 113
    LimitsOfLanguage says:


    Richard is not the one, in this dialog, suggesting that certain thoughts are very dangerous to even speak or think. You are.

    Your statement was grammatically rather poor IMO. If you had left out “even” from that sentence, I agree that your interpretation makes sense. However, with it…

    Anyway, even your clarified/amended words seem unfair as I never said that those words are “very dangerous to think or speak”. I pointed out that certain beliefs are very dangerous if made into government policy and/or if they become dogmatic.

    I am not suggesting increased ignorance to make people stop having such ideas or to share them, but the opposite: to discuss the downsides, so people are far less likely to repeat dark chapters in history out of ignorance.

  14. 114
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Mandolin, I think it’s just semantic. People are using the word “political” to describe art that is explicit in it’s message to challenge or support a set of rules or norms, often in support of an identifiable political tribe. It’s a useful distinction, because so much art fits into that category especially when it comes to challenging hierarchies and norms. People have a (in my opinion useful) status quo bias, so unless they agree with the politics of the art, they tend not to like it. I don’t even enjoy art that reflects my own politics back on me. Once anyone excepts a broader definition of “political,” I think they’d agree that all art is political, but they may suspect that this broader definition is an attempt to take away a categorical distinction that is important to them.

    I wonder if the concept that RJN introduced, “art is exploratory,” has something to do with this. I don’t think I agree with RJN that all art is exploratory, but “exploratory” definitely describes the art I enjoy. Like most humans, my mind becomes less open to explore if I sense that a member of an political tribe is trying to sway me to his side, this is true even if the artist is reflecting my own politics back at me. When exposed to explicitly political art, I get a feeling much like that of being exposed to religious rhetoric. My mind’s immune system goes into overdrive, protecting my from a potential virus.

    “People are animals” is true, and if you define animals in the right way, I think everyone would agree with you, it’s just that some people desire a category for all the animals that aren’t human. Consider this related statement, “all behavior is evolved behavior.” In a sense, this is true, as even the degree to which our minds are malleable and shaped by culture is itself a unique evolutionary adaption. That said, there is a useful distinction between behaviors that exist in every culture, and those behaviors that exist only under certain cultural conditions. Those who are most concerned with the ways in which culture shapes behavior won’t appreciate my attempt at tearing down their important categorical distinction.

  15. 115
    RonF says:

    Mandolin, how is the Mona Lisa political?