Cartoon: Everything Is Problematic!

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Sometimes I like doing cartoons making fun of my “own side.”

Part of being a progressive these days, it seems, is realizing that every piece of art or entertainment we might enjoy or love is somehow problematic, or if not, could be revealed to be problematic at any moment.

And that’s how it goes. When it comes to older works, that’s how it should go. If we never look at old works and go “yipes,” that means no progress has been made. If we never look at things that artists and public figures once got away with – Roman Polaski comes right to mind – and say “that’s not acceptable,” that means no progress has been made.

But it’s still an odd-feeling situation. And, from a certain perspective, a funny one.


This cartoon has five panels, with the same two characters – a young woman wearing glasses and a pink scarf, and another young woman wearing a long yellow jacket. In the first two panels, the two are sitting around an apartment, on a couch.

Panel 1 

Scarf woman is reading a comic book, and speaks enthusiastically to Jacket woman, who looks unconvinced.

SCARF: Have you read this comic? It’s really awesome.

JACKET: I heard the creator was arrested for beating his girlfriend.

Panel 2 

Scarf tosses the comic over her shoulder. Jacket looks a bit angry as she talks, waving a hand in the air.

SCARF: Screw comics, then. We’ll just browse the internet.

JACKET: Yeah! We can google how the workers who make our devices are horribly abused.

Panel 3 

Scarf tries again, but Jacket rejects the idea again, standing up with her arms crossed, turning her back on Jacket.

SCARF: Let’s watch an old movie. Something made before the internet.

JACKET: Hitchcock, Kubrick, Bertolucci… Lots of directors abused their actresses back then. Just like today.

Panel 4

The two characters, after a quick back and forth, both yell to the sky (or ceiling) in abject frustration.

SCARF: Music?

JACKET: R. Kelly.

SCARF: Disney?

JACKET: Are you joking?


Panel 5 

The two characters are now out in a beautiful, sprawling park, with trees and rolling hills, sitting on a  hillside. Scarf is smiling and leaning back; Jacket has her arms crossed on her knees and still looks crabby.

SCARF: Isn’t it great out here, enjoying clean, unproblematic nature?

JACKET: Stolen land.

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12 Responses to Cartoon: Everything Is Problematic!

  1. 1
    Craig L says:

    Reminds me of a very early Bloom County (1982) with people at a bus stop comparing offenses then yelling in unison “LIFE IS OFFENSIVE!!!”, leaving Opus to declare it “Offensensivity”.

  2. 2
    Joe in Australia says:

    Yes, but how do we deal with it?

  3. 3
    LittlePony says:

    The problem is that once you see something as a pattern (like racism), you can’t unsee it.

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    Craig – I had forgotten that one, but that’s a great strip! And it probably influenced my strip unconsciously.

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    It’s one thing to say that a creator’s art is great and we should enjoy it regardless of the creator’s personal characteristics. It’s another to honor the creator himself or herself.

    Roman Polanski comes to mind. Hollywood seems intent on honoring him even though he was convicted of sexually abusing a minor and subsequently fled the U.S. (and is still a fugitive from American justice).

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    Yeah it’s a super hard line. Like, Marion Zimmer Bradley, there’s always a question of how much distributing her work becomes valorizing. If you distrubute it with no note about her actions, then you are allowing her to flourish in that silence. If you distribute it with a note — then people are talking about her, forever, in a more personal way than they do with other writers. We lose these other narratives that are way cooler to talk about this asshole.

    I feel like one thing she would have wanted is for people to remember her name.

    Honestly, I wish we could distribute her work without it. Deny her the fame she’d have — I assume — wanted.

    Or replace it with the names of her victims if they’d want that (I suspect they would not). Or a pseudonym of their choice, maybe. Like “Dipshit Rapey Jones.” (I fantasize about this with serial killers also. The Dipshit Murderer seems like a better appellation than their names.)

    This is not possible or feasible or even desirable. The ramifications are dumb if you think about it for even a minute. But it’s still a kind of brief, fragment fantasy or some kind of justice.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Roman Polanski comes to mind. Hollywood seems intent on honoring him even though he was convicted of sexually abusing a minor and subsequently fled the U.S. (and is still a fugitive from American justice).

    My impression was that, post-#MeToo, Hollywood is intent on pretending that Polanski didn’t exist and they hadn’t been supporting him. His last two films weren’t filmed in English or (afaik) released in the US.

  8. 8
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I love the idea of renaming killers, particularly mass shooters.

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    It not just people in the age of social media that this question references. What of the music of Wagner, for example? The art of Picasso? Go back as far as you want and there are great artists and entertainers who have had problematical personal lives. Does that mean we cannot enjoy their work? Does it mean that every time we talk about their art (and not just in a scholarly work or a detailed review but in casual conversation) we have to reference those issues as well?

  10. 10
    RonF says:

    I love the idea of un-naming killers, particularly mass killers. Never say their names. Never print their pictures. Deny them what they seem to universally seek. Let their names die, their images vanish, their words be erased; let it be as if they were never born.

  11. 11
    nobody.really says:

    Wow–this cartoon is in The Nib!

    1. Congratulations!

    2. So, like, how does that happen? Do they contact Amp and negotiate a licence? Or just ask Amp’s permission? Or does he have a syndicate for that? And what does syndicate mean anyway?

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    1. Thanks!

    2. Matt Bors, an editor at the Nib, saw the cartoon online and emailed me asking if The Nib could use it, in exchange for a fee. I changed the format of the cartoon to fit the Nib’s specifications. And that’s really all there is to it.

    A syndicate is a business who distributes content to newspapers, magazines, etc etc. Typically, if a columnist or cartoonist is signed up with a syndicate, then that syndicate is the only legal place to get permission to carry that cartoonist’s or columnist’s comic strips or columns. I am not syndicated, so people wanting to reprint my stuff talk directly to me.