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This cartoon is based on a cliche I’ve heard so many times – that poor people aren’t “really” poor, and so don’t deserve help, if they have a phone/big TV/smartphone/microwave etc. Basically, any consumer durable. (“Consumer durables are a category of consumer products that do not have to be purchased frequently because they last for an extended period of time (typically more than three years”)). It’s not enough to be food insecure, in danger of eviction, and not knowing where the money for utility bills will come from – if you’re not suffering in every single way, this thinking goes, you’re not really poor and don’t really deserve help.
For example, the Heritage Foundation grouched that “the typical poor household, as defined by the government, has a car and air conditioning, two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR.”
(Color televisions! I love that they specify “color.” How does the Heritage Foundation think poor people could even find the black and white TVs that they presumably think are all poor people should have? I guess they could use a time machine, except probably Heritage wouldn’t approve of poor people owning that, either.)
It’s particularly ridiculous to hear people complaining about cars and phones – two items that are actual necessities for many people who’d like to be part of society. And they’re often necessities for being able to find a job, or to find a better job.
Hence, this cartoon.
The most interesting challenge about drawing this cartoon was the need for change without changing: To see these two characters on three different days, but with their personalities, social roles and circumstances unchanged. So each of them had to have three sets of clothes, and I needed to draw what looked like three slightly different parts of the same general area. My collaborator Frank Young, who did the colors, did a really bang-up job on making the panels look like different times of day.
In hindsight, I think I could have done it better – really, there’s no reason all three locations had to be on the same sidewalk – and hopefully I’ll take that and do better next time this comes up. But I’m still pleased with how this came out.
The figures were fun to draw. The villain is a perfect Barry character – super exaggerated expressions and a huge mouth. The other character was more of a challenge, since he had to be downbeat and restrained without being boring to look at.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows two men: A not-wealthy looking man with shaggy hair and some stubble, and a bald man in glasses, wearing a business suit and tie. Each panel shows them at a sidewalk with grass growing in the background.
Shaggy is wearing a wrinkled collared shirt and jeans. Necktie is wearing a gray suit with a tie with a dot pattern.
It’s bright daytime. Shaggy, with his back turned to Necktie, is looking at and poking a smartphone, and, in the helpful way people so often do in the first panel of my cartoons, talking aloud to himself. Necktie is turning to look at, and yell at, Shaggy.
SHAGGY: I can’t find a job and I’m out of money… Time to google “food stamps.”
NECKTIE: Food stamps are for people who are genuinely poor. If you were poor, you wouldn’t own a smartphone, would you?
A caption says “one week later.”
From the light, it appears to be early evening. Shaggy is wearing a plaid shirt and Black pants, and has a backpack; Necktie is wearing a pinstripe suit and a tie with horizontal stripes.
Shaggy is looking worried and has a hand on his chest; Necktie is sternly talking to, and pointing at, Shaggy.
SHAGGY: I sold my phone, but now I’m out of money again.
NECKTIE: So sell your car. No one who owns a car is poor.
A caption says “one month later.”
The same two men, on a similar patch of sidewalk. Shaggy is wearing sweatpants with a stripe down the side, and a hole in one knee, and a tee shirt. Necktie is wearing a dark blue suit, a black shirt, and a light-colored necktie.
Shaggy is sitting on the curb, slumping, looking down both literally and metaphorically. Necktie, talking to Shaggy, looks very cheerful.
SHAGGY: Now I’ve got no money for food, no phone for job hunting, and no car to get to a job!
NECKTIE: Excellent! Now you’re genuinely poor!
The same scene, a moment later. Shaggy, looking hopeful, is looking up at Necktie. Necktie folds his arms and grins even more.
SHAGGY: So now you’re okay with me getting food stamps?