April 16, 2006

The Anti-Climactic Cartoon Contest

On February 14, 2006, in a series of one-upmanship, Boomka.org announced their anti-Semitic cartoons contest, in response to the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri's announcement that, in response to the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy, they would hold their own Holocaust cartoon contest.

In the name of Freedom of Speech, I fully support all these groups and their desire to print controversial material, whatever their incentive may be. But for some reason the Boomka anti-semitic cartoon contest spun their mission into a nobler cause, explaining that humorous self-deprecation is a healthy psychological exercise for confident and strong people.

They also touted that we Jews would beat the Iranians at their own game. Said contest holder Amitai Sandy:
We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published! No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!

Well, if these anti-semitic cartoons are the best we can come up with, I'm afraid to say we've been soundly beaten on our own turf. Even Art Spiegelman and Amos Biderman, esteemed judges and Jewish cartoonists, refused to pick a winner, stating that, in short, the cartoons were all crap.

Admittedly, even I submitted my own anti-semitic cartoon to the contest, along with a letter stating my support of free speech and expression. Not sure why it was rejected, considering the un-cartoonish quality of most of the accepted submissions. Maybe mine was too offensive?

One young girl wrote to the curators of the anti-semitic cartoon contest and asked how a tragedy like the Holocaust is funny. Amitai Sandy responded by explaining that we have to learn to laugh at ourselves, and by telling the self-deprecative jokes first, "we will dismantle their bomb". I posted a comment on the blog entry, asking why Sandy addresses the girl who wrote such a cordial letter as "Jew Girl". I also noted that, even though Sandy does a fine job of explaining why we should learn to laugh at ourselves and tragedy, he never actually answers the girl's question, "When is a tragedy humorous?". My comment, posted to a site founded upon the principles of freedom of speech, was, ironically, deleted.

So, to answer the young girl's question, when is a tragedy humorous? Never. We just laugh to hide our fear and shame.

1 comment:

Gayle said...

That was very well put. Comedy used to hide fear is even relevant in Amitai Sandy's example of a fat kid joking about himself. He doesn't feel any better about his situation, he is merely making the joke before someone else can. However, an anti-semetic cartoon does not need to be about tragedy, which is what I think was the downfall of this contest. These cartoonists were so caught up in making Holocaust jokes that they missed the point: humor. Very few people can actually pull off turning tragedy into comedy. Had they focused their efforts on true-ish, but exaggerated sterotypes (Jews in the media, etc.) they would have done much better and there may have been some decent entries. It also probably wouldn't have hurt for some of the cartoonists to use a dictionary... you shouldn't be allowed to make Holocaust jokes if you can't even spell Holocaust. If I ever handed in anything of that quality in my illustration classes I would be laughed out of the room.