Cappelen Damm Akademisk
Political caricature is a subset of satire that visually exposes and ridicules the foolish behavior of persons engaged in power struggles in society. Political caricatures have a strong capacity to provoke and offend. They have provoked politicians to act, and they have caused public outrage, e.g. when playing with traditionally denigrating ways of representing politicians as animals. However, caricatures can be difficult to interpret for audiences, not least when first appearing in social media. Here, their contexts of production and reception are not as established or stable as in print newspapers, in which they conventionally accompany commentaries on editorial pages. Drawing on caricature theory, I argue that readers strengthen their interpretations if they acquire knowledge of genre characteristics, the type of media the caricatures appear in, the political and cultural context of the drawings, and the caricaturist. I apply such contexts in analyses of ape-like caricatures originally presented in different types of media and in different political-cultural contexts. The caricatures analyzed are: newspaper drawings by South African caricaturist Zapiro; a cover drawing from French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo by Stéphane Charbier (Charb); and drawings by the Norwegian satirical artist Thomas Knarvik that first appeared on his Facebook site. I find, in particular, that the genre-distinct features of sympathy, gap and differentiation are useful tools in assessing how the caricatures meet – or fail to meet – conditions for making sense of them.
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