The Art of Political Satire

The Art of Political Satire

The Art of Political Satire

Wielding sharp pens and a wild imagination, editorial cartoonists are quick to poke fun at the very “serious” business of politics.

To do so, cartoonists employ a number of strategies and techniques to illustrate their point of view.

For example, they might exaggerate physical characteristics, gestures, and behaviours of important public figures.  

Question

Notice any facial features or gestures that seem overblown/overdone in the cartoon (above/below/to the right/left)?  What point do you think the cartoonist is trying to make?

Cartoonists will also use common/familiar allegories, symbols, and metaphors to reconceptualize political events in an entertaining manner.

"Under the mistletoe, but..."

"Under the mistletoe, but..."

Canada and the US personified; “Uncle Sam” trying to steal a kiss from “Miss Canada” under the mistletoe.

Newton McConnell, circa 1911

Cartoonists will also often label the objects and people in their illustrations to make it clear exactly what they stand for. Watch out for the different labels that appear in some of these cartoons.

Question

What two situations are being compared in the cartoon (above/below/to the right/left)? Does this make the cartoonist’s point more clear to you?

"The workman: We'll have to stand together, for if he gets you, he'll get me next"

"The workman: We'll have to stand together, for if he gets you, he'll get me next"

Bear labelled “Free Trade Bruin,” is about to devour two men (labeled “farmers” and “workmen”).

Newton McConnell, circa 1911

Question

Why do you think the cartoonist chose to label that particular person or object? Does the label make the meaning of the object more clear?

But it’s important to be aware that the decisions a cartoonist makes when characterizing a public figure or newsworthy event presents a view of the world shaped by their own experience, culture, politics, and gender. 

While their presence in popular culture may appear benign, political cartoons can encourage readers to form opinions, feel various emotions, and affect their decisions.

About Newton McConnell

Many of the cartoons you’ll see throughout this exhibit were drawn by editorial cartoonist, Newton McConnell (1877-1940). His cartoons would state the policy of the paper in a single shout. 

He was a well known artist in his day, drawing political and public figures for conservative newspapers like the Toronto Daily News, the Saturday Night, the Morning Leader, and the Vancouver Sun. As such, many of his cartoons mock Liberal political figures and decisions.

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Can you spot Spot?

As you’re looking through the cartoons, see if you can spot Spot – a little white dog with black ears. This is McConnell’s dog, who becomes a kind of signature or mascot in his cartoons.

Can you find all the Spots here in Newton McConnell’s cartoons?