Is this news editorial cartoon about furries making fun of a tragedy?
by Patch O'Furr
Please help children of the tragedy in this post: Support the Yost family and In Loving Memory Of Billy Boucher.
News tip thanks to Spottacus. Below is his post about an editorial cartoon in the OC Weekly about a triple homicide in Southern California.
Spottacus Cheetah: “Making fun of murdered family is so offensive.”
“…I imagine the family, somewhat devastated by the murder, seeing two people in costume speculating with happy smiles about what the killers were wearing. That just seems to belittle the tragedy.
In contrast, consider the post-massacre Hebdo cartoon, of a saddened Muhammed grieving over the deaths there.
(Paris, 2015: “4 Cartoonists Killed In Attack On Charlie Hebdo Newspaper“.)
Which made the powerful point that what was done was awful, and at the same time driving the in your face humor of Hebdo by depicting Muhammad again, in print. The entire reason for those Paris murders was exactly that depiction.
Here, in this cartoon, there is a sensationalism on the furry connection, to the point where the depicted characters as almost gleeful when discussing the murder. This makes it seem clueless and sadistic, rather than funny. Unlike Hebdo, the costumes serve no higher purpose to the message, and there’s not much of a moral there. And, unlike a Callahan cartoon, which pokes fun often at tragedy, there is a specific family involved.”
More furry comments at the OC Register:
Gerry Humphrey: “This is EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE! People are killed and OC Weekly is posting an “editorial cartoon” that is way over the line.”
Randolph D Garrett: “A fine example of why print journalism died. Offensive crap… This needs to be removed…”
Nathan Thomas Wolf: “Are you fucking kidding me? How offensive and inappropraite can you be?… The furry fandom had nothing to do with it… you also are so disrespectful to the family that lost their lives… You are so unprofessional, disgusting, offensive and so wrong as well. Luke McGarry who just proved he is the biggest asshole better be fired to even begin to bring some dignity back to your horrible comapny. He’s to much of a savage to say anything yeah because he’s a peice of shit just like you guys are. If you people don’t get him fired and remove the post I will make it my life goal to see it happen!”
Patch O’Furr: “I dont think this is bad. Like a good cartoon should, this leaves a lot up for interpretation. Here’s mine.
The furries in the cartoon are in “disguises.” But they aren’t shown doing something bad. They’re depicted exactly in character (fursuits don’t have sad expressions.) They could have been shown with blazing guns committing a crime if this was intended to be malicious. What heinous act is shown? They’re just reading the news, and learning about a shocking story the same as everyone else did. They aren’t complicit. So this can be taken as a message about how everyone is sharing a sad experience in common, even if they have other differences. We’re all reading the news together.
The artist took care to show the accused killers not in disguise, but in regular mug shots on the front page. That answers the absurd thought (what if someone wore a disguise on top of a costume? They didn’t – this shows people.)
I don’t think the readers are smiling and showing humor, as much as they’re just depicted as they really are. It says that life can be comic and tragic at the same time. Isn’t that the truth? I don’t think there’s anything offensive about that.”
Spottacus told me that he had a good chat with the cartoonist. I’ll ask if he can share in comments. What’s your opinion about the cartoon?
One of the key determining factors in how a joke like this is received and perceived is whether it’s being made by an insider or an outsider.
When an outsider to the culture makes a joke like this, it comes across as, “LOL, some weird people were killed by some other weird people, and their weirdness is hilarious.”
If the victims and the suspects had been avid golfers who belonged to the local country club, would the editorial cartoonist have drawn a darkly humorous strip about the murders referencing “Caddyshack,” and would the paper have published it if they had? Pretty sure survey says “No.”
If the victims and the suspects had belonged to a local synagogue, would the paper even dream of publishing a cartoon where an onlooker remarks about “Death in Jew-ne?” Not if they want to have jobs tomorrow!
At some level, I wonder if the cartoonist got so myopically focused on the suspects being furries that they forgot that the victims were *also* furries.
After all, my “ick” reaction is rooted in the assumption that “everybody” knows *and* remembers that all parties involved were involved in the furry fandom. In reality, a lot of outsiders may not understand that the same way we do.
Given human psychology, it actually wouldn’t surprise me if outsiders tended to over-emphasize the “furriness” of the suspects, while de-emphasizing the furriness of the victims, because they want to see the suspects as “the Other.”
(In that vein, maybe some furries would have a tendency to do the inverse!)
The “tribalism” of whether something comes from an insider or an outsider strikes me as super petty after a certain point. It’s not an ethnic group, it’s a fandom – at some point people stop being members of a hobby, and are just humans and readers of news.
So I find it pretty discouraging to see furry fans, of all people, ruling out nuanced use of cartoon art (and editorial speech too).
A good cartoon can be read more than one way (especially a single panel!) And cartooning as a medium for social comment is sadly declining with journalism in general.
So I wish people gave this more credit with less thin-skinned “how DARE you, TRIGGERED!” reflex.
Spottacus told me that the cartoonist was very responsive in private message. But after all the verbal abuse I’ve seen sent his way, I wonder if he would even bother saying a public word about what he really intended. Seems like a loss for dialogue.
Without asking for it, I seem to have fallen into keeping the only “furry news” site on top of a lot of national news from an insider view. Anyone could start a blog, but nobody else is doing that at the moment. It gives me a sense that news reporting is never appreciated or given credit as much as it could be. Everyone’s always offended and The Evil Media is always wrong, whether it’s person X, Y or Z they misrepresented; everyone wants it done “right,” yet nobody gives enough support for good reporting.
It just makes me say, why not chill out guys, and give a cartoonist a little room for interpretation?
(About your 2nd points about whether dead golfers would get compared to Caddyshack, or if there would be Jew Puns: I don’t find it comparable. This cartoon doesn’t reference violence like Itchy and Scratchy; they’re just reading the paper like everyone else. To put it in perspective, isn’t the cartoonist using restraint?)
(And when does it stop being “too soon”… but that’s another topic.)
I seem to be quite a minority in sticking up for this, and reading it this way: “Sad things happen to silly people too, this was caused by regular humans not people in disguise, and the news reporting is a shared experience that helps us all to cope with it.” (That said, I do agree that the little “excitement lines” detail isn’t so nice. *2nd look*: actually he seems to put those in EVERY cartoon.)
So some of my sympathy goes towards speech, cartooning, and news reporting, at the same time as furries and tragedy victims. Apparently that makes me a Thoughtcriminal to some of the TRIGGERED crowd. I even got blocked by a few for it (“No True Furry…!”)
If someone wants to falsely boil my opinion down to a tweetable “GUYS IT’S JUST A JOKE”… consider that person a fucking moron. But never underestimate the social impairment of a Xydexx, LOL.
Well, and I’m not claiming to be “triggered” or deeply upset.
I’m also not meaning to tar and feather the cartoonist, or imply they’re a “bad” person.
I’m just saying, I certainly react to jokes differently depending on whether I suspect someone is more likely to be laughing at me, or laughing with me. I bet others are the same way.
I’m also probably once-burned, twice-shy in this regard. I’m used to coming across different types of “furries should die”-type humor on the Internet, so that’s made my radar much more sensitive. I’m way too used to people “otherizing” furries and other groups I care about.
I’d definitely like to be able to trust that humor really is equal-opportunity, and that jokes about morbid topics and tragic events are meant to highlight the tragicomic absurdity of life. That’s how humor should ideally function, after all.
Ideally, quality jokes about us shouldn’t be off-limits–yea, even if they offend or annoy a few people. I just want there to be a fair and equal joke playing field.
Don’t worry, all understood… none of that was aimed your way. 🙂
Personal opinion follows:
After watching the fandom’s reaction to this, and the number of times people inside the fandom said “I hope they don’t make this into a furry thing”, there should be little to no surprise that “they” made it into a furry thing. Tons of reddit comments and forum comments and what not went into “what impact will this have on the furry fandom” while nobody seemed to talk about the dead people or the newly orphaned children.
So why are we suddenly acting surprised when the news/media outlets gave us basically exactly what we wanted?
We tied ourselves to this story. We repeatedly asked all over our various forums “how will this affect furry?” And now we’re surprised that the news media is affecting furry, and we’re acting upset that the media pointed out the furry connection and ran with it?
It’s silliness is what it is.
Thanks for commenting Graeme.
I have frequently commented that I think it’s completely fair to mention the social connection. Same as if it was a shared workplace.
The point to follow is that fandom in no way contributed to the bad choices of doing crime; and if it’s a lie to say the connection is irrelevant, the real story is that we’re all devastated and sad just like everyone else.
And, it’s OK to discuss that at the same time as caring about the survivors; many of our community HAVE donated and shared their fundraiser. There just isn’t that much else to say. They’re kids and they need their privacy. Nothing wrong with leaving it at that.
As far as being upset about cartoons like this, please see my comment above… I’m sensing overly thin skins and overreaction about just what is intended.
Personally, I have paid close attention to the media handling of this (and, of furries in general). I have sensed a very noticable warming up even in a short 2 years of running this blog, and in this case, strong sympathy. (A lot of it links to here, so I see the traffic as soon as they post.) Check out the Rolling Stone article here – sensationalist or sympathetic? I think the sympathy is clear.
That’s just my opinion, feel free to keep yours. 🙂
Oh, mine’s pretty much in line with yours 😀
I was just pointing out how numerous people’s response to this was “I hope this doesn’t affect furry in any way at all”, and now those same people are horrifically upset at it for affecting furry.
Obviously it was going to affect furry. The killers met the victims at furry meets. The crime seems to be a crime of passion built on relationships fostered online at FA and through various furry means. The parents asked a creepy guy to stay away from the 17 year old child, and then the parents wound up dead, and furry IS the connection in all of this.
But it’s also could have just as easily been D&D players or fans of Ke$ha or San Jose Sharks Hockey fans or members of the same church.
As for the media, I’ve seen nothing but respect from them in their reporting of this. It is newsworthy that furry is how the victims met the killers, and how the relationship between the child and the killers was formed. It might even be worth asking if we’re a bit too .. okay.. with letting furs close to us just because they identify as a fur. And that’s about as far as the press I’ve seen has taken this.
But yeah, I kinda just flow with the news and seek out the facts. They still seem not all in on this case.
My one peeve is that most headlines have made a point to explicitly scream “furry!” in one way or another, and sometimes in a way that might trigger the assumption that something about the fandom “caused” or provoked the tragedy.
But, I get why they did that, because otherwise, what would motivate someone to click on or read that story, as opposed to all of the other news stories about murders and scandals?
But yes, the majority of the articles themselves have been appropriate and sensitive, if sometimes awkward in their attempts to explain the fandom.
As usual, it’s the *comments* that’ll cause you to lose your faith in humanity!
I think this editorial cartoon actually ran in the OC Weekly not the Orange County Register.
Thanks scott! Fixed.
“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”
― Mel Brooks
Hey guys – Luke McGarry, here- the artist behind the cartoon. I agree with Patch O’Furr’s comments (naturally because he’s defending it, haha) but it’s in no way an attack on the families, the victims, or the wider furry community in general. Yes I am an outsider… but I would’ve done this cartoon about Disney characters committing murder, mimes committing murder, even golfers if they wore recognizable costumes. It’s simply a throwaway joke about a topical news story because I was on deadline and had to catch a flight. Did the murderers wear disguises over their furry suits? My aim wasn’t to genuinely upset anyone, just ruffle some fur (if you’all pardon the pun!) Cheers.
Thank you, Luke, for venturing here to post your reasoning.
The furry connection is what makes this different from most murders in the public eye, so its natural that it would stand out in any coverage. The public would demand it even if the press did not push it, in this case.
That said, we often use humor to deal with tragedy or things that make us uncomfortable. I myself knew one of the victims (she gave me her father’s old smoking jacket which I still wear), and did not find this comic objectionable. I can only speak for myself, but I understand it was not created in bad faith.
Shitty joke is shitty. Your humor is terrible and the fact that you come here to ‘defend’ it by waving your hands and saying it was a throwaway because you were in a hurry makes it even shittier. You were having a lazy yuk at the expense of someone else’s tragedy and that sucks. You do realize two little kids are orphaned now, right?
There are a ton of people from the community who are grieving over this. Many who knew them many who feel empathy for the victims. A lot of people in this community are afraid now. How do they know who to trust? A lot of us are reaching out and helping pay for the parents funerals.
All this tragedy and all you have to add to the world is a lazy cheap shot that isn’t even that funny. What a waste of potential.
I knew the woman who was murdered. She gave me her father’s smoking jacket which I wear, and wore to a successful interview. I went to their house for a New Years party and had pleasant chats with her at parties. I am away from home but my husband went to a vigil at her house.
Different people will react to the comic, and the murders, in different ways and I can only speak for my own response (and I did, above).
You didn’t know the victims as far as I can tell. I understand if you find the comic tasteless, but the individuals of the southern California furry community can speak for themselves as individuals, without you feigning moral indignation on their behalf.
That is very personal. Sorry to hear about that. She seemed really nice and doing her best to hold her family together and look out for 3 kids.
Many furs saw her as a mother figure, not surprisingly. I cannot recall her being anything other than pleasant and generous to the local furs she interacted with. It is indeed unfortunate what happened to her, he husband, and her friend.
He does have a boss demanding cartoons get made, right? I think this was actually restrained, imagine how much worse it could be with showing cartoon violence. I’d ask to give the guy a break.