The sign maker, Ben Jennings, has created a political gag referencing the Whitehouse and Donald Trump in regards to the Charlottesville White Supremacist rallies & protests. This political gag was later awarded British Political Cartoon of the year (2017). The creator, Ben Jennings, is a world wide renowned cartoonist and illustrator, who has contributed to exhibitions in Paris, London, Berlin and had work displayed at London’s Cartoon Museum. Jennings has been presented with many awards for his work regarding serious subject matters, allowing ‘him to inject his sense of humour and capture likenesses when necessary with distinctive caricatures/portraits’ (Jennings 2018) making his cartoons hugely popular.
By using metaphors the audience can achieve a level of ‘understanding and experience[…] one kind of thing in terms of another’ (Lakoff and Johnson 1980:5). However, for a metaphor to be effective the audience needs to have a schema activated to be able to understand the context portrayed. The gag itself is in reference to the Charlottesville White Supremacist rally in August 2017. During the event a suspected “terrorist” drove a van into demonstrators opposed to the white supremacy rally. However, there was uproar from Americans and people of high political positions when Donald Trump (the 45th president) was seen to condone these actions when he did not mention anything of the attack in his speech following the events – automatically causing the audience to believe he is racist. The subtly of the image can portray corruption within the Whitehouse. This is done through the simple usage of the infamous KKK white hood placed on top of the Whitehouse, influencing the audience believe Trump is a supporter of white supremacy.
Polyfocality is defined as ‘the distribution of attention across multiple focal points’ (Jones et al. 2012) therefore due to the amount of metaphors the polyfocality of the gag is fighting for the attention of the audience. However, the controversy alone presented in the gag would ensure a large attention economy. In a polyfocal world it is harder to gain consistent attention economy, therefore by being controversial the attention received is greater. The controversy will always spark debate – furthering the attention economy of the gag.
Lakoff and Johnson coined the term ‘conceptual metaphor theory’, the conceptual metaphor of this gag could be interpreted differently by each individual. However, my understanding of the gag is simply Trump is seen as White Supremacist and racism is strong within the Whitehouse.
In conclusion I believe the gag is effective of what it intends to do and portrays the message that it intends. I believe that the simplicity of the design helps the image to have more of impact on the audience, and the lack of textual content also helps the intensity as it influences the audience to identify their own opinion of what the metaphors are. However, without the correct schema being present – the picture offers no identity or reference to what it is portraying.
Bibliography & References.
Atfield, E. (2017) Political Cartoon of the Year Awards 2017 [online] available from <https://www.ellwoodatfield.com/event/the-political-cartoon-of-the-year-awards-2017/> [2nd January 2018]
Cartoon Art Trust Limited (2018) The Cartoon Museum: British Cartoon & Comic art from the 18th century to the present day [online] available from <http://www.cartoonmuseum.org> [3rd January 2018]
Jennings, B. (2018) Ben Jennings: Award Winning Cartoonist and Illustrator [online] available from <http://ben-jennings.com> [1st January 2018]
Jones, R.H. and Hafner, C.A. (2012) Understanding Digital Literacies: A Practical Introduction. New York: Routledge.
Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980) Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago.