The Cartoonists speak

Cruel or just in PM’s face? – 09 Mar 2008 – Politics: New Zealand Political News, Analysis and Comment including 2008 election coverage – NZ Herald

The HoS has spoken to some cartoonists over their “mean” and “happy mischief” when they draw Dear Leader.

First up they bring in some patsy lefty university sook.

Helen Clark has been portrayed in a variety of grotesque and unflattering scenarios during her nine years in office – and even before she came to power.

But with Labour’s poll results plunging below National’s, the caricatures are getting crueller, according to Auckland University senior political studies lecturer Dr Joe Atkinson.

He said the cartoonists have drawn on her “mannish qualities” and crossed the threshold of crudeness into all-out “Helen bashing”.

“She has a face which is made for caricature and that’s a bit unfortunate. They make fun of her teeth and her hair and the mole on her face, and so on.” Atkinson thought some of cartoons were nasty because “Helen’s a woman rather than a man”.

“Cartoonists don’t have to be fair and, of course, they exaggerate things, but the question is one of more general morality. If their conscience will allow them to kick a dog when it’s down then that’s fine.”

Oh dear, how sad, boohoo. Tom Scott tell it how it is.

Cartoonist Tom Scott said he and his colleagues had to reflect reality and Clark was being treated no differently from David Lange or Jim Bolger in the last days of their tenure.

“In some ways cartoonists are the school bullies,” Scott said. “I try to resist it but if things are going badly, your job is to reflect that. Sometimes you’re ahead of public opinion and sometimes you’re behind it.”

Scott said things could be worse for Clark. “In some ways, women get let off the hook in politics because you can’t draw them anywhere near as cruelly as men.”

See, Clark is getting let off lightly because she is a girly swot. Bromhead tries to get back in Clark’s good books (which must have only one page to them by now), but then slips the knife in.

Peter Bromhead has been drawing prime ministers since the early 1960s and accepted that he was among cartoonists who have been “a little unkind” to Clark.

“If you look at the changing features, I tend to have concentrated on the buck teeth – I’m so grateful she hasn’t had her teeth straightened.”

Bromhead says he hasn’t changed his take on Clark during her years in office. “I don’t believe that flattering politicians with fancy drawings is a very good idea. I think the cruder the sketch and the less flattering is part of the sting.”

Finally Emmerson basically tells Helen to HTFU.

New Zealand Herald cartoonist Rod Emmerson said his role was to create a debate and “keep the bastards honest”.

“You’re trying to tease the personality to the surface while exaggerating particular features.

“Her appearance has changed and will continue to do so.”

He said women were more sensitive to being lampooned. “I’m very conscious of this, but I can’t allow it to permeate the cartoon. I’m a cartoonist, not an artist or plastic surgeon.”