The Cartooning of Editorial: An Op-Ed

Those familiar with the paper strip Mallard Fillmore and its cartoonist/author Bruce Tinsley, already understand the messages and “satire” published within. Being about a duck reporter who looks at the world through a cynical conservative lens, Fillmore has had the potential, for the past few decades now, to bridge a gap in smart – even witty and on-point – comic panel political commentary with that of Republican-ish talking points. I write “ish”, as full-blown GOP talking points and punditry would be outright silly for any cartoon character to do seriously without making himself/herself look like a fool. Right?

We can joke about right-of-center politics IRL (in real life) all day long, but something happens when it’s all applied to the world of the drawn. Of the caricature and reflected. It becomes scathing and honest, for better and worse. It’s the same effect that happens with good animated movies and shows when real-world opinions and problems are introduced and handled, the situations and attitudes become more pronounced and well-defined, showing a truth that otherwise couldn’t be as well achieved in person. 

The talking duck at the center of Fillmore, who I can only speculate is an extension of Tinsley himself, is not one to mince observation. Through his mind, we see many a sympathetic portrayal of Republican ideology, direct from his mouth or indirect from what he’s watched, read, or overheard. In these panels, real-world leaders and officials are skewered – as they sometimes should be – but with the understanding of righteous and rightly right smugness overhead. If it’s satire, it’s certainly not humble. 

I’m uncertain how many other papers feature Mallard Fillmore in their editorial sections, but I do know that, as of late, the new Times-Picayune / Advocate has been labeling these cartoons under such banners. From local writer Michael Tisserand:

Indeed, our daily paper has now suggested it’s in agreement with the brand of Fillmore, from an editorial standpoint. This is highly dubious and for sure upsetting, especially being that Bruce Tinsley isn’t exactly someone who practices careful nuance in his cartoons or comedy within. It’s all so blunt and mean, to say the least. To say the most? Well…

For our Picayune to not just publish and make Mallard part of its official statement, but to print a bible verse underneath as well (see the above tweet embed), says something strong and frankly wrong about the direction they’ve chosen to move into. Not that the bible is wrong, and not that Tinsley’s work should be prohibited or censored, but that the combination subtextually tells us to almost obey as real truth.

Oh, they’re expressing something true alright, but it’s about themselves. And it’s dirty. 

Meanwhile, back in time:

Surely, we can draw and print better. Right?

Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Follow him on Twitter: @billreviews

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