All Right, This Cartoon Is Stupid

Posted by on April 28th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

nicked from

Not making sense would be a step up from this. Oliphant is against buying bananas from China, I suppose. Really, really against it, against it to a Biblical degree. The modern-day equivalent of original sin is buying agricultural products from a foreign country while your own has newspapers that print sad headlines. Because if we didn’t buy foreign bananas, the newspapers would print happy headlines. America’s big problem just now isn’t a financial sector that went haywire or a government that said to hell with paying for what it bought. Our big problem is the purchase of crops that originated outside the borders of the U.S. If we just wouldn’t be inveigled by those foreigners exchanging agricultural products for currency, there’d be enough money at home for the newspapers to give us decent headlines.

So Oliphant’s position is quite ordinary. It’s ignorant and childish, the view of a petulant moron, but you can get what he’s driving at and what he’s driving at is nothing unusual. Yet the cartoon is still a weirdie in the classic Oliphant manner.

Consider that the U.S. doesn’t actually buy a lot of bananas from China. So what are they doing in the cartoon? A children’s toy or lady’s sweater or piece of cheap electronics (typical of the things that we do buy from China) would have worked just fine, because everyone recognizes that anything handed by Eve to Adam represents temptation. A clock radio growing on a tree in the Garden of Eden? That’s poetic license. A banana whose purchase undermines the U.S. economy even though the U.S. doesn’t buy a lot of bananas from the country in question? Sloppy to the point of being random. But that’s Oliphant. Hey, at least it’s a fruit—a yellow fruit. Given Oliphant’s track record, he probably considers that a connection. You can imagine the zigzag lightning path of his thoughts. Buying foreign stuff is bad and we owe China a ton of money. The Chinese are yellow … bananas are yellow … and they’re a fruit. So are apples! And we all know Adam shouldn’t have eaten the apple. So have Eve give Adam a Chinese banana.

The final Oliphant touch is the greenery explosion that makes up the cartoon’s centerpiece. Man, those fronds are everywhere. They’re a visual bomb blast that fills up the cartoon and runs the eye ragged, in a pleasant way, with the ins and outs of its contours. No editorial cartoonist but Oliphant could have drawn that jungle. The problem, of course, is that every cartoonist except Oliphant would have known the foliage was pointless. Yes, we need to know we’re in the Garden of Eden; no, we don’t need to devote most of the eye’s energy to appreciating just how Garden of Eden-ish this particular Garden of Eden happens to be. Oliphant’s pen just took over and kept drawing until he had a cloudburst of serrated lines he could sit back and appreciate. He’s a sensual beast, a pair of hands hooked up to a brain stem that’s just developed enough to imagine it’s thinking. The surprise is that, after all these years, others can’t appreciate him for the performing freak he is. They keep pretending that the brain steam has something to say.

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4 Responses to “All Right, This Cartoon Is Stupid”

  1. jasonmichelitch says:

    From the Oxford English Dictionary: “banana republic – a small politically unstable country whose economy is dependent on a single export controlled by foreign concerns.”

    The term is originally a derogatory one for failed tropical states with despotic rulers, and the “single export” referred to is bananas. It seems pretty obvious to me that Oliphant started with the concept that the United States is becoming a banana republic, except in this joke we don’t even export the bananas, we import them, just like we import everything else. Meanwhile, Adam and Eve are obliviously naked in their consumerist Garden of Eden, buying the crap from China (and shopping at the Banana Republic – ta da) while the newspaper headline hits us over the head with how bad things really are, the little Oliphant character hits us over the head with the banana/apple gag, and the Capitol through the trees tells us whose fault Oliphant thinks this all is.

    I thought it was a pretty straightforward if multi-layered cartoon, myself.

  2. Tom Crippen says:

    Yes, the phrase “banana republic” exists. No, buying bananas from China does not in any way make America politically unstable and therefore a banana republic.

    Especially since we don’t buy a whole lot of bananas from China.

  3. jasonmichelitch says:

    You’re taking the fact that the banana is from China too literally. Oliphant isn’t talking about buying bananas from China. The banana is there to service the term, not the other way around.

    Oliphant’s issue isn’t literal bananas from China. Oliphant’s issue is that our country (in his view) is falling apart while too many of us live in a consumerist dreamworld (symbolized by the Garden of Eden, the cheap goods from China, and the other common iteration of “banana republic”). I also don’t think it’s an accident that the banana is standing in for the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, since the national outcry over lead and other toxins in products from China can easily be seen as us receiving a wake-up call in the form of dangerous goods (instead of in the form of an apple) that causes us to realize our situation (that we are naked, and must cover ourselves – metaphorically speaking.)

    I’m not arguing for Oliphant’s point of view, but I think it’s a fairly coherent and even somewhat complex one in terms of artistic expression, especially for an editorial cartoon.

  4. Tom Crippen says:

    All right, let’s run this one thru.

    Adam and Eve shouldn’t have eaten that apple. Endemically unstable regimes are called banana republics. There’s a chain of stores called Banana Republic, and Americans shop there. Americans shouldn’t buy so much stuff. Therefore, Eve hands Adam … a banana … and says something … about China. About China because all the news regarding that country’s deficient safety standards remind Americans that buying a lot of stuff isn’t a good thing, even though China’s safety standards are a lot lower than ours. In seeing the inadequacy of Chinese product standards, Americans realize their own nakedness when measured against the standard of not-buying-stuff.

    Well, it would make one hell of a ballet. Someone ought to start staging Oliphant’s cartoons.