The Moose and the Mirror: Or, Oliphant’s Palin

Posted by on March 22nd, 2010 at 5:37 AM

Pat Oliphant is very talented. R. C. Harvey just praised his undeniable powers of exaggeration, and I think it’s clear that Oliphant has superior drawing skills and a wild mind. But what I find most striking is how many of his cartoons are based on a private reality that only he knows. For instance, I don’t think Sarah Palin would be found shacked up in a hotel room with a moose. But that is the situation we find here.

What’s the comment? The dialogue makes one point: that Palin is a hysterical prima donna and yahoo, and that it’s laughable to think she might have intellectual curiosity. But the picture shows her in a hotel room somewhere, and the moose is knotting his tie in the mirror. Palin sits in bed, looking raddled, her nightie strap down her shoulder. The moose delivers his kissoff about intellectual curiosity, and he’s got his chin lifted as he sights in the mirror because he wants to get his tie right.

Why would a cartoon have Sarah Palin and a moose doing a hotel stand? At least one of two conditions would be called for: that Palin had some reputation for sexual activity outside her marriage (per Clinton or Gingrich), and/or that the moose represented some recognized entity with which she had some relation that might be characterized as illicit or immoral. If the moose were Alaska and she had loved it and left it. Or if the moose were campaign contributions from big business, so you had a john and his date. I suppose. I mean, at least you’d have a rationale. But the moose is just himself. Apparently he’s on her staff or he’s a journalist. I would guess he was early 30s, fairly young.

No comment, fantasy. The young moose speaks up during one moment in a continuing private movie Oliphant has playing in the back of his head. This moment then drops into public view where a single-panel editorial gag cartoon should be. What you get isn’t comment but fantasy. The fantasy is inflected by real-life elements taken from the media, namely politics and celebrities. But then the elements take on a life of their own; at some point this life ripens and swells until a moment drops into Oliphant’s head. Thinking it’s an editorial cartoon, he draws it.

Hard on Palin. I think people ought to have some solid reason if they want to get into others’ sex lives. Of the conditions given above, I would prefer to have both present to justify a cartoon like Oliphant’s. In this case, neither is present. So, as commentary, Oliphant’s cartoon fires wild, and it makes peoples’ communal lives more difficult because something private is treated as fair game. (Apologies for the that’s-what-she-said material in this paragraph.)

Having gone ahead, Oliphant created a small vision. Not fair and humane but striking and well imagined — that young moose and his tie. We get a look at a unique head-movie drawn by an artist, and it’s just too bad for Sarah Palin that she wound up as material. Of course, in writing about her privacy, Oliphant showed us his own, so in that respect everything came out even.

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10 Responses to “The Moose and the Mirror: Or, Oliphant’s Palin”

  1. R.C. Harvey says:

    Okay, we begin with Oliphant having a wild imagination and a tendancy to exaggerate to comic extremes in order to make a point. The moose is here because a moose is Sarah the Palin’s most celebrated companion: she can field dress a moose, remember? In Oliphant’s mind, then, not only is a moose Sarah Livingston Palin’s most celebrated companion: the moose is here ONLY companion, virtually her lover. The commentary of the cartoon is about Palin’s aides leaving her and saying that she has no intellectual capacity. What she says, then, confirms their opinion of her. And because she is the way she is, she has no one left in her life except that moose that she’s always field dressing.
    Makes perfect sense to me. You’re workin’ too hard at decoding the cartoon, Tom. But I applaud your characteization of Oliphant having a little separate world inside his head. Right. And that’s where all the extemities come from that make his cartoons both funny and pointed.

  2. R.C. Harvey says:

    Ooops: typo. That should be “her ONLY companion” not “here ONLY…” But you knew that, eh?

  3. Tom Crippen says:

    I certainly would not ask why a cartoonist would associate Sarah Palin with a moose. What I asked was why anyone would draw a cartoon implying that Sarah Palin just had sex with a moose. To arrive at that question I didn’t have to decode the picture, strenuously or otherwise; all I had to do was look at it.

  4. Caro says:

    I thought it was parodying the Sarah Palin sex tape gag video (not really worth clicking on) and Hustler’s Nailin’ Paylin.

    The political joke is something to do with the mixed Moose/Staffer that she’s using/betraying by selling out/whoring herself out for the $M in the bank and the Fox news gig?

    It’s not funny though. And not elegant enough to be scathing as an editorial.

  5. Tom Crippen says:

    A 74-year-old man parodies an Internet gag clip? I doubt it. And “Nailin’ Palin” came out during the campaign, a long time ago. Also, I doubt that it had any moose.

    My theory is that lot of men want to have sex with Palin and that Pat Oliphant is one of them.

  6. Caro says:

    It’s just that this isn’t a particularly private fantasy, although I agree with you that it’s not particularly tasteful. Physical attractiveness has always been part of Palin’s public image, and the Palin sex fantasy is sufficiently public and widespread that I’m just hesitant to extrapolate it to anything personal about Oliphant.

    In looking at it again, the Moose is probably supposed to be Alaska (it’s the official state land mammal). “Who needs ANY of ya?” –> that’s the governor resigning. He’s saying she’s in politics, now and always, for the wrong reasons: not intellectual curiosity, but because she’s an attention whore with a lust for dollars in the bank.

    The juxtaposition of all the intersecting images is definitely “dream/fantasy” like, but it’s the failure to get that juxtaposition into some particularly incisive form, not the TMI/failure to respect her privacy, that bugs me.

  7. Tom Crippen says:

    “It’s just that this isn’t a particularly private fantasy … the Palin sex fantasy is sufficiently public and widespread that I’m just hesitant to extrapolate it to anything personal about Oliphant.”

    Yeah, a lot of people find her sexy. Why wouldn’t Oliphant be one of them?

    “the Moose is probably supposed to be Alaska”

    Alaska is doing it with Palin behind Todd’s back? That will make for a hell of a reality show.

  8. Caro says:

    Given that a lot of people find her sexy, why would Oliphant have to be one of them for it to make sense? Can’t a cartoonist depict a cultural phenomenon he doesn’t agree with? Especially as a metaphor for something he finds actively objectionable?

    I am clearly just not seeing what you are seeing. I don’t even see anything to conclusively suggest the sex is illicit! All I see is a badly played metaphor that tries for joke and only hits insult.

    And hey, you came up with the moose being alaska! She did love it and leave it, right?

  9. Tom Crippen says:

    “Given that a lot of people find her sexy, why would Oliphant have to be one of them for it to make sense?”

    Because the cartoon doesn’t make any comment about people finding Palin sexy.

    “And hey, you came up with the moose being alaska!”

    In a cartoon different from the one Oliphant drew.

    “She did love it and leave it, right?”

    She still lives in Alaska, so no, not as of yet. We’ll see what’s down the road.

  10. […] Tom Crippen, who is no Sarah Palin fan, cries foul nonetheless on Oliphant's cartoon showing her postcoital encounter with a moose, pointing out that it probably reveals more about Oliphant than Palin. […]