The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

Speaking Ill

May 16, 2007 | 6 Comments

It’s not nice to speak ill of the dead. The journalistic convention for signaling that you’d like to is to call the deceased “controversial,” but that’s often as far as it goes. In Obituary Cartoonland, however, there are no such constraints. And so the Rev. Jerry Falwell has achieved a distinction last obtained by Saddam Hussein — every depiction of him is negative.

A recurring theme of the drawings is that Falwell impermissibly mixed religion with politics. Unfortunately, that’s a point which is impossible to make in obituary cartoon-form with committing the offense oneself. The genre requires the cartoon to portray the departed in either Heaven or Hell. That necessarily compels the author to express a theological judgment regarding the subject’s politics. So depending on the artist, God will turn out to be left-wing, right-wing or moderate.

At the very least, He will have a very definite political opinion regarding the mixing of church and state. In general, it seems that the cartoon Gods punish it more when the mixing favors conservative rather than liberal causes. Whatever the case, the view will usually coincide precisely with the politics of the cartoonist.

Not that it’s always easy to determine what those politics are. Consider Matt Bors’ handiwork (first strip on the fifth page of the link above). I understand the picture of a kissing inter-racial gay couple emblazoned on Falwell’s Tinky Winky costume, but it’s unclear what point is being made by having Hell guarded by a winged, trident-bearing fetus. (Although Bors’ is entitled to some credit for addressing the abortion issue at all, a topic whose absence from the other cartoons is conspicuous given that the Moral Majority was founded largely in response to Roe v Wade). Also puzzling is the message sent by depicting the only available magazine selections as Hustler, Penthouse and The Origin of the Species. Yes, Falwell hated them all — but what’s left for Bors to use when it comes time to stock the newsstand in atheist Heaven?

Comments

6 Responses to “Speaking Ill”

  1. Jennifer
    May 16th, 2007 @ 7:04 pm

    Cartoons aren’t usually created for individuals that aren’t being mocked. Certainly there were plenty of articles that cast him in a positive light.

    However, to rage against him after he is dead suggests that you think he might be listening.

  2. The Exterminator
    May 16th, 2007 @ 8:18 pm

    I’m not convinced the cartoon genre requires portraying the departed in either heaven or hell. For instance, how about the following (admittedly nasty) idea for a cartoon:

    [picture: Six men: A Taliban type, an explosives-laden jihadist, a Spanish Inquisitor, a Salem witch-hunter, a hooded KKK-er, and a jackbooted Nazi. All are waving straight ahead, as if posing for a photo.]
    [caption: Bye, Jerry. We'll miss you.]

  3. PhalsePhrophet
    May 16th, 2007 @ 8:31 pm

    I never killed a man, but I’ve read many an obituary with pleasure.

  4. "Q" the Enchanter
    May 18th, 2007 @ 10:54 am

    The imperative not to speak ill of the dead is obviously a nonstarter. Indeed, there is a whole class of dead persons of whom it would be ill to speak otherwise: Jim Jones, Idi Amin, Stalin, Mother Theresa, Bob Hope, and so forth. Whether Falwell belongs to this class is an open question (well, not really), but the notion that the question is mooted by concerns of etiquette is preposterous.

  5. "Q" the Enchanter
    May 18th, 2007 @ 10:54 am

    The imperative not to speak ill of the dead is obviously a nonstarter. Indeed, there is a whole class of dead persons of whom it would be ill to speak otherwise: Jim Jones, Idi Amin, Stalin, Mother Theresa, Bob Hope, and so forth. Whether Falwell belongs to this class is an open question (well, not really), but the notion that the question is mooted by concerns of etiquette is preposterous.

  6. Andy Holland
    May 21st, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

    Tried but true:

    “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

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