Drugs to Death in a Political Cartoon: An Oversimplification?
As the more stable counterpart to an inconsistent southern neighbor, the United States has always had a suspicious outlook towards Mexico. In recent years, the boost in illegal immigration, the unstable economies in both countries and the issues resulting from drug use and trade have added tension to the already strained relationship. Blame flows and lands on various subjects: each government, drug cartels, drug users, and more. In the October 2009 political cartoon posted by David Kurtzman¹ , various angles are used to portray the cartoonist’s opinion that blame should be limited to one party: the drug cartels. Through the use of color, stereotypes, and the pathos connected with images of death, the cartoonist blames the violent Latin American drug cartels for Mexico’s problems and spoils the legitimacy of the attempts of the Mexican government, as represented by the stiff piñata, to solve the drug issue. In the cartoon, the drug cartels are represented by the photo at the top, with a dark black shirt and a menacing face and stance. The color scheme, as compared to the bright piñata and the white, light skulls, makes the drug cartels an image of havoc and danger. The sheer physical size of the figure also warps the responsibility of these cartels for the ruin of Mexico. The cartoon ignores the presence of the approximately 25 million people in the United States who are heavy drug users and it created a market for the products of the drug cartels (ex. Marijuana and Cocaine ), instead perhaps weaking the situation to act like the drug problem as a one-sided, clear, and violent issue². The pathos involved with this overblown portrayal uses the scare tactic; the audience’s fear of the dark colors and frightening male figure assist the cartoonist’s objective of pointing the finger at the drug cartels for the violence in Mexico. The color scheme and setup of the background for the cartoon are also key choices on the part of the cartoonist. The landscape is bare with the exception of dead and gutted tree, two weak cacti, and the dry ground. Even the sky is grim; the clouds hanging over the cartel figure and the colors are hazy and smoky, as if rising from the dusty ground. The fruitlessness of the landscape and the obvious lack of rich natural resources taking place at the same time as the drug cartel’s blows of the piñata lend many negative undertones and associations to the drug cartel, affecting in Mexico’s issues. Young 3 With the dry landscape and the drug cartels identifies that the parallel does not necessarily imply causation. Kurtzman obviously placed the drug cartel figure may appear to be at fault for of the piñata figure and the environment of the political cartoon, in reality there is no evidence provided that places all blame on the cartels. Also, the blame on the drug cartels for the problems and violence in Mexico, distroyed
the power of the Mexican government to uphold the capability of the cartels. The irony
identified with “Mexico,” is the piñata, is the most obvious effect of the Mexican government
against the drug cartels. The piñata is tied to a tree. It just hangs there as if it cannot control its
own actions or defenses. Its face is blank and that of a donkey, a dumb, frail animal seen in the
face of the cartel figure. This void seems wrong due to the tiny skulls are pouring out of the
figure, there is brutality, but no emotion was shown. The lack of a typical mask on the drug
cartel figure’s face has spiteful overtones. The idea of the destruction is an easy pursuit for the
cartels to further attempt to impress the audience to see the faults of the drug cartels in
relationship to the oversight of the government in Mexico.
The vacant gaze of the piñata is emulated by the blankness of the...
Cited: ¹Kurtzman, Daniel. "Mexican Piñata - Drug War Cartoon." Political Humor: Jokes, Satires and Political Cartoons Web. 05 October 2009.
²Drug use in the United States percentages from the Center for Disease Control Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/FASTATS/druguse.htm
Population of the US as of June 2008, from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Alfano, Christine L. and Alyssa J. O’Brien Envision: Writing and Researching Arguments. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2008. Print.
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