The Morning Line: When Frazz Razzes Rockwell
During his life, Norman Rockwell's name was rarely associated with controversy, and most of the debate since has centered on whether the Art World should recognize him as an "artist" and not just a mere illustrator. But it is refreshing to see today's "Frazz" dig in a little bit and offer a viewpoint on Rockwell that has some controversial grit.
Rockwell's fictional world, of course, was as whitewashed as a Tom Sawyer fence. Even as late as the '50s, when Rockwell painted faces, he seemed to most often break out the brown tints to depict service workers and wait staff. It is worth noting, though, that he created some notably integrated paintings in the '60s. In 1961, he painted the pan-ethnic, continent-spanning work "The Golden Rule." And more strikingly, in 1964 he painted his take on school integration for Look magazine, titled "The Problem We All Live With." The innocence of a pristinely dressed young African American girl is contrasted with the faceless U.S. marshals and the violence of blood-red tomato stains on a wall, which also bears a racist slur. By this point, even Rockwell was depicting reality.
"Frazz" does a nice cartoon interpretation of Rockwell's 1958 painting "The Runaway," right down to the menu board. Interestingly, though, Jef Mallett transposes the two figures -- probably to fit the technical flow of his word-balloons. And the statement here is pointed enough that the punchline doesn't have to carry the weight, but rather functions as a grace note -- with the reference to the black-and-white band Gnarls Barkley serving as an extra touch.
Whatever we can say to encourage more strips like this, Mr. Mallett, just say the word.
SIDENOTE: Can't help but notice: When's the last time Virginia Sen. Jim Webb received a Sunday-cartoon shoutout? But we focus on this comic because the Internet is demonized with one heckuva broad-brush here (political supporters of every stripe are old hands at dispensing misinformation and spin on the Internet). That said: Could this yammering emblem of the Internet be any more foul or grotesque?
What say you? Do any of the Sunday funnies make you want to bust a gut, or vent a spleen?
| August 3, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: The Morning Line
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