IS THIS OFFENSIVE? 'Mother Goose & Grimm' goes to Chernobyl
Hyperbole, of course, is one of the primary arrows in the satirist's quiver. Sometimes it takes the absurdly rendered view to restore clarity to an issue.
That certainly seemed to be Mike Peters's approach last week when two of his "Mother Goose & Grimm" characters (Grimm and Attila) went wandering around the opening of a would-be Chernobyl amusement park. The strip's weeklong series on gags pivoted on the effects of radiation a quarter-century after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine had a catastrophic meltdown. (Estimates vary widely on how many deaths to attribute to the fallout, from dozens to thousands.)
Last week, however, Binghamton, N.Y., resident and local radio host Daniel Jan Walikis wrote to the Press & Sun Bulletin to object to the cartoons.
Wrote Walikis: "Mike Peters has exponentially exceeded the boundaries of what is acceptable to all persons of Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American origin. To poke fun at and make light of the victims and the continuous suffering as a result of the world's worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986, is entirely unacceptable and goes far beyond the pale."
In seeking an apology for Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans, he continues: "There is absolutely no comedy and fun in the pain, suffering and the agonizing death of thousands of people in Ukraine and Belarus since 1986."
On Monday, Peters defended the week of strips.
In a letter that Peters sent to the editor of the Press Sun & Bulletin Press Sun & Bulletin (and which he also sent to Comic Riffs), the cartoonist writes: "I did these strips because I was outraged that the government of Ukraine was asking tourists to come to Chernobyl for vacation. When a nuclear power plant implodes like Chernobyl, it takes a lot more than 30 years (maybe 300) to become safe enough to bring kids.
"I was hoping that the strips would interest my readers enough to talk about it and learn that this story is true. ... It's hard to make these things up."
In December, CNN reported that Ukraine "will lift restrictions on tourism in the zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 2011, formally opening the scene of the world's worst nuclear accident to visitors."
Peters won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1981 and launched "Mother Goose & Grimm" in 1984.
Two years ago, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation objected to a "Mother Goose & Grimm" strip that invoked the character Juan Valdez. At the time, Peters shared his reaction with Comic Riffs, saying: "I am totally amazed at this. I'm an editorial cartoonist. I expect bad things from my editorial cartoons, not from my comic strip."
What do you think -- do you find the strips offensive? You can view the week's worth of strips right here.
| February 15, 2011; 1:30 PM ET
Categories: The Comic Strip | Tags: Mike Peters, Mother Goose & Grimm
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