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Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Bunch of Boobs at "The Nation"

Have you seen the cartoon by Robert Grossman in "The Nation" that's raising the ire of gay activists and allies everywhere? Titled "Babe Lincoln," it depicts the former president in a shapely woman's body, high heels and bustier. Below, trying-hard-to-be-clever copy reads: "Newly discovered daguerreotype lends support to theory in recent book that the sixteenth president was gay. Log Cabin Republicans take note."

I heard about the controversy and really wanted to say it was much ado about nothing -- such as when fundies got up in arms about Spongebob Squarepants because they think that's a positive portrayal of gay people. I wanted to repeat my mantra from this past week: "It's a CARTOON." But when I actually saw this cartoon, I saw the nuance for myself.

If I reason it out long and hard enough (unfortunately), I can at least fathom how the religious extremists can make such an "intellectual" jump regarding Spongebob. Although their creator says his characters are asexual, their names are "Bob" and "Patrick" -- typically masculine names. And they do hold hands as much as, say, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston used to. So, for people who haven't had much education beyond high school, it might look as though they are sexing it up.

However, this Lincoln cartoon defies rationalization. I just don't get it. The copy does not seem to refer to the illustration at all. How does Lincoln morphing form from one sex to the other make him or qualify him as gay? Even our most cruel and/or historic stereotypes about gay people don't posit that men grow breasts when they "come out." This cartoon is simply asinine -- and sub-standard.

Still, try as hard as I might, I really can't get too overworked about this. It really is just a cartoon, after all. I trust that smart people are able to reject it as inherently poor just as I have. However, I am profoundly disappointed to find such poor work in a typically excellent, usually smart publication such as "The Nation." The editorial staff over there, I would suppose, have enjoyed being a moral conscience, most recently challenging the Bush-backers and religious fundamentalists. I suspect they've lost a good amount of that prerogative now.


The Nation's 'Babe Lincoln Controversy Continues...


If the outrage continues to mount against The Nation 's decision to publish a gay-offensive cartoon by Robert Grossman, it's the magazine's own fault. Among the heartfelt letters of protest to the magazine was one from John Berendt, the former editor of New York Magazine and author of the best-selling Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, who wrote:

"I'm sure I'm not the only person who finds your Abe Lincoln cartoon deeply and painfully insulting. What you mistake for humor is nothing more than virulent and blatant homophobic garbage, utterly unworthy of the 140-year-old magazine entrusted to your care. It's this kind of ignorant stereotyping that fuels and perpetuates hatred, disgust and violence against homosexuals. I'm embarrassed for you."


See the cartoon -- and read more pithy critiques -- on Direland, Doug Ireland's web site. Find it here --> http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2005/01/the_nations_bab.html

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