In today's episode we discuss the French satirical journal Charlie Hebdo, whose offices in Paris were attacked on January 7th, 2015. Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy, having produced cartoons that have invited criticism and even violent action for years. In its images, we can see the continuation of a long tradition of French satire, the characteristics of which we focus on in the episode.
Check out the Slideshow below for the images we mention; note that these images can be considered controversial, and also may be inappropriate for some younger readers. Scroll down further for our Postscript (stuff that didn't make it into the episode), in which Sarah and Tina discuss the cartoonist Thomas Nast. At the bottom of the page, you'll find Links to other sites for more information and News Updates on the recent events surrounding Charlie Hebdo.
Sarah: Another great example of the political power of visual satire is that of the cartoonist Thomas Nast, who lampooned the notorious nineteenth-century political leader William Marcy Tweed (also known as Boss Tweed). Thomas Nast produced really biting caricatures of Tweed, who was more enraged by these images than by any editorial material that was written about him. Tweed knew that many of his constituents (who were by-and-large poor immigrants) were illiterate or couldn't read English, but they could understand a caricature. The point is that the message is put across in very clear visual terms––such that, even if you can't read, you can get that message.
Tina: One of the ways that these cartoonists achieve a visual economy is by picking up on one or two salient features of the person––and, of course, these are never flattering. In the case of Boss Tweed, he was a very large man, and Nast's caricatures of Tweed always emphasized how rotund he was. Now, Thomas Nast was an American drawing for publications like the New York Times, but his images actually circulated in Europe and were famous there as well, connecting him to the French tradition of the "portraits-charge."
Olivier Tonneau, On Charlie Hebdo: A Letter to my British Friends, Mediapart
Richard Seymour, On Charlie Hebdo, Jacobin
Sarah Seltzer, Understanding 'Charlie Hebdo' in the Context of French Society: A Reading List, Flavorwire
Robert Zaretsky, 'Charlie Hebdo', Houellebecq, and France's Pungent Satirical Tradition, The Chronicle of Higher Education
Adam Gopnnik, The Next Thing: Michel Houellebecq's Francophobic Satire, The New Yorker
George Packer, The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders, The New Yorker
Seven Questions My American Friends Ask About the Charlie Hebdo Shootings
Carolina A. Miranda, Ridiculing of Leaders Through Satire Has a Long History, LA Times
Understanding Charlie Hebdo Cartoons
Seth Ackerman, Community Standards, Jacobin
Jerry Saltz, Iconoclasm Now: Charlie Hebdo and the Lethal Power of Art, Vulture
Joe Sacco, On Satire - A Response to the Charlie Hebdo Attacks, The Guardian
Jason Farago, Image Conscious, Artforum
Teju Cole, Unmournable Bodies, The New Yorker
Camille Robcis, The Limits of Republicanism, Jacobin
Justin Smith, Why Satire Matters, The Chronicle of Higher Education
Garry Trudeau, The Abuse of Satire, The Atlantic
Jan. 7: The Attack on Charlie Hebdo, The New Yorker
Jan. 12: Charlie Hebdo Attacks, CNN
Jan. 14: Charlie Hebdo Attack: Three Days of Terror, BBC News
Jan. 14: Voltaire Portrait Rehung at Versailles After Paris Shootings, Bouin Artinfo
Jan. 31: Shots Fired at Kabul Protest Against French Newspaper, The New York Times
Jan. 31: Charlie Hebdo Delays Publication of Upcoming Issue, Citing Grief, Fatigue, Yahoo News