No Caption Needed is a book and a blog, each dedicated to discussion of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in a vital democratic society. No caption needed, but many are provided. . . .

June 16th, 2013

Sight Gag: China, Land of Individual Freedom

Posted by Lucaites in sight gags

crgva130614Credit: Gary Varvel

Sight Gag is our weekly nod to the ironic, satiric, parodic, and carnivalesque performances that are an important part of a vibrant democratic public culture.  These “gags” may not always be funny or represent a familiar point of view, but they attempt to cut through the lies, hypocrisy, shamelessness, stupidity, complacency, and other vices of democratic life.  Of course, we invite you to comment … and to send us images that you think might deserve a laugh or at least a wry and rueful look by those who are thinking about the character of public life today.


2 Responses to ' Sight Gag: China, Land of Individual Freedom '

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  1. stevelaudig said,

    on June 16th, 2013 at 3:24 am

    Varvel is a simple-minded, right-wing hack, who worships at the altar of “Americanism”. A modern no-nothing. If he’s ever had an amusing, insightful, editorial cartoon, I must have missed it.

  2. lucaites said,

    on June 17th, 2013 at 4:03 am

    Steve: Thanks for writing. I live in Indianapolis, the home of the Indianapolis Star and the newspaper for which Gary Varvel works. I get a pretty heavy dose of Varvel on a regular basis and in general I agree with your assessments. That said, a few things should be noted: 1. NCN began as a book by the same name and the focus there was on “iconic” photographs, and one of our chapters focused on the “Tiananmen Square” photograph that Varvel appropriates in this cartoon. Our argument there is that one of the very important features of such images is how they get used across the political spectrum and our goal here at the blog is to mark such usages wherever and whenever we find them, right wing hacks or left wing scolds. 2. This particular image is interesting in this regard as it is among the least progressive of those images we typically think of as the chief markers of American political culture as it represents a high modernist aesthetic that resists the “democratic” implications of a liberal-democratic public culture. You can to to the book for the full argument, but we lay it out briefly in the link below. And note here in particular how the image is appreciatively appropriated by a commercial culture that we would certainly not consider to be progressive (even if we would not go so far as to characterize it as totalitarian). So in an important sense — and perhaps contrary to his intentions — Varvel sort of gets this one right.

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