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Nothing unusual about giving PM ‘big nose’

Jun 26th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News, Uncategorized


EXAGGERATED FEATURES: Barak Obama by Steve Bell, Guardian.

CARTOON historian John Harvey says there’s nothing unusual about cartoonists fixing on one feature of a politician, and using it constantly.

“Whether it’s the nose, eyebrows, beer gut, big ears, long hair or whatever, in fact, it is a common device,” says Mr Harvey, formerly editor of the Manawatu Standard and now the Parliamentary press secretary for Labour deputy leader Annette King.

The president of Wellington’s Jewish community says the portrayal of John Key’s enlarged nose in a recent Tom Scott cartoon caused offence.


GEORGE BUSH by Steve Bell.

“Much though I generally respect David’s (Mr Zwartz) forthright and strongly-held views, he has got it wrong this time,” says Mr Harvey.

The depiction is not offensive, though there is no doubt victims can be offended, he says.

“Cartoonists are capable of quite deliberate and devastating cruelty, though more often the best ones are acerbic and very funny about the political condition.”

Good examples (of relevant cartoonists) are the London Guardian’s Steve Bell, the caricaturist Gerald Scarfe, and New Zealand-born David Low’s Colonel Blimp cartoons between the world wars.



“Steve Bell’s big-eared Barack Obama and George Bush are hardly flattering images, but they fade into insignificance alongside his images day after day during the 1990s of hapless former UK Tory Prime Minister John Major wearing his underpants outside his trousers.”

Mr Harvey says historically there may be cases of politicians being portrayed with accentuated features relating to their religious beliefs, but they would be few and far between in the free press.

“He appears in cartoons as John Key the PM, not as a religious figure,” he says.

As an historian, Mr Harvey says a century ago cartoons or drawings might be the only illustration appearing in a newspaper, but now cartoonists must share their little space with a myriad of photographic and electronic images, which makes their job harder.

“But cartoonists still stamp their own instantly-recognisable image upon the ‘victim’ through long noses or big ears.

“It is nice to believe, as I do, that one as consistently brilliant as Tom Scott can still make an impact every day his work appears.”


HELL'S BELL: How the cartoonist once depicted John Major.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student, who enjoys crafting a good story.
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