New Yorker cartoon: the pagan version of blackface


Have we not come very far, or have we gone backward? This cartoon, by Danny Shanahan, appears in the Sept. 24, 2012 issue of the New Yorker.

I was under the impression that society had, to some extent, moved beyond the idea of witches and Wiccans as old, green, scary hags. Yes, the Halloween “witch” lives on — but as a relic of the imagination, not as a representation of a modern-day faith. After all, we’ve had Samantha, Phoebe, Piper, and Prue, and many other portrayals of witches and Wiccans, right? Yes, they were sensationalized and inaccurate, but at least these witches were shown to be powerful, respectful, and human.

The Sept. 24 issue of the New Yorker had a big section devoted to cartoons, especially political cartoons. This one, in particular, is shocking. It’s true that Wiccans adopted the “Yes, Wiccan” phrase — a pun on Obama’s 2008 “Yes, We Can” slogan — and put it on posters, t-shirts, and bumper stickers (though some items murkily seemed to show support for candidate Christine O’Donnell, who claimed she “dabbled in witchcraft.”)

But none of those campaign puns depicted witches like this — undead-looking skin, hands resembling claws, pointy hat, long nose, warts. This is the pagan equivalent of blackface, and it shouldn’t be running in any publication — particularly not one of the New Yorker’s standing.

Over at the Racism School site, they explain some of the reasons blackface is wrong:

* Started at a time when Black people were considered “Less than human”
* Shows Black people have no and deserve no dignity
* Used to de-humanize, belittle and make fun of those that are “Less than”
* Caused (and continues to cause) pain to Black people
* Made black people into caricatures (not human, a symbol to belittle)

Despite the changing face of Wicca in popular culture, it’s certainly not out of the woods, politically or socially. Wicca, as a religion, is still considered less than, or dangerous; its members are targets for moral panics; and the Catholic Church still publishes screeds against Wicca.

As a society, we still need to move forward. With this cartoon, the New Yorker isn’t helping.

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13 responses to “New Yorker cartoon: the pagan version of blackface

  1. Wow… that’s just so wrong it’s difficult to know where to begin.

    • Fairly sure the above comment deserves deleting.

      • Well, I agree that it isn’t very eloquently expressed, but that person has a right to his/her opinion, and I don’t censor comments just because I don’t agree with them.

      • That is fair. It just seemed to me that the person is not contributing in any coherent way to the discussion, for or against, and seems to have created an account to comment with the explicit purpose of saying those two words. To me it feels like a simple act of hate speech, but I respect your position on the matter.

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  3. I am Wiccan and find the comic funny. Also if it had a pilgrim and said Yes Christian I’d find that funny too.

    • Thanks! Out of curiosity, what makes it funny, for you?

      • I find it funny for two reasons.

        1. It’s like laughing at yourself or just stereotypical humor. Such as jokes about all mexicans being wetbacks or all mormons being polygamists and all americans are gun touting rednecks. It’s literately laughing at the absurdity of stereotypes.

        2. I also belive people need to be able to laugh at themselves and/or take things that are offensive and claim it as their own. Like you can’t keep the homo sexual community down because if you call them gay or queer they take the word and use it. Even though the words once ment something else.

        So if I get offended by this image I just support more hate and arguments or I can say, “haha yes Halloween is our holiday so I hope you have some premium brooms in stock or I’ll put a hex on, JK!”

        On a side note I believe the right to parody and jest is a part of freedom of speech and no one is protected from it. So long as it is not blatant slander and or threats or calls for threats.

        It’s not like this picture said Wiccans are the reason behind all missing children cases so lets round em up and burn em. This is just “hehe look I drew a witch who likes an internet meme.”

      • That makes sense. It’s always good to be able to laugh at yourself!

  4. Would you leave a comment up if the poster identified himself by the moniker, “FuckJudaism” or “FuckIslam?” Just curious.

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