Mark Knight's cartoon has created plenty of interest around the world.
Mark Knight's cartoon has created plenty of interest around the world. Mark Knight: Herald Sun

'I wish I'd drawn that, now I'm having second thoughts!'

MARK Knight is a great cartoonist, one of the very best in Australia.

He has deservedly won many awards.

And though I've never met him I regularly vote for him in the Australian Cartoonist Association's annual awards.

His work is beautifully drawn, insightful and most importantly funny.

When I first saw his cartoon about Serena Williams, I thought "Jeez , that's funny. I wish I'd drawn that!"

Now I'm having second thoughts.

Not because it's any less funny but because of the vitriolic media storm that has brewed up around it.

That isn't funny.

I originally saw the cartoon on Mark's Facebook page.

What I saw was a caricatured drawing of Serena Williams depicted as a big baby, mouth wide open, throwing a huge tantrum, dummy spit and all.

Unfortunately not everybody saw it that way.

Many saw the cartoon as not only an insult to African-Americans but Haitian-Japanese as well.

Some have used examples of 100 year old "Sambo" cartoons to prove their point.

I didn't notice this before but I also lack the cultural and historic frame of reference to be totally aware of the similarities.

What they saw I didn't see and vice versa.

It often comes down to the point of view.

Depending on your vantage point your perspective changes.

The more worrying element to all this is the volume of the response.

Where Spinal Tap turned it up to 11, social media turns it up to a thousand.

These maybe politically correct times where people are more sensitive and easily offended.

But we also live in an age when the flames of offence can be more easily stoked.

Extremes of opinion become even more extreme as people clamour to be noticed.

A thrown match becomes a raging bushfire under the magnifying glass of social media.

Mark usually gets a dozen or so responses to his work on Twitter or Facebook.

This cartoon attracted over 70,000 before the accounts were closed.

Most of these came from America, from people who would normally never see Mark's work.

These are people who actively went out of their way to be offended.

They didn't just cross the street to confront the cartoonist, they crossed the globe.

And social media made it easy.

In the past I have drawn cartoons that unintentionally caused offence and I'll probably draw more in the future.

When you mean to criticise because you see something that deserves derision, it can be very satisfying.

But when you draw something that offends and you didn't mean to, you feel terrible.

I try to be careful but sometimes what you do has unintended consequences.

Some years ago one of my cartoons upset Michelle Landry to the extent, I'm told, it made her cry.

I felt awful about that.

She saw something in the cartoon I honestly didn't mean.

She saw something I didn't.

Once again it comes down to perspective.

Sometimes you have to have eyes in the back of your head as you tip toe through a minefield.

A lot of my work reflects local issues and concerns.

Being based on North and Central Queensland, over the years I've drawn a lot of crocodiles ... and you don't want them angry with you.



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