Serena Williams Controversial Caricature: a racist representation?

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My own response:

Others comments:

  • I can understand why some people believe this caricature is a reasonable satirical criticism of Serena’s unprofessional behaviour on the court. However, I think that it can be interpreted as highly offensive because there is a long history of racist comparisons of black people to animals- such as monkeys or apes, which this caricature does exaggerate and portray to an extent (the large arms in comparison to the body, the stomping / animalistic behaviour, the huge facial features). The context and history of racism, especially in America makes it so controversial despite the artists intentions. I think what also could enable viewers to think this is racist is that the picture contains two other white/light skinned characters in background which are drawn normally. Their lack of exaggeration to their physical features serves to portray them as rational or normal. Furthermore, the detail of the pacifier and the dialogue “can you just let her win?” could be interpreted that Serena acts as a baby – infantilising or giving her an animalistic quality – and perpetuates the stereotype of bad behaviour from dark skinned athletes or that women are overly emotional.I think the nature of caricature is that it has an inherently exaggerative quality – when it is applied to exaggerating a feature associated with racial discrimination it can be considered offensive. Context is is important so if not known, this might not be recognised as racist at all.
  • I believe that the caricature at the heart of this controversy is a reasonable satirical criticism of Serena’s unprofessional behaviour on the court (as one of the most influential players in the world). However, the racial issue being talked about in the article does not rise with the depiction of Serena’s exaggerated African features but with the blonde hair drawn for Osaka since it sends a different message: that the white have the upper hand and overpower the black people. Perhaps if the cartoonist had remained factually correct, this cartoon wouldn’t have sparked such controversy.

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