Sometimes a cartoon will say more than words; this is such a cartoon, these are some times!
Theresa May represents Britain and a set of values that are well know if not well articulated. In recent blogs I have been looking for the right reaction to the new American President. He cannot be ignored but he cannot be adored; I come back to Nigel Farage’s formulation
An imperfect candidate but a necessary agent of change.
I watched the Obamas deal with Trump at Trump’s inauguration and I’ve listened to Leslie Griffiths in the pulpit of the Wesleyan Chapel. For May to be screwed over (as the cartoon suggests), there would needs be an abnegation of all moral responsibility, an abandonment of the aforementioned set of values. This is a test of May as it is a test of Trump, she has shown she can manager her ego, he has not shown he can control his narcissim.
The most shocking thing about the cartoon is its depiction of the point of entry, the shoes tell us it is all wrong. I was at the opening of the White Devil at the Sam Wannamaker last night, it reminded me that the violation of women is intrinsically linked with male power.
There is ample precedent (Gilray and John Webster included) for presuming that May is ripe for the taking. But I am not sure about this assumption. Trump is clearly chauvinistic if not misogynistic, this photo compares the way a gentleman and a chauvinist behaves.
Why Bell’s cartoon is so good, is it incite outrage, not just in its subject matter, but in our own reaction to it. Do we applaud the cartoon, or do we denounce it? Comment on the Guardian website seems to be split.
Brecht claimed comedy should make you laugh in church. Both Gilray and Trump are working at the edge of decency, asking us to consider a bigger picture that will appeal to the salacious and appal the prude. That most of us are both drawn to and repelled by the image, reflects the prurient reaction to Trump. He is both fascinating and revolting.
We demand more from our Prime Minister than such a shallow reaction. Like the Obamas, she must preserve the decency of the “other”, of the world not desecrated by Trump’s lascivious , carnal behaviour.
May must find a way to sidestep Trump and talk with America. My fear, and the cartoon articulates that fear brilliantly, is that May will be forced to adopt the wrong position.
My hope is that Steve Bell has painted an imagining so impossible that it asks us the question “what are you thinking?”.
That most of us will find Bell’s cartoon frightening and funny at the same time, says much about our value sets. Let he who is without sin…
Should we be proud that our Prime Minister is front of the queue? Or furious? Whatever the photographs of the two together show us tomorrow morning, we will not know May’s position – for she is discrete.
But I would much rather she was in that conversation than her predecessor, and that’s not a jab at all male British public schools.