Satire or bias? Controversy over ‘Doonesbury,’ firing over Lalo Alcaraz comic

Mar 16, 2012

Garry Trudeau

“Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau smiles as he enters a classroom to speak to students at the Center for Comic Studies in White River Junction, Vt., Monday, Oct. 22, 2007. Credit: Toby Talbot/AP

Satire has been a part of American discourse for ages, from controversial skits about the Vietnam War during “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in the 1960s to Jon Stewart’s politically tongue-in-cheek “The Daily Show.”

Recently, two different comic strips have come under fire for straddling that fuzzy line between satire and appropriateness, showcasing issues of free speech and censorship. Dennis Wilen, former editor of the AOL site for Brentwood, revealed in a blog this week he had been fired last spring after posting a cartoon by nationally syndicated “La Cucaracha” comic strip artist Lalo Alcaraz satirizing Cinco de Mayo attitudes in the ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood. Wilen claimed higher-ups said the cartoon was racist.

Also this week, newspapers and websites across the country, including the Los Angeles Times, decided to print a series of controversial “Doonesbury” comic strips on the opinion page rather than the comics section because they were considered too over-the-top. The six-day arc lampoons abortion politics, depicting a young woman at an abortion clinic being called a “slut” by a male legislator.


What’s the line between satire, bias and the right to mock? Or not? Are Americans too sensitive to satire?


Lalo Alcaraz, “jefe-in-chief” of the recently-launched; creator of the first nationally-syndicated, politically-themed Latino daily comic strip, “La Cucaracha”; and host of the “Pocho Hour of Power” on KPFK. He is also a professor at the Otis College of Art and Design

Ted Gournelos, author and assistant professor of critical media and cultural studies at Rollins College in Florida, and co-editor of the 2011 book “A Decade of Dark Humor: How Comedy, Irony, and Satire Shaped Post-9/11 America”

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