Student Newspaper Cartoon Mixes Sex, Haiti, Controversy

It comes in threes. The Independent Florida Alligator at the University of Florida is apologizing for the recent publication of a sexually-themed cartoon caricaturing the world’s Haiti charity fervor. It is the third high-profile cartoon controversy within collegemediatopia in about a week.

For Notre Dame’s Observer, it was charges of blatant gay bashing. For Delta’s Collegiate, it was questions of implicit possible racism. For the Alligator, the criticisms seem to focus on two main elements: poking fun at an issue related to an uber-tragedy still in progress and delivering that poke in a manner seen as overly vulgar, given the seriousness of the event at its core. Or more simply: sex, satire, and Haiti, too soon to stir that pot.

The cartoon stirring high emotions is a simply-drawn single-framed shot of a man and woman engaged in passionate sexual intercourse- the woman multi-tasking at the man’s urging by texting the Red Cross ostensibly to offer a donation toward Haiti relief efforts. This seems to up their arousal, with the man excitedly shouting from between her legs, “Yeah Baby! Text Haiti to 90999.”

In a statement titled “Haiti Cartoon Not Meant to Offend,” the paper’s editorial board insisted on the cartoon’s relevance and pure intentions, while apologizing “if the execution fell a little flat.” As part of the statement read, “We were simply trying to show how people have come together to help the Haitians in their time of need, as we do when we publish stories about the relief efforts of students- only with the cartoon, we were giving it a humorous spin. We understand that Haitians are dealing with a horrible tragedy, and we would never want to treat the situation insensitively. But despite the heartbreak, we see beauty in the way the world is coming together to help Haitians. Our cartoon was simply an acknowledgment of the fact that people are joining together to get behind a cause.”

The cartoon is part of the Alligator‘s prominent sexToon series, a regular feature in the paper displaying cartoons mixing sexual innuendo with a deeper editorial message. The series has apparently been at the center of a larger set of critiques (and even what the paper refers to as bullying) about its explicitness, making the current offering simply more fuel for their opponents’ ire. While vowing that sexToons would not be eliminated, the paper admirably requests reader comments about the most recent ‘toon, noting “We want feedback, and we want to learn. . . . Lay it on us.”

My take: Maybe a bit overboard, but intercourse aside, the passion angle is appreciated. The recent George Clooney-thon of course was basically unmatched in scope and donation strength. A friend in Chicago told me yesterday he has never seen employees at his large company so eager to pitch in to a cause. Another acquaintance who works at a health clinic mentioned to me via e-mail that she believes this is the first time she and other members of the teen and twentysomething generation have ever given en masse to charity.

Simply put, the world has absolutely reached a “Yeah Baby!” level of satisfaction about doing its part to ease the suffering of the Haitian people. To me, that is the cartoon’s message- timely, thought-provoking, and true. And yes, the sex on display is a bit much, but regular Alligator readers at least have no excuse for being surprised. It is called a sexToon after all.

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  1. […] depicting a man and woman having sex while texting their donation to the American Red Cross (link goes to the cartoon, NSFW). When deciding to run that cartoon, we in no way wanted to make light of the situation that […]