Matt Comer

Cagle syndicates tasteless, offensive 'Don't Ask' cartoons following historic repeal signing

Filed By Matt Comer | December 27, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Cagle Cartoons, Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal, MSNBC

A friend of mine still living in Winston-Salem, N.C., pointed my direction to a handful of ill-conceived, tasteless and offensive political cartoons syndicated by Cagle Cartoons and published by The Winston-Salem Journal following Wednesday's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal signing.

Perhaps the worst of the three political cartoons is Brian Fairrington's which pictures a flag-draped coffin and a newspaper lying side-by-side. The paper's headline reads, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repealed," while a comment bubble over the coffin says, "You Go Girl!" The cartoon, in one fell swoop, manages to not only make light of the sacrifices of lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers but also each and every American who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their nation.

Though the flag-draped coffin is the worst, the other two are just as tasteless. Again, they make light of the service of lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers and the personal and public sacrifices they've had to make to serve this nation especially in this time of war. Mike Lester's cartoon, picturing an older man imagining the worst possible "queering" of the military, serves only to perpetuate the exact prejudices and bigotry that made "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" possible and kept it in place for 17 years. The same is true of Daryl Cagle's cartoon, picturing not a valiant and respectable gay servicemember but rather a servicemember "flaunting" his sexuality along with his service awards.

Gay and lesbian members of the U.S. Armed Forces are disrespected in these cartoons. Their tireless service on behalf of our freedoms and safety, along with that of their heterosexual colleagues, is reduced to serving as punch lines of insensitive jokes.

The cartoons are below, after the jump. Two were published on the Journal's site and one published in the paper on Dec. 23, 2010. Links to each cartoon on Cagle's site are provided as well.

Artist: Brian Fairrington. On Cagle: link

Artist: Mike Lester. On Cagle: link

Artist: Daryl Cagle. On Cagle: link

Cross-posted from

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

When I saw the phrase "flag-draped coffin," I thought you were offended by this cartoon, which I loved. But no, the coffin cartoon you're talking about is very different. Frankly, I can't even understand what he's trying to say. I guess that our fight for equal rights is stupid and superficial when REAL soldiers are dying? Or what?

The last one, I don't find so offensive. I think it does depict a valiant, respectable gay servicemember: he's earned all kinds of medals, including one for bravery. And now he can talk about his boyfriend with as much pride as he talks about those achievements. To me, it seems pro-repeal, but maybe I'm giving the cartoonist too much credit.

The one in the middle, of course, is just pure homophobia.

I'm just glad I'm not the only one that didn't get the first one. It doesn't make any sense to me at all.
The other two, however, make perfect sense and are completely despicable.

….i was in the military. During my 20 years I did a lot of things.
Including move body bags. Filled body bags. Not my normal job, we just happened to be in there and then.
Moving bags is boring, after a while its just shifting cargo. When I get bored I’ll read anything.
Mfr: Gxxxxxxx
Date of Mfr: 1973
Lot: B
We were curious who made them.
Then we were curious as to how old they were.
And why they had a date of manufacture on them.
The smell of ‘new tires’ and something else hung heavy in the air.
The waxy feel of the straps and the bags slippery in my hands…
Bodybags have a shelf life, that’s why they print the date on them.
They dry rot, they become brittle, they fail.
“Mfr: Gxxxxxxx
Date of Mfr: 1973
Lot: B”
Failed with a rip along the bottom dumping the contents on to the tarmac.
That was on the last body bag I moved that day.
In death, you can not tell if someone is Gay or Straight, Cis-gender or Transgender.
Not when they’ve been blown up.
But you can still see that they wear a uniform.
They stood when other ran.
They were brave to the end.
…and they rested under a flag draped coffin.

I don't get the first one.

The third one is kinda sweet, actually.

And then there's the second one . . .

The first one I think is powerful, trenchant, and quite moving. The other two are stupid (though "All Jazz Hands on Deck" is pretty funny).

I don't get the first one. I took it to mean that dead gay soldiers are happy that DADT was finally repealed, which doesn't make much sense.

I took it to mean something more along the lines of, "We won. DADT was repealed. But now I'm dead. Some victory."

Actually, I think the flag-draped coffin might be making the same point that Evan Bayh so aptly made in his pro-repeal Senate speech: That because of DADT and before, there are among our military dead gay men (and women) that we don't know about. I don't find that point at all offensive, although the message via the cartoon is not as clear as one might hope.

I agree the middle one merely makes fun of the idea -- on the other hand, it is hardly any worse than many of the jokes made in late night monologues on TV.

There really isn't anything wrong with the last one ... it just shows that ol' time military traditionalists have yet something else new to get used to.

I tend to give them all the benefit of the doubt. We have enough real enemies -- we don't need to go 'round being offended at things when our straight allies innocently prove themselves to be a bit awkward or not entirely in tune.

An after-thought: Had the first cartoon been a picture of [_Leonard Matlovich's grave, or Dr. Thomas Dooley's grave_], with the same blurb rising out of it, would that have been considered offensive?

It's fascinating that they *all* go for the gays=girls angle.

The "gays = girls angle" has long been with us. In fact, famous German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, a hero in other regards, popularized the "woman trapped in a man's body"/"third sex" theory. Homophobia and transphobia are, at their core, sexism for gays and transgender people go against gender-expectation "norms."

The fight to lift the ban in 1993 saw some similar cartoons, e.g., by famous [and homophobic] political cartoonist Pat Olyphant:

and MAD magazine's "Look at the Real Clinton Coalition”:

This 1993 "New Yorker" cartoon reflects their typical off-center take on life rather than homophobia:

And the same month Clinton was elected the year before, they took a direct positive angle:

Most I've seen from '93 were, in fact, anti the ban:

Those who mistakenly believe that Leftists have always been pro gay need look no farther than this 1966 page from the Left periodical "The Realist." Its editor's response to complaints by the NY Mattachine Society agreed exclusion
could be a civil rights issue but referred to gays "exploiting their deviation" to get out of the draft, and illustrated complaint letters with the second cartoon.

Finally, there's this mostly just fun one from the "New Yorker" all the way back to 1941:

MANY thanks to the aggregator of most of these, a Brit who goes by the handle, ukjarry, at his blog StreetLaughter. Here's the link to the first page of gays in the military cartoons from which one can use the menu on the right to access others:

Wow. A lot of those, especially the older ones, feel like a punch in the gut. Thank God I was born when I was.

Did anyone ask the 3 cartoonists what they wanted to express with their editorial statements? Just asking...the cartoons are a little ambiguous.