cartoon syzygy

October 3rd, 2007 | Uncategorized

blitt's NY cover

Can I just say that this is possibly the best New Yorker cover ever? Barry Blitt is always brilliant, but his conjunction of Ahmadinejad’s “there are no gay people in Iran” comment with L’Affaire Craig is dazzling.

But how come Ahmadinejad’s pants aren’t down? It sort of implies that he’s not in the stall to use the toilet. Maybe the New Yorker somehow felt that would be just too disrespectful, to show the president of Iran with his pants around his ankles? Though you’d think the alternative, to imply that he’s there for sex, would be construed as even more disrespectful. Or maybe his pants are supposed to be, like pulled down to his knees and the newspaper’s covering up his disarray? So much to think about.

48 Responses to “cartoon syzygy”

  1. Deena in OR says:

    Is it me? Or is the expression on his face a bit like a bearded Jake Gyllenhall?

  2. shadocat says:

    Oh I raaaaan, ran so far away….

  3. Dr. Empirical says:

    Are the sandals and orange pants of his adjoining stallmate the uniform of Guantanamo?

  4. Ginjoint says:

    Yeah, Dr. E, ’cause what gay man (even those on the down low) would wear orange pants and Birkenstocks? It means something.

  5. Betsy says:…syzygy… definition #2. “Classical Prosody. a group or combination of two feet, sometimes restricted to a combination of two feet of different kinds.”
    How bizarre that the New Yorker cover matches so literally!

  6. lb says:

    Wow…that combined with the SNL video makes my horrible week worth living. More so that the Netherlands’ response to OJ:

  7. Callan says:

    I heard that bathrooms can symbolize repression in dreams, so fitting.

  8. zeitgeist says:

    ok, maybe Ahmadinejad did not pull his pants ALL the way down, but just enough to do his business. He’s, uh, modest.

  9. DeLandDeLakes says:

    Yeah,Ahmadinejad, I guess you just beheaded all those guys for shits and giggles.

    Seriously, what is with this love affair that the Ivy Leagues seem to be having with frothing-at-the-mouth Islamic fundamentalists? Between Yale accepting a Taliban ringleader as a student, and Columbia inviting this guy to speak (note to Prez of Columbia: trying to get yourself out of hot water by saying that you would invite Hitler to speak is NOT a good strategy,) I’m becoming seriously glad that my SAT scores were only so-so.

  10. mlk says:

    I’m with zeitgeist: Ahmadinejad has his pants down just far enough to take care of business, similar to what’s common practice at urinals (I know about urinals from the movies, not personal experience). maybe it’s a cultural difference?

  11. MarkJ says:

    Blitt’s title for the drawing – “Narrow Stance” – is also worth noting.

  12. Ellen O. says:

    By inviting fundamentalists to speak, even if we vehemently disagree with them, are we not opening up dialogue and encouraging discussion?

  13. Suzanonymous says:

    The line of thought I had seeing the pants up was this must be what the cops doing this sort of patrol duty do: no need to pull down your pants, it’s an opportunity for a reading break.

    Smart to cover that mailing label.

  14. stumptown SK says:

    ….a quiet moment, in midst of a busy schedule, to read the paper?

    Where can a busy man get a little time to himself these days? Isn’t that was Monsieur Craig was up to also?

    A little down time?

  15. Orange Julius Alert says:

    The sandals and orange pants recall, to me, the old days when airports were agog with evangelical members of the “Hare Krishna” movement.

  16. Andrew B says:

    I’m with Suzanonymous: Ahmadinejad is the cop. The cartoon could then be read as explaining why they have no “homosexuals” in Iran.

    A is a bottom-feeding demagogue, on a level with Tom Delay or Pat Buchanan. Whatever the intended content of the cartoon, the New Yorker editors might also have felt it was a good idea to avoid giving him an excuse to start something. I could see it: “Iranian president says American magazine humiliates him; demands apology”. Seriously.

    Woudn’t Sydney love this? An earnest discussion of why the president of Iran doesn’t have his pants around his ankles.

  17. Kat says:

    Is that maybe the point?
    That he’s not there to use the toilet?

  18. kate mckinnon says:

    It’s brilliant, and I love it’s many possible statements. I agree, this is one of the best and most daring New Yorker covers ever. To me, in context, this is a very serious cover and I have to say I’m surprised by the edginess of it, I find it very brave. It’s Sy Hersh brave.

  19. Troy says:

    I’m i the only one who can no longer see the pix on this blog thru Firefox?

  20. Joe Code says:

    Troy: Pull down Tools and select Options. Click on the Content tab and make sure the “Load Pictures Automatically” check box is checked.

  21. Donna says:

    is the gay rights issue a way for the U.S. govt. to mitigate potential disapproval of whatever plans of action it may be contemplating with regards to Iran?
    Is it right for the U.S. – or any country – to invite a foreign leader to speak and then openly ridicule him? I am not politically savvy at tall, just seems to me like the whole debacle effectively increased existing animosity on all sides.

  22. born-again rhetor says:

    Betsy, American Heritage Dictionary phrases ‘syzygy’ with slightly more clarity: “The combining of two feet into a single metrical unit in classical prosody.”

    Not quite literally, then, though perhaps more delightfully.
    PS, Alison’s a member of their Usage Panel. Which I admit brought me in the Bechdel fold at a local reading!

  23. Scrawl says:

    Donna – couldn’t agree more. I think that the US reaction to A’s visit played right into his hands, in terms of his political reception in Iran and the Middle East at large. I have nothing against Columbia inviting him to speak – I’m all for freedom of expression, no matter who is involved. I do think it was deeply hypocritical for the president of Columbia to invite him and then insult him – and it was terribly insulting to the Iranian people. He hardly speaks for everyone in his country, but he is the head of state and therefore symbollically represents his country as a whole. Insulting him the way people here did is just a version of Bush’s tagging entire countries as inherently evil.

    Totally unrelated note – Alison, I often lurk but never post, and just wanted to say that I love your work and have for years and years. I’m a queer grad student in critical theory (and comics), and I love Sydney more than I can say, flaws and all.

  24. Yeah, I think the timing of the Ahmadinejad visit is the most interesting aspect, given the escalation of the Bush admin’s marketing plan for attacking Iran. Let the guy speak, I can just hear Dick Cheney saying…and it’ll convince all the bleeding hearts  that this holocaust-denying, woman-hating, gay-denying nutjob really DOES deserve to have his country bombed.
    Here’s an interesting take by a recent alum of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, the school that sponsored Ahmadinijad’s visit. Apparently they invited him last year, but then rescinded the invitation–“campus gossip…put the reason as outside pressure.”

  25. Paris says:

    DeLand: do a bit more homework on Yale’s “Taliban ringleader”.

    Re Ahmadinejad: I think it is incredibly important that we had an opportunity to hear him speak. My hope is that the attentive recognized that he is a garden variety political opportunist.

    Plus, his talk should be required hearing at all oral communications classes – any skilled speaker would have immediately changed up their presentation when the audience responded to his line about the lack of gays in Iran as if he was a stand-up comedian. No need for translation there and he really fell down in not adjusting what followed afterwards. In short, not much of a politician. Useful to know from an un-mediated source.

  26. Andrew B says:

    Alison, that seems a little conspiratorial. Isn’t it at least equally plausible that Ahmadinejad’s invitation was due to faculty and perhaps alumni who see him as the leader of a regional power who ought to be heard? Who think it was wrong for Columbia to give in to “outside pressure” last year? Or who may even have thought that, given the chance to see and hear him, Americans would recognize him as a garden variety blowhard? Certainly almost all the bleeding hearts who have commented here seem to recognize that.

    And if Ahmadinejad’s talk really was part of a Cheneyesque marketing campaign, then Bollinger is an even bigger schmuck than he would appear to be. In that case, he should have been presenting himself as a representative of American open-mindedness and rationality, to heighten the contrast with Ahmadinejad. Instead, he showed that he was afraid of the consequences of inviting Ahmadinejad. Based on his behavior in this case, Bollinger appears to be a gutless triangulator. You’d think somebody like that would have a better idea of the role he is supposed to play. If the timing of the talk was part of a marketing campaign to demonize Ahmadinejad, somebody forgot to tell Bollinger.

  27. Francesca in Minneapolis says:

    Hey, Alison!
    Funny little roundabout of connections here (this is Francesca of LITA, Minneapolis, 1990-1991, remember?):
    The other day I picked up my “New Yorker” from the floor in front of the mail slot and laughed–out loud–at the cover, and wondered why, since I never had before. I decided it was the MINNEAPOLIS connection that made me actually snort in delight.
    Then, last night, I was reading the “Best of American Nonrequired Reading 2007” and there was an excerpt from your “Fun House,” which I have not read.
    It struck a chord (e.g., last summer I was working on a project on Algeria that described Camus as a “pessimist,” which struck me as all wrong–after all, he said, as you point out, that suicide is NOT the logical conclusion–and that practically makes him an optimist in my book. In fact, it was my book –I was rewriting an old text– so I changed it.)
    This morning I have come out to the library to check out “Fun House” and google you (I’d lost track of your brilliant career)–and here’s your adorable blog with the very same “New Yorker” cover that made me laugh.
    Not terrifically significant, I guess, but a nice excuse to write and say, Hello! I have your book next to me and I look forward to going to Dunn Bros. and reading it. Right now. It’s even raining here.
    Ciao, bella!

  28. roz says:

    i don’t think you can be too paranoid when it comes to cheney & company…

  29. Bill Wilson says:

    The foot with the sandal is an Iranian foot. The point is proof that homosexuals do exist in Iran.

  30. Riotllama says:

    how do you know it’s an Iranian foot? merhaps he brought a paper with him and that is a closeted Columbia student with bad fashion. Socks with sandals, really folks. please don’t.

  31. Tim Kynerd says:

    Andrew B, four letters: PNAC.

  32. Aunt Soozie says:

    Oh, Riotllama…I’m so sorry but I do it…the socks with sandals thing..and worse yet…I think I wear it well. Not so, huh?

    I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know what PNAC is…at least not offhand…hmmm…. I do respect Alison’s healthy paranoia. But I don’t like to say too much against the current regime in a public forum. I don’t want to be secreted away in the middle of the night to some desolate hidden prison and legally and humanely tortured for the good of my country.
    (doesn’t it make those alien abduction stories look friendly…at least the aliens only prod and impregnate..and they don’t keep you locked up indefinitely)

  33. kate mckinnon says:

    PNAC = Project for the New American Century.

    the neocon “think tank” responsible for our foreign policy. Wolfowitz, Perle, Cheney. Etc.

  34. DeLandDeLakes says:

    Mme. Paris-

    I suppose you could quarrel with the term “ringleader”, but Hashemi is a Talib, and an unrepentant one. I don’t know if being a propagandist spokesman for the regime isn’t “active” enough for you, but his legacy lives on in the violence that is still being perpetuated in that country today (apparently because the U.S. is too busy occupying and destroying a country that, prior to our arrival, had no Al-Qaeda presence, and are now apparently unwilling or unable to disarm the few fanatics that are still terrorizing the citizens of Afghanistan.)

  35. Andrew B says:

    Roz, I agree with you that the Bush/Cheney administration is morally capable of anything. All the more reason to try to distinguish the despicable acts they are performing from the ones they could perform, but aren’t. Otherwise how can we oppose them effectively? How can each of us maintain her or his own sanity?

  36. Ian says:

    When I saw the orange trousers and sandals I immediately thought of the detainees in Guantanamo bay and I’m surprised no one’s mentioned it so far. Plus the idea of Ahmadinejad being surprised/bemused by links with the violence in Iraq could be something the artist is commenting on.

    The talk around Iran is all very familiar, but given the consequences of war in Iraq and the fact that Iran is much better armed and more solidly backed by Russia and China, the possibility of the US/Israel striking Iran is one of my recurring nightmares.

  37. Aunt Soozie says:

    Me too, Ian. It’s a terrifying thought. I’ve never been more disgusted/nauseated with the American administration and it’s farkocht foreign policy. Work for peace, speak out, vote, pray…we all have to do something.

  38. Rachelkat in NYC says:

    Actually, Ahmadinejad’s pants are still up because it’s physically impossible to adopt Larry Craig’s “wide stance” if your pants are actually down around your ankles. I finally realized this last week while going to the bathroom at Buns and Noodle. To reach the next stall, your pants either have to be up or off.

  39. Ginjoint says:

    Ian, Dr. Empirical immediately brought up the uniform up Guantanamo Bay, back up at the beginning of these comments.

  40. Ian says:

    Ooops, I missed that one Ginjoint – apols to Dr Empirical.

  41. Minnie says:

    Ms. Bechdel, thank you for this site.

    Troy, I have Firefox and can see the pictures. I hope you can get it working right.

    Executions in Iran are hangings not beheadings. See — an informative site for and about Iranian women.

    OK on a lighter note: c’mon you guys, what is wrong with socks and sandals together?

    Donna Sept 5, 1:15 a.m.: Thanks for your VERY interesting question.

  42. calvin t says:

    I don’t understand this cover (and I have the issue at home). Ostensibly meant to poke fun at the Iranian prez, the cover pays homage to the notion not of the prez’s denial but to Craig’s and, more particularly, to Craig’s “wide stance.” In a way, it revives the idea that Craig committed a crime and now we can laugh at him for his denial.

    Craig did NOT commit a crime (and even had he had sex, I tend not to think of sex between consenting adults as a crime, privacy issues notwithstanding).

    The cover, then, makes fun of two issues at once: the aversion we may feel for the prez is transferred to Craigh, and v-v. The complexity of the Craig issue is glossed over for a cheap laugh.

  43. Peter Money says:

    I’m disturbed by the cover and don’t find it–as commentary–brilliant (although I like the artwork); I find the timing & theme “a little cheap.”
    –I agree with Alison B’s (10/5) and Calvin T’s (10/7) postings; the belittling is unsettling for both the supposed “crime” of same sex shoe-straying (carry over to bedrooms, boardrooms; the issue is acceptance, not really public places, and I feel ashamed to associate any measure of guilt with a humane dialog between two human beings–no matter how ugly their past or their policies). And, indeed, we ought to be questioning this W[recked] administration’s pop-spun case for bombing Iran (they are making it fits & starts). –Not an apologist, and not defending exactly, I have heard that Ahmadinejad’s statement on homosexuality in Iran was massively mis-translated. One (more accurate?) version is said to be: “homosexuality is not a problem in Iran.” If so, this would be an enlightening big difference. We are both (Iran and the U.S.) modern cultures with Fundamental leadership problems, made worse in the world by the conservative narrowness which makes more enemies than friends. May dialog win.

  44. Tim Kynerd says:

    “Not an apologist, and not defending exactly, I have heard that Ahmadinejad’s statement on homosexuality in Iran was massively mis-translated. One (more accurate?) version is said to be: ‘homosexuality is not a problem in Iran.’ If so, this would be an enlightening big difference.”

    I don’t see a real difference between “there are no homosexuals in Iran” (because we put them to death) and “homosexuality is not a problem in Iran” (because we put homosexuals to death). That’s a distinction without a difference.

  45. Ian says:

    No distinction but not a reason to attack or invade? Otherwise soldiers would be quite busy in a lot of countries around the world if you’re going to invade for human rights reasons. I’m sure I come across as flippant but don’t mean to. In lots of cases I’d love intervention – it seems like the only way you’d engender change. But whether it’s right I don’t know.

  46. Pope Snarky Goodfella OTUC, POEE says:

    Hail Eris!

    Well, I don’t think Pat Buchanan qualifies as one of *these* guys, unlike Tom Delay:


  47. Peter Money says:

    Fair enough. Because, of course, we do know these to be more than likely quite true: a). there ARE homosexuals in Iran and b). as in the U.S., some sectors of the population (often governments, fundamentalists, conservatives) define homosexuality as a problem. And so the presence of a problem for one is a problem for all. I agree, and I stand corrected. But, then again–and still: wars over words (unlike this generous and appropriate discussion) should ALWAYS be questioned, protested, and–because translations are apt to lend themselves to distortion, even if it seems not to matter–ought to be given the weight of humanity, in the balance, rather than inhumanity. So which survives? If there is no difference between meanings, no matter which translation we choose to read, then the choice seems to me simple: we choose to be human, but we choose by doing to be humane. I understand the sub-culture in Iran that is the intellectual and artistic base of current day culture there *is* humane (a common thread among arts-givers). Arts, even if only gestalt, would have to be. And so, again, I think now Tim’s comment is correct: it really doesn’t matter if the distinctions in an offensive or official statement create a difference. What matters is whether or not human beings are treated with humanity. I doubt there would have been the same wave of laughter had the translation been as I reported it may have been. So, perhaps, yes, it’s not the words (it’s never a word’s fault) but rather our response. I might have laughed, as well, had I been in the audience (just as I have shouted at anti-Choice demonstrators at marches on Washington; for I’m sure I have, or have wanted to). But I would hope I could ultimately be compassionate, if only to help the offender or prohibitor understand by my example that the issue is really about freedom.

  48. Peter Money says:

    Can’t help but add: The 10/20 Saturday Night Live music video style parody co-staring an actor as a most love-able Ahmadinejad presents a fantasy which is humane and loving.

    I’m not sure why the seemingly vast difference between SNL’s and the NYer cover. But in SNL we have the advantage of seeing, animatedly, characters responding to one another; and each character is comfortable in the setting. By contrast, in the NYer cover, we have a vulnerable character (by fact of being on the can [or is it a throne?]) whose appreciation of the situation is difficult to read. (A little unfair to compare a one-shot image with a rolling sequence [with song!], but the difference in response was almost immediate.)

    Perhaps SNL’s is YouTubed. Sweet, or sour. . . ; I’ll view it sweet.