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An Ironic Editorial Cartoon Essay

“Let’s hope the asteroid’s impact is confined to the subprime mortgage area. ” These are the words spoken among several dinosaurs as a large asteroid is headed towards earth. Or, more accurately, they are the words of the dinosaurs within the frame of Tim Toles’ biting editorial cartoon. Upon first viewing, the cartoon does provoke immediate laughter. Then, when you stop to let the themes of the cartoon sink in you realize that the humor is quite dark and ominous and, more importantly, it is quite accurate.

For those not familiar with the symbolism, there is an unproven theory that asserts dinosaurs may have been rendered extinct due to an asteroid hitting the earth. The reason all dinosaurs were rendered extinct was due to the asteroid having a significant change on the earth’s climate and environment. That is, the asteroid possessed a ripple effect that went far beyond the exact area where the asteroid landed. The symbolism presented here ties in with the subprime mortgage crisis in a manner that is both obvious and outright chilling.

The weight of the claims presented in the argument makes logical sense. It simply infers that economic problems will have a major ripple effect. That is, the economic woes of those affected by the subprime crisis will carry over into other aspects of the economy. As a result, even those who may previously have had nothing to do with the subprime crisis will be negatively impacted. (In essence, the intended audience is the entire population of the nation) After all, we are all plugged into the same economy. If one area is hurting, it will invariably drag down others.

This is clearly an interpretation based on implication and the claim is obviously apparent in the words used. And, yes, such assumptions are warranted as by the time the cartoon appeared the ripple effect of the crisis has lead to a huge federal bailout This is not a notion that is arrived at on the basis of speculation and alarmism. It is based on simple math and the law of cause and effect. If someone’s home suffers from a foreclosure then the individual will find himself in an extremely disadvantageous financial position.

Clearly, such an individual would have to make numerous “cut backs” on purchasing decisions and this means less money will flow into the economy. Such actions have negative effects on profits in various companies and hurt stock values. If stock values are reduced then the net worth of investors (many of which rely on their investment during their retirement years) will reduce. Then, there is also the huge problem of massive foreclosures over-saturating the real estate market. This has the negative effect of ruining equity on real estate throughout the nation.

Further problems arise as the economy declines and credit dries up. This can lead to “bank runs” where customers opt to pull money out of their banks for fear they may lose their savings if the bank goes under. So, yes, just like the horrible ripple effect the asteroid had on the dinosaurs, the subprime crisis is one that affects the whole world as opposed to any one, single contained area. Of course, prior to the asteroid landing, the dinosaurs had no idea how serious the problem would be. They saw it coming but did not expect it to possess such a ripple effect.

The dinosaur’s predicament is woefully similar to the predicament facing the economic landscape now that the subprime crisis has reeled out of control. As such, this cartoon is serious call to action and it is made with the intended goal of motivating the public to be ready for the serious ramifications of the subprime crisis. Now, when it comes to the ability to critique the effectiveness of the cartoon we must look at the sum of its parts. Particularly, is imagery also needed to effectively convey the information presented in the cartoon?

Of course, it is possible to convey the same information and sentiment. Granted, the words in the cartoon would obviously have to be expanded upon in order to provide the proper context to make sense. However, the biting humor of the cartoon would needlessly be eliminated and replaced by exposition and explanation.. Such an approach would work quite effectively but it would not possess the same power of the cartoon. That is, the cartoon works on a number of levels because it combines visual imagery with ironic wording.

In terms of the specific words within the cartoon, however, the presence of the words without the imagery would make little sense since they would be out of context without the presence of the dinosaurs. Now, if one were to keep the image and remove the wording the end result would be disastrous. A visual image of dinosaurs looking up at the sky and seeing an asteroid would convey the concept that an asteroid may have killed them, but it does nothing to promote the ironic notion that the subprime mortgage crisis can cause a similar ripple effect.

In short, the value of the cartoon is basically worthless without the presence of the ironic wording. After all, if you were to remove the words from the cartoon would you be able to guess that its subject matter involves the subprime crisis? In all likelihood, making any connection between the dinosaurs and the subprime crisis would be impossible without the appropriate wording. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It is simply an honest assessment of the limitations of the cartoon’s visual imagery. But does it work? It depends.

It is odd however, that irony is used as a means of promoting the argument style of persuasion. In a way, the cartoon heralds more than it seeks to persuade. So, really, its goal is not so much to be persuasive since it does not seek to promote a point to the doubting as much as it is a statement of fact. While a statement of fact can persuade some, such a statement is not automatically persuasive. For those who are logic and rational, however, it will have a stronger resonance that mixes pathos with logos. That is, it mixes humorous irony with obviously true facts.

In the final analysis, it is safe to say that this particular editorial cartoon is brilliant. It mixes words and images together in an ironic and informative matter that stresses the gravity of the subprime crisis. Of course, the words and images do this well in combination. Separately, they would lack the effectiveness they possess as a tandem. Bibliography Toles, Tom. (2008) “Unnamed Cartoon”. THE WASHINGTON POST. Retrieved October 5, 2008 from http://www. washingtonpost. com/ wp-dyn/content/opinions/cartoonsandvideos/

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