Wednesday, June 11, 2014


How has the satirist used visual elements and language techniques to convey the message in this cartoon?

There is a world of difference between First World countries and Third World countries. First World countries control most of the world's resources, but do not see the need to empathise with Third World societies. It is becoming a commonplace saying today - 'That's a First World problem,' when people from rich nations complain about everyday 'issues' that displease them, not seeing that in comparison to Third World populations, their problems are small indeed. Take the recent abduction of 273 Nigerian schoolgirls, whose only crime was desiring an education, something taken for granted by First World populations. The media showed scant interest at the time in following this story, no First World governments demanded action to bring back the girls, and the story soon became forgotten. It is an unhappy fact that these girls are still missing, still to be returned to their families, still to be certified dead or alive. Yet the First World has all but forgotten them. Satire is a form of comedy that uses wit as a weapon to send a message to society, in this case, First World society. The satirist in the 'First Dog on the Moon' cartoon has mocked this situation by the clever use of satirical devices such as visual elements and language techniques, targetting First World society which does nothing, or very little, to assist Third World society. Visual elements such as juxtaposition and caricature have been used in each frame and language techniques such as verbal irony are evident in the text within the cartoon frames. The purpose of combining all these elements is to send the message that First World people need to use their resources to reach out to Third World people.

The visual element of juxtaposing First World problems and Third World problems side by side, the satirist has enhanced the message in the text that is - First World problems are very insignificant when compared to Third World problems. At the top of the first two frames are words stating the facts about the 273 Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted, whilst underneath the 'news', is the 'dog' (representative of First World children) complaining about an umbrella. 'Why don't people put things  back?' is asked regarding the umbrella. Very much a First World problem when Nigerian families are asking 'Why don't they bring our girls back?' The priorities of First World populations is shown in the second frame where one of the small 'dogs' is asking for the news of the Nigerian girls to be turned off as he/she wants to watch Beyonce on television. This juxtaposition reveals the lack of interest in the abducted Nigerian girls. By the third frame, the readers get the message - no matter how brutal are the facts about Third World problems - 21 million in slavery is a big deal - in the First World how the eggs are done is more problematic. The satirist has cleverly used the visual element of juxtaposition to mock the follies and vices of First World populations who show little interest in the terrible situations people in Third World countries are experiencing right now.  

Caricature is a crucial visual element of satire. The exaggeration of situations and characters help to give the satirist's message more impact. The representation of the First World as 'dogs' could be seen as derogatory, as to call a person a 'dog' is a huge put down. It could be classed as a way to mock First World children. The caricature of these cartoon figures is effective, and much kinder than a realistic representation of people would have been. By using the 'dogs' to represent First World children, maybe the cartoonist was hoping to be less offensive, and therefore people would study the cartoon more closely. The big eyes could represent knowledge while the long noses often represent liars, derived from the Pinocchio story. By representing real-life situations in caricature, the author has gauged the impact of his message that First World people really do not care about Third World problems, no matter how dire these problems are. 

Verbal irony, a language technique,  is perhaps one of the strongest tools of satire and it is present in this cartoon. The type of verbal irony used in this satirical cartoon is one where comparisons and contrasts are used to create a visualisation for the reader. Throughout each cartoon frame, the satirist has positioned the reader to compare First World concerns with Third World concerns, with the result that the reader should see as vacuous any comments by the First World 'dogs'. It is ironic that in the first frame, the 'dog' is whining about his umbrella, where in a country that would dearly love to see rain, an umbrella would not be used. People would be outside lapping up the rain. It is also ironic that the same 'dog' should ask the question - 'Why don't people put things back?' Of course the reader thinks of the 273 Nigerian girls who haven't been 'put back' where they were found. It is a well-known fact that Beyonce is very important to teenagers in the First World. She has many fans and one can understand the First World child wanting to watch her on television. It is ironic that watching Beyonce is far more important than hearing the news about what is happening to the Nigerian girls and how many real problems the Nigerian children have - widespread illiteracy and virtually no health care. In the third frame, the 'dogs' are discussing 21 million people enslaved globally, yet the smaller 'dog' is only concerned with the status of his eggs - 'Do you think I can send them back?' This is of relatively little importance and very ironicaly when we think about the Nigerian girls who haven't been sent back home.

The satirist has conveyed a very strong message by comparing First World problems with Third World problems. The First World is the obvious target of the mocking satire which exposes the follies and vices of First World people who are represented as dogs. The visual elements and the language features underline the message in the cartoon. What can First World children learn from a cartoon such as this one? Perhaps remember that you are very privileged and be grateful for your good fortune in living in a First World country rich in resources, rather than in a Third World country which lacks even basic resources such as education, health care, water and most of all, freedom. If you are able, donate some money to alleviate their problems.  

Some suggestions if you want to help:

What To Do:
1. Remember your privilege and be grateful for your good fortune.
2. Speak about this and other uncomfortable topics.
3. Don't get sucked in to the bullshit that is broadcast nightly (usually around six o'clock).
4. Write to your local MP; tell them this topic is important to you.
5. Find out who is doing something about this; offer them a one-off donation.
6. Feel better for having done something.
7. Don't feel so overwhelmed that you can't do anything.
8. Get involved in a local group that does something constructive in your area.
9. Be kind.

RESPONSE: How does the cartoonist convey the message?

  • Who is the target?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What language techniques does the cartoon contain?
  • What visual elements does the cartoon contain?

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