Cartoons

Judy Horacek

What is a cartoon?

The term ‘cartoon’ is from the Italian cartone, meaning paper. In the middle ages, it was used to refer to sketches that had been drawn for larger works, such as canvases, frescos, tapestries or mosaics. From the nineteenth century, a cartoon came to mean an amusing illustration in newspapers, magazines or online.

Australia has a strong history of political cartooning. Tasmania’s Cornwall Chronicle was the first Australian newspaper to feature political cartoons, in 1835. South Australia’s Adelaide Month Almanac and Victoria’s Melbourne Punch began publishing cartoons in 1850 and 1855, respectively. Soon after, most state capitals began publish cartoons.

Since then, artists have been expressing their perspectives and providing witty, satirical and comical commentary on politics, sport, celebrities and current affairs. Cartoons often have the ability to express a political issue in a way that just text can’t do. A picture really can be worth 1,000 words.

These activities encourage students to think about the place that cartoons have in our society. They also introduce some of the broader concepts that Horacek deals with in her work and then explore examples from the National Library’s collection.

1. Ask students where they might find examples of cartoons (newspapers, magazines, online) and what purpose they serve (to illuminate political or social issues, to entertain us/make us laugh, to express an opinion/point of view).

2. To help introduce themes covered in Horacek’s work, create categories and discuss with the group the category to which each of the cartoons belongs. Categories could include:

  • feminism
  • Aboriginal/Indigenous rights
  • civil rights
  • environment
  • work/life balance

3. Ask the class to identify any other themes in the cartoons presented. 

Feminism

1. Ask students to investigate the three images above using the following questions:

  • Which group of people are these three cartoons most likely talking about? (women)
  • What issues facing (mostly) women are these cartoons discussing? (childcare, gender discrimination/gender bias)
  • Which characters do you like/empathise with? Which do you dislike/disagree with?
  • What do you think the creator’s point of view is in relation to these topics? Is she a feminist? Why/why not?

2. Discuss with your class what ‘feminism’ means.

  • What role has it played in our history?
  • Is feminism still important today? Why/why not?
  • Do you think Horacek is a feminist? What evidence can you find in these images that supports your decision?

Environment

Cartoonists frequently express their personal perspectives on political issues through their visual texts. Often, they use humour to talk about serious subjects and to make these subjects more accessible to an audience. Humour can be a tool for creating persuasive texts designed to influence the viewers’ opinions.

When using cartoons to persuade, the creators must think about the audience, what reaction they want from the audience and how they are going to achieve that reaction.

Discuss the above cartoons with your class:

  • What is the common theme? (the environment)
  • Is this a serious topic? Are the cartoons themselves serious?
  • What are the specific threats to the environment that Horacek is highlighting in these cartoons? (logging/deforestation, pollution and the dangers of nuclear energy)

What reaction do you think the cartoonist wants her audience to have? What makes you say that?

Indigenous/Civil rights

Cartoonists often use cartoons as a way to share their perspective on social issues, such as civil rights.

Discuss the above cartoons:

  • What are the major themes of these four cartoons? (colonialism, racial prejudice/racial bias)
  • The cartoons are set in different time periods (1700s and contemporary). What do these cartoons tell you about Horacek’s perspective on racism? Does she think that race-based discrimination is still an issue today?
  • Do you agree with Horacek’s perspective? Why/why not?

Concluding activities

1. Ask students to think about all of Horacek’s nine cartoons presented in this module and then lead a class discussion:

  • What do the cartoons tell us about Horacek’s perspective on the issues she has focused on?
  • What factors might contribute to these opinions? (Think about gender, age, location, current political climate and so on.)
  • Would the cartoons be the same if Judy Horacek were born as a man in 1918?

2. Have students create a cartoon that expresses their perspective on an important subject. It can be one of the topics covered in this module or a completely different theme.

3. Have students explore the National Library catalogue to find cartoons by other artists. Do they share the same perspective as Judy Horacek on important subjects?