01 October 2010

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday September 29, 2010
The serious side to cartoons

Cartoonist Lat has this gift of being able to sharply skewer people without seeming to do so. And this is where his lampooners can draw inspiration from.

IF THERE were anyone who is genuinely a Malaysian household name, it would be Lat. For several decades now, Lat has been the only cartoonist for most of us, making us laugh at ourselves even while he tells us some truths about ourselves.

Who can forget the way he pokes fun at our attitudes towards driving, queuing, eating and our relationships towards each other? Or the way we interpret government policies?

Lat’s characters are memorable because they are larger-than-life versions of people we are familiar with. There is the big fat teacher in her cheongsam and cat-eye glasses, the Chinese boy with the buck teeth and beansprout posture, the Sikh policeman and the ayu Malay girls with their winsome smiles and curly eyelashes.

Larger than life: Three animated vignettes of the cartoonist, entitled ‘Lat’s Window to the World’, premiered in Kuala Lumpur not too long ago, backed by live music by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.
He also draws cartoon versions of real-life characters, mostly politicians and public figures. I knew Lat from the days when I worked for a publishing house and he used to say that drawing people who are too handsome is difficult.

People need to have a defining facial feature – a prominent nose perhaps – for him to be able to do a recognisable caricature of them. Once we recognised them, we knew what he was trying to say about them. Indeed, having Lat draw you was the ultimate sign that you’d arrived.

Lat has this gift of being able to sharply skewer people without seeming to do so. He makes us see the funny side of people because we know there’s some truth in it, even when he’s saying something critical about them. For that we love him, and even those he caricatured held him in great affection.

Lat’s cartoons are in a mainstream newspaper and he’s published many books of his cartoons. So lots and lots of people read him and laughed (and sometimes cried) at his stories.

We all know what the funniest characteristics of our politicians are, as well as their quirks. We loved the Lat versions of them, even when we may not necessarily like the real-life people.

As far as I know, Lat has never gotten into trouble for his cartoons. It may be because we once had a better sense of humour, or our politicians were once more secure. But it was certainly unheard of to prosecute a cartoonist for anything.

Today we actually arrest cartoonists for sedition! Which is not only ridiculous in itself, but considering that the cartoonist in question publishes in an online subscription-only news portal, and is far from known to a lot of people, such action is a sign of paranoia gone to extremes.

Cartoonists, like columnists, are allowed to have opinions. And they do take sides. Just look at some of the mainstream political cartoonists. The assumption however is that there is only one side to take and it’s not the one contrary to the Government’s. So once a cartoonist takes a different view, then it’s all panic stations.

Yet, if you asked most people if they knew who this cartoonist was, they’d probably say they’d never heard of him. But with this fiasco, they do and are probably on the lookout for his cartoons even though his books have been banned.

What’s more, there are probably lots more aspiring cartoonists busily drawing even more cartoons for dissemination among fans right now. And none of them will be flattering.

There is a real problem with censoring writings or drawings on grounds they might be a “threat to public order”. Even worse, when the publications in question are really quite obscure, their very obscurity is proof that they have not caused any public disorder.

One of the more ridiculous recent cases was when an academic book was banned after two years in the bookstores for the same reason. It’s not a book that anyone would really read unless they were particularly interested in the subject.

If there is anything that needs censure, it’s the negative influences of mass-market publications and TV shows because they reach far bigger and more susceptible audiences.

Anyone so inclined can compile files and files of nasty articles from these publications geared to incite people to do bad things, especially to people different from them. Now if that’s not a threat to public order, I don’t know what is.

But nothing ever happens to them. That could be interpreted as the Government respecting media freedom, except that they aren’t as respectful of those who have contrary views.

And this is the silly thing. Those advocating greater tolerance and understanding, who have a clear-eyed view of the problems and present solutions, are the ones who get censured. Those who accuse and incite, don’t.

Is the world dangerously topsy-turvy or what?