Cartoon. The very word brings to mind images of buffoonery, larger than life characters and absurd situations. The last thing we usually associate with cartoons is serious social and political concepts, but throughout history, humorous and satirical drawings have pushed the boundaries of civil discourse.
Created by artists passionate about forcing us to look ourselves in the mirror, editorial cartoons used to be an essential part of any thriving newspaper. The things we’re able to laugh at say a lot about who we are as a nation, society and species.
Of course, the internet has changed all that, giving just about anyone the ability to share their thoughts or art with an international audience. Still, examining political cartoons throughout the ages can provide interesting insights into how far we’ve come and the work that remains. A new book aims to chronicle the metamorphosis of the American health care reform debate by compiling scores of cartoons that dealt with the topic.
“Political cartoons cut to the essence of our battle over who should foot the bill for medical coverage and how that care should be structured,” explains Theodore Brown, one the four authors of The Quest for Health Care Reform: A Satirical History due out in January 2013. “But unlike the pain involved in our political struggle, cartoons deliver their uncomfortable truths with such irreverent wit and visual imagination that you can’t help but chuckle.”
While many of the overarching themes have remained the same, the complexity of the nation’s health delivery system and the number and financial power of special interests has mushroomed in recent decades, says Brown. From pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies to hospitals, physicians and patient rights groups, the debate has grown more complex and confusing for the public.
We rounded up five of our favorites from Brown’s book. See anything familiar? (Click to enlarge)
Photo from donkeyhotey via flickr