Doonesbury “Shaming Room” too much for sensitive newspapers

0 Posted by - March 20, 2012 - Blog, Visual art

Last week several newspapers censored the first of a series of Doonesbury comics addressing the current climate and discussion about women’s reproductive rights (specifically, in this case, abortion). The Center for Reproductive Rights has compiled a list of more than 60 newspapers who chose not to publish the strip, as well as a few of their excuses. The excuses, of course, are pretty weak, considering Doonesbury comics are always political, and the series is (as CRR puts it) “simply trying to humanize the struggles of women under Texas’s demeaning law.

The comic takes us through a woman’s trip to an abortion clinic following the passing of Texas’ invasive mandatory ultrasound law. The law requires women to have a sonogram before they can undergo an abortion, and requires doctors to describe in detail the sonogram findings such as a heartbeat and developing human features of the fetus.

Portland’s Oregonian was one of the 60 some newspapers who pulled the strips, and explained their decision to pull the comic as follows:

“Doonesbury” is a venerable comic strip, and over the years we have resisted calls to remove it or move it to the editorial page. The reason: It’s a comic strip and even though he delves into political satire, it is still a comic strip.

But in next week’s strip, “Doonesbury” author Garry Trudeau, in our judgment, went over the line of good taste and humor in penning a series on abortion using graphic language and images inappropriate for a comics page.

While we rarely pull strips for taste reasons, this was a clear call for the editors of the paper and for some other papers around the country, which also sent readers online to see the strip. Other papers moved them to other sections of the paper. “

The language they’re referring to is a line in the third strip in which the doctor preceeds the ultra sound by stating “By the power vested in me by the GOP, I thee rape” (Rape: forced, unwanted sexual intercourse. An action innately about power, not sex). Quite frankly, Doonesbury’s author, Garry Trudeau, should be celebrated for calling a spade a spade. As the five day comic comes to a close, the doctor tries to describe the unborn child and offers to try to describe its hopes and dreams, to which the woman (with her ccharacteristic Doonesbury sarcastic expression) responds: “If it wants to be the next Rick Perry, I’ve made up my mind.”

The Oregonian ran a poll asking for their readers “What do you think of our decision to send readers online to read ‘Doonesbury’ this week?”

An astounding 96.31% disagreed with the decision. I’d be interested to know how readers reacted from other States.

I highly recommend entertaining yourself by reading the remainder of the series. If your local paper ran the whole series, give them a major high five. And kudos again for Trudeau for going there.

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