The entertainment industry is slow to understand that not all of America holds a liberal political point of view. Inside their bubble, everyone is anti-Trump and this opinion justifies any and all crude behavior. Trump critics take to social media on a daily basis to spew forth with ugliness for whatever action has triggered them. Sometimes, though, the lesson of using a little more civility in public discourse is brought home the hard way. In this story, a cartoon strip has been dropped by over 40 newspapers for an indulgence aimed at President Trump by the comic’s artist.
The comic strip “Non Sequitur” (a weekly and Sunday comic) has been dropped by newspapers around the country due to an Easter egg that angered readers in last Sunday’s comic strip. In the corner of the middle panel, the statement of “We fondly say … go f**k yourself.” was not a welcome surprise. When newspapers began getting flack for the crude message, the inevitable happened. Newspapers responded by announcing the cancellation of the comic strip. Newspapers don’t have the luxury of ignoring customer complaints.
This is a tweet from the comic artist, Wiley Miller, and you can see for yourself the somewhat hidden message. The strip was drawn in a coloring book format and readers were encouraged to color in the panels. (Click for full-size image)
The Washington Post picked up the story and explained that the artist apologized when the complaints began
At first glance, Sunday’s “Non Sequitur” comic strip just showed bears dressed up like Leonardo da Vinci. The syndicated strip opens with Bear-Vinci holding a picture of a Virtruvian Bear. It ends with the ursine artist painting a Mona Lisa, who is also, you guessed it, a bear. They are all characters in the “Bearaissance,” and the format invites readers to color in the drawings.
But much like Leonardo himself, Wiley Miller, whose work often tackles politics and has occasionally drawn controversy, inserted a secret message into his latest work. Hidden at the bottom right corner of the second panel, beneath a drawing of the Italian inventor’s flying machine, a semi-legible scribble appeared to read, “Go f— yourself Trump.”
Miller has since apologized, saying he never intended for the public to see the statement. On Monday, multiple newspapers said they dropped the comic.
The comic’s syndication company publicly apologized, too. Funny how that happens after bad behavior begins to affect the bottom line. In this case, newspapers were paying a nice chunk of change in order to publish the comic strip. It is usually considered a family-friendly cartoon. You can imagine the surprise (and disgust) that parents across the country must have felt that Sunday.
According to Andrews McMeel Syndication, “Non Sequitur” goes out to more than 700 newspapers, including The Washington Post, which ran Sunday’s comic in print and online. A spokesperson for The Post did not immediately comment.
The company apologized for the “vulgar language” in a statement Monday.
“We are sorry we missed the language in our editing process,” Andrews McMeel Syndication said. “If we had discovered it, we would not have distributed the cartoon without it being removed. We apologize to ‘Non Sequitur’s’ clients and readers for our oversight.”
Even though Miller’s tweet invited readers to hunt for the Easter egg, he denies that he originally intended for the public to see it. He regularly tweets anti-Trump sentiments and that is easy enough to find in his Twitter feed. The tweet and Miller’s denial are at odds. Apparently, though, he is so Trump Deranged that he was unaware he drew in the vulgar message to Trump in the comic panel and then forgot to white it out, as he explained in a statement to The Post he intended to do. It must be exhausting to live life with such anger toward another person, especially a person with whom you have no personal connection, only political disagreements.
This comic strip has been around since 1992 and is a recipient of the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 2014. I admit I don’t read the comics page of newspapers anymore. I stopped doing so quite a few years ago. Cartoons like the in-your-face liberal Doonesbury get old quickly if the reader isn’t a liberal. Remember Dan Quayle portrayed as a feather? WaPo noted that in 2010 his depiction of Mohammed resulted in some newspapers not running his comic. Miller claims he hasn’t had to apologize for his work before now.
Despite the apology and assurances that he will not do it again, some newspapers remain wary. The trust in him has been lost. Some rather large newspapers are using the lack of trust issue to justify dropping the comic strip. You didn’t think the Atlanta Constitution or the Boston Globe would complain about the cartoon’s target, did you? No. It is because of the language used that they justify the move.
At least 40 newspapers — first was the family-owned Butler Eagle, followed by the Atlanta Constitution, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, Orlando Sentinel, Dallas Morning News and others — have canceled “Non Sequitur.” They took this action not because the strip was aimed at a conservative target, but said it was due to a “lack of trust” that Mr. Wiley might do something like it again.
So a week out from the discovery of an offensive hidden message in a Sunday comic strip, public forgiveness from the offended isn’t forthcoming. This looks like what is happening in the entertainment business in general. Award shows are producing lower and lower ratings as each season goes by. Since the election of President Trump, actors and musicians make a point of voicing their messages of #TheResistance. It will be interesting to see if the award shows continue to tone it down as a couple of recent ones have done. Without decent ratings, commercial sponsorships will dry up and without revenue, there will be little incentive to broadcast the shows in primetime and on the major networks. Red state America has simply tuned out.
Will Robert De Niro be given the opportunity next Sunday during the Oscars ceremony to randomly scream “F**k you!” to President Trump again as he did last year? Those messages only play to one segment of the viewing public. It’s sure not a smart thing to do if the general public is expected to buy tickets. Just a thought.