Misfire

Why The New Yorker's cover is an insult to gun-toting black women everywhere.

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pam

Honestly, I can't get worked up about it.

Maybe because it's summertime. Maybe because economic analysts are predicting more than 100 U.S. banks could fail this year, and the bank-run scene from It's a Wonderful Life keeps flashing through my mind. (Maybe I should mosey on down to the local branch.) Or maybe because it's The New Yorker, and, honestly, who cares?

Whatever the reason, I can't get worked up over the cover cartoon depicting Barack and Michelle Obama as fist-jabbing Muslim terrorists.

What's most interesting to me is not his caricature but hers. He's a secret Muslim, but she's something worse—an angry black woman. Notice the huge, billowy 'fro and the hand on her hip? Message: Adherents of Islam are kinda scary, but a powerful black woman (excluding Oprah or sex toys like Beyoncé)—whoa!

And why camouflage pants and a gun? Why not a Black Panther beret and a dashiki? Why not have her standing over some prone white man, gun aimed at you-know-what? Or is that going someplace I don't want to think about?

The New Yorker, naturally, defends the cartoon as satire. The Obama campaign has decried the cover as tasteless and offensive, and a spokesman for John McCain has done the same.

Tasteless? Okay. Offensive? Eh. The cover made me roll my eyes, but I wasn't offended. Then again, I wasn't offended by Imus, either. It seems to me that getting offended by stuff like this is like getting offended by a pigeon that craps on your head. What's the point? The incident is all about the pigeon and its natural inclinations. It has nothing to do with you.

The limitation of The New Yorker, with its smug and insular editorial stance, is that in trying so hard to reach provocative and transgressive, it often lands instead on lead-footed and dumb. Remember the famous cover with the Hasidic man kissing the black woman? Yeah, yeah, we get that this is supposed to be satirizing the fears and xenophobic slurs of certain right-wing zealots who oppose Obama. The only problem is:

1) It's a little late. The terrorist fist-jab incident having long been thoroughly mocked. In humor, timing is everything.

2) It's not very sharp. If you have to explain satire, it's not working.

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