Social Justice Media
Silvia Carrus

I’mn not sure if anyone remembers, but there was one of these “controversies” a few years ago about a black Lancelot character in, I think, Once Upon a Time. The way it worked was something like this:

B1 : “A Black Lancelot? Medieval knight? King Arthur? Unrealistic!”

B2 : “Really? That’s your complaint? That it is unrealistic?”

B1 : “Um, yes?”

B2 : “U wot m8? It’s a show about magic.”

Of course, here, we see the reverse, i.e. fiction is not sufficient a reason to expect unrealism. Well, possibly, this might be the satirical Tenniel problem.

Incidentally, the satirical Tenniel problem is the general question wrought small… at what point do we start limiting artistic expression/endeavour and/or creative choice when talking about socio-political contexts? How to read the text? Purely on its own merits? Always as a product of a society? A mix of both?

Actually, I’m not sure how Tenniel’s cartoon isn’t satirical. Sure, another candidate used the logic… the woman is described as Justice, therefore her actions are just, her actions are awful, therefore the “Mutiny” must be worse. But that doesn’t really make sense. Justice is meant to be blind. She’s not. It’s in Punch, a satirical magazine¹ and Tenniel is best known today for his involvement with Alice in Wonderland (from which I suggest we can infer insight into his own disposition). It doesn’t add up. Which is another problematic part of the big picture, i.e. that there are multiple “correct” ways to read the context.

n.b. I will explain the “scare quotes” on correct as simply as I can. If you never bothered to look at my links, reader, you were being referred to an exam sat in 2013 by myself and thousands of others. Of all the exams from that time, this is the only one I don’t seem to still possess (it must be around somewhere, at least, I really hope that it is) but from recollection I made essentially the same case for the satirical interpretation then. The first link says that my fellow perceiver of satire and I were in the minority. That is, it is implausible to believe that there were thousands of independent dishonest interpreters of the cartoon… given that all of us were of approximately the same age, from the same country and exposed to essentially the same curriculum. That last part is important. While an imperial bias could explain the apparent logical failing, such would be a feature of the audience and, hence, is a core part of any text’s socio-political context. Which means it takes a paragraph to explain that something isn’tg necessary to worry about.

¹ From Wikipedia: Punch; or, The London Charivari was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841”.