Australia

'Welcome to PC world': Herald Sun doubles down on Serena Williams sketch defence

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The Herald Sun has used the front page of its September 12 edition to defend a controversial Serena Williams cartoon.

The international uproar over a controversial cartoon depicting Serena Williams' meltdown during the US Women's Final has prompted The Herald Sun to double down on its defence of artist Mark Knight.

Knight’s image, published in the Melbourne publication on Monday, was a spin on the moment Williams smashed her racket, which resulted in her second of three code violations as she was downed by Haitian-Japananese player Naomi Osaka, 6-2 6-4.

Mark Knight's cartoon.
Mark Knight's cartoon.
The Herald Sun

In the background of the cartoon, a character depicting Osaka is told by the umpire: "Can you just let her win?".

Public figures including Harry Potter author JK Rowling, Nicki Minaj and civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson joined other social media users to condemn the cartoon.

The Melbourne newspaper published a defence of Knight on the home page of its website on Tuesday, quoting Knight as saying: “The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about race.”

Doubling down on Wednesday, the front page of the publication's print edition featured an artwork, with the headline: "Welcome to PC World."

The cover featured the Williams cartoon and exaggerated sketches of numerous public figures, including US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and included the caption: "Vetoed: Large hair and lips, too angry."

"If the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very dull indeed," the front page reads.

The Herald Sun front page.
The Herald Sun front page.
The Herald Sun

The front page prompted further anger from social media users.

Knight has since deactivated his Twitter account.

He said the original cartoon was intended as an exaggeration of the tennis star’s angry exchanges with chair umpire Carlos Ramos at the US Women’s Singles final in New York on Sunday.

Williams clashed with Ramos over penalties she thought she did not deserve and ultimately lost to the 20-year-old Osaka.

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Dr Kathomi Gatwiri explains why the Knight cartoon could be viewed as offensive.
Dr Kathomi Gatwiri explains why the Knight cartoon could be viewed as offensive.

Kenyan-born humanities academic at Southern Cross University Kathomi Gatwiri said the oversized lips contributed to the dehumanising portrayal of Williams.

"The grotesque way in which her body was over-exaggerated, her physical attributes, her lips. Her buttocks, her thighs, her arms. It doesn't look human," she told SBS News.

"And when you put that in contrast with how Naomi (Osaka) or the coach is depicted in the cartoon, you can see that is a human being. They are presented in a very careful way - not animal-like."

Comparisons have also been drawn to derogatory and racist caricatures during the US era of Jim Crow, between 1877 and the mid-1960s.

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The Washington Post ran a searing post about Knight's cartoon, calling it "racist" and reminiscent of the era of racial segregation in the US.

"Knight draws facial features reflecting the dehumanizing Jim Crow caricatures so common in the 19th and 20th centuries," commentator Michael Cavna wrote.

Other US media pointed out that Osaka was portrayed as petite and feminine with jet blonde straight hair - in real life she has dark curly hair with blonde streaks and is taller than Williams.

Mr Knight told SBS News on Tuesday that the cartoon was not about race.

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"I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the US Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player has a tantrum and thought that was interesting,” he said.

“Three days before I had drawn a cartoon about Nick Kyrgios being led off by the ears, like you used to do with your children.

“The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about race.”

- With AFP

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