World Environment Day
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A satirical cartoon is an illustration or comic strip that is created to ridicule others, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, government or society itself into improvement. Its superior purpose is often constructive social criticism to draw attention to both specific and greater complications in society. Phil Somerville’s cartoon “World Environment Day” published in 2008, advocates a criticism towards ordinary citizens who don’t necessarily care for their local environment. Yet, they make token efforts or publicly proclaim their concern for the world. This then implies that the general public believe they´re saving planet Earth when really minimal action is being done and society is disregarding the pollution. Somerville has chosen to highlight his message through the use of hyperbole, irony, stereotype and visual symbols. The cartoonist aims to achieve an emotional response from the audience, to make the target feel guilty of their lack of efforts towards World Environment Day.
Language features that have been used to convey the message of the cartoon and create an audience response include hyperbole and irony. Somerville has chosen hyperbole to convey his message by exaggerating the amount of pollution and litter framed by the window to make it seem more important and dramatic, creating a shocking and contrasting impression. Through the window you can see the pollution, rubbish, a factory spitting out smoke, broken sewerage pipes, an airliner, heavy traffic and a poison symbol. This encourages the reader to feel shocked and worried about how much pollution there really is in their local environment.
Irony was also used to convey this message through situational and dramatic irony. World Environment Day was a day created specifically to raise global awareness and taking positive environmental actions to protect nature and planet earth. An expectation of this would be to find society come together and acting positively to improve their local environment. However, what is displayed and framed by the window which is trash and pollution, it seems to be the complete opposite of what was expected. This is situational irony where the outcome of a situation is different to what was expected. Leaving the reader wonder why no one in the cartoon is taking responsibility for their local environment and helping to clean up the destructed community.
In the cartoon the family seems to be unaware of the pollution outside their window, but the reader is. This is dramatic irony, where the reader is aware of something in the text that the character is not aware of. The family has their backs to reality as they contently gaze upon their television with blue skies and fluffy white clouds. They don’t necessarily think World Environment Day has anything to do with them making their community a better, clean and hygienic place. The reader notices the family´s faults, of ignoring reality and not acting to improve their local environment, and so the reader is left to feel angry and disappointed at this family.
However, soon after they will reflect upon this and ask themselves ´´Am I like them? Do I do enough for my local environment on World Environment day? ´´. This conveys Somerville´s message by making the target ponder if they´re doing enough for their local environment and makes the target audience seem no different to the family illustrated in the cartoon. It is through these chosen language features by the author that readers may conceivably find they can relate to this family, judge their own contribution on World Environment Day and may respond with guilt because of their token efforts.
Furthermore, a visual element that was deliberately used to convey Somerville´s message and create an audience response was stereotype. The cartoonist has chosen to use a stereotype to convey his message to make the cartoon look more believable and convincing. This is conveyed by how the family is illustrated. Portrayed in the cartoon is a mother, father, their two children and a cat sleeping, sitting on a large couch facing a giant flat screen television with their backs facing the window.
This is a family of two parents and two children and the fact that they have a pet, like most normal families do; it follows a suburban family stereotype. By creating the family to follow this particular stereotype, the reader would be encouraged to think that they are just normal citizens of society. The author has deliberately illustrated the family this way to make the cartoon look more relatable to the reader and to target the criticism at ordinary citizens who are indolent in response to World Environment Day.
Symbols are used to effectively highlight the cartoonist’s message to implicitly represent larger concepts and ideas. In the cartoon there is small four legged table with a bowl of fruit, bottle of wine and a wine glass towards the left side of the cartoon. The fruit bowl is a sign of good fortune and successful homemaking, whilst the bottle of wine is a sign of celebration. Somerville has deliberately illustrated a bottle of wine in the bottom left corner of the cartoon to portray the family celebrating their token efforts towards the environment. When the family is contently smiling gazing upon their television screen we can propose that the family is congratulating themselves with such assert that they have done their part in taking care of their local environment and have made an improvement. However, we can see that nothing has changed by the amount of litter and pollution framed by the window.
The wine conveys the message of the cartoon by representing the citizens of society who are congratulating their token efforts on World Environment Day. Also, the blue sky and fluffy clouds on the television screen is also a symbol that signifies purity, cleanliness and sanitation. It drags that attention of the reader to the television screen and makes the reader think ´´Oh, that’s nice´´, but at a second glance of the cartoon they then realise the litter and pollution outside the window. The reader then thinks ´´Wait hold on, why is it clean on the inside, but it’s the complete opposite outside? ´´. This makes the reader feel overwhelmed by the big difference and begins to question why they are disregarding the major problem outside their window and instead focusing on a television screen of a fake pristine environment.
The message of the cartoon is that citizens of society believe they´re saving planet earth when they make token efforts or publicly proclaim their concern and love for the world when really there isn’t enough being done for their own local environment. The cartoonist is criticising society members who do not do enough for their local environment and positions the reader to feel guilty about their token efforts. The cartoon suggests that the values and beliefs of people are not always put into practice and good use.
To conclude, Somerville advocates a criticism towards ordinary citizens who don’t necessarily care for their local environment. Citizens of society believe they´re doing enough for their local environment by making token efforts and publicly proclaiming their concern and love for the world environment. This message is conveyed effectively with the use of hyperbole, irony, stereotype and visual symbols. It is through these features that help us realise the role we have to play as an individual in society. It triggers an emotional response from the audience and makes the target audience feel guilty about their token efforts. Overall, satirical cartoons help us realise the faults in our community and encourages constructive social criticism.