September 12, 2018

So...About that Serena Cartoon: It sure feels like this is something that would have been discussed at length a few years back on SpoFi. What does the hive mind here think? Is it racist as hell, a cultural phenomenon, or a bit of both?

posted by tahoemoj to tennis at 05:10 PM - 9 comments

This probably would have prompted discussion a while back. These days, my first reaction is to involuntarily triage it. As in: bad stuff is being said and done every day, blatantly and without apology. Where does this rank on the list of ongoing offenses?

It's impossible to respond to everything that ought to be responded to. The sheer volume and pace of instances are prohibitive. I found the cartoon offensive and wonder what he would have drawn if he knew he had to find a way to comment on Serena's conduct but had not been seeing things through an Australian lens and didn't work for a News Corp publication.

If Aussies don't like this sort of behavior, let's see the archived caricatures of McEnroe from bygone days. By rights, they should be far more exaggerated and excoriating.

And as for the Australian dislike for self-seriousness and solemnity, particularly among sporting icons, what about Rod Laver? A national treasure and remarkable titan of tennis, but they couldn't carve his face into the side of a mountain if they wanted to. The stone isn't hard enough.

posted by beaverboard at 05:56 PM on September 12

Is it racist as hell, a cultural phenomenon, or a bit of both?

I think it's simply an honest take on Serena acting like a spoiled child.

posted by cixelsyd at 06:20 PM on September 12

My take on the whole thing is multifaceted:

On one hand, if one is going to caricature an athletically built African-American woman, there are only so many ways to do it. And if his perception was that Serena was throwing a tantrum or being a "crybaby," then the body language he used was fairly spot-on.

On the other hand, if one is going to caricature an athletically built African-American woman, there are myriad better ways to do so than to draw a morbidly obese minstrel show character with an enormous ass in a simian posture.

I also think that any benefit of the doubt that he might receive vis-a-vis my first thought is immediately invalidated by the fact that he drew Naomi Osaka - presumably the "innocent" in the statement - as a blond-haired Caucasian rather than accurately representing her own ethnic makeup. To me, the statement that he is screaming is that the big black villian was ruining the poor white girl's tennis game by behaving like an animal.

So...in other words, racist as hell.

On edit: But I also think reasonable minds may disagree.

posted by tahoemoj at 06:23 PM on September 12

I also think that any benefit of the doubt that he might receive vis-a-vis my first thought is immediately invalidated by the fact that he drew Naomi Osaka - presumably the "innocent" in the statement - as a blond-haired Caucasian rather than accurately representing her own ethnic makeup. To me, the statement that he is screaming is that the big black villian was ruining the poor white girl's tennis game by behaving like an animal.

Ding ding ding!

The caricature was bad enough, but to swap out the Asian opponent with an "innocent white girl" is pretty much the clincher for me.

posted by grum@work at 07:47 PM on September 12

swap out the Asian opponent with an "innocent white girl"

Yeah, if he did that then I agree.

Could have left it at imagery of Serena throwing a tantrum, breaking the rules, and getting beat by a better opponent on that day (there aren't many such days where Serena is concerned).

posted by cixelsyd at 08:50 PM on September 12

Pretty sad result. No sympathy when a white cartoonist can't take reasonable criticism (e.g., Bernice King's) and understand that a white Australian man is not capable of determining where the line is on racism.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:17 AM on September 13

That cartoon was absolutely a dog whistle to a particular subset of the Herald-Sun's readership. The ones that drone on about gangs of Sudanese teenagers terrorizing Melbourne and think Manus Island is a reasonable response to refugees.

Serena's antics wouldn't play well at all in Australia (even Lleyton Hewitt was a polarizing character, half on the nationalist bandwagon and half hating him carrying on like a pork chop) but there is also a deep streak of racism and bigotry. It's not the same racist crap you see in North America but it is still there.

posted by deflated at 11:07 AM on September 13

Yeah, if he did that then I agree

There's no if, that's exactly what he did.

posted by BornIcon at 01:48 PM on September 13

I have waited for a while before commenting. I finally took a look at the cartoon this afternoon. Without a doubt that the cartoonist, while possibly not an avowed racist, certainly shows a clear racial bias. Serena's tirade was inexcusable, but with her not having played well in the first set, the pressure was immense. One expects better of one who has played at the top level for as long as she has, but even the best are not perfect.

Now for some reasons it never should have gotten that far. The umpire was absolutely technically correct, but failed badly in understanding the situation and handling it. Serena threw her racket. This is a clear violation, and it was correctly called. Now comes the failure. The umpire claimed that Serena's box was sending coaching signals. This is something that I understand happens occasionally, but it is rarely called. Rather than immediately call a second code violation, he should have spoken calmly to Serena, told her what he thought he saw, and said that any more of it would be called. This might have prevented the explosion, kept Serena in the match, and given the paying fans their money's worth.

People do not pay good money to watch the officials take over a game. Let the players determine the outcome. Of course the calls you make have a major effect, but it is part of the game. Missing a call because you couldn't see the play well enough or for another physical reason is bad but not terrible. When I was leaning to be a baseball umpire, I was taught to be sure of my calls, get help from my fellow umpire, and above all do not eject anyone, coach or player, unless he was clearly beyond the line. If it's a tight call, and a coach comes out to question it, listen, explain, keep your sense of humor, and keep everyone in the game, even if they're not happy. It was called "preventive umpiring", and when practiced it can be a good but unnoticed thing.

posted by Howard_T at 10:10 PM on September 13

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.