Today in 1920s Turkey: 19 September 1926 (A Cartoon Both Crazy and a Bit Creepy)

in #cartoon6 years ago

post 113 cover pic.jpg
(Cartoon by Cemal Nadir Güler, Papağan or “Parrot,” 19 September 1926, no. 162, page 2.)

(Üstte) Şimdiki intiharlardan bir numune:
(Altta) — O kızı sevdiğimi ıspat etmek için hazır, şu eczanenin önüne gelmişken bir defada intihar edeyim!..

(Above) One example of present-day suicides:
(Below) — While I’m right here in front of this pharmacy I will commit suicide at once to prove that I love that woman!

This is one of the most arresting and disturbing cartoons I’ve seen from this era. Its style, content, and message alike are misaligned. Nevertheless, it is possible that this incongruity is precisely what gels its imagery and narrative together. The style is cartoonish rather than realistic or aesthetically stylized—all of which this artist is capable of executing (see other examples of his works here: #143, #109, #52, and #45). This style misleads the viewer into thinking it will represent a playful scene. The man’s wide eyes should be paired with a smile, as the prominent laugh creases on his cheeks would suggest. Yet the space where his mouth should be is blank. This omission leads the eye up his extended right arm and to the knife he is holding in the air. His arm extends outward in a grand gesture of imminent, very near-future stomach-stabbing.

That all of this is rendered in a goofy line clashes with the man’s violent gesture and contributes to the cartoon’s eerie mood. His facial features are reminiscent of a psychotic clown or a pantomime of some sort. His theatrical visage and exaggerated pose plays into his motive of “proving his love” to a woman. Probably reading a recent story in the newspaper of a man who attempted suicide for similar reasons, the cartoonist is regurgitating this trope of “love-induced sacrifice” through the lens of less-than-subtle theater, in essence calling it an act, or perhaps even a cheap trick to garner attention. The cartoonish line also helps to couch criticism (lest the cartoonist be considered insensitive) in a shock-absorbing, light-hearted style. In my opinion, the subtlety of these mixed signals are what make this image so unbalanced, so unsettling...

Whether you agree with my reading of the cartoon or not, it is clear that the cartoonist has an opinion regarding suicide, which is a touchy subject. You may be wondering how prevalent suicides are at this time: would this have been a common subject of discussion in 1920s Turkey? In fact, the subject of suicide is one that shows up with some regularity in the 1920s press. A previous Today in 1920s Turkey post about an article listing recent deaths around Istanbul cites three suicides in a list of seven specific deaths. People may be concerned about it because it seems to be happening more than usual. That the text cited “proof of love” as the reason for suicide and that it specifies the weapon of choice to be a drug from a pharmacy (not a knife, as depicted in the cartoon) suggests that these circumstances are the ones so egregious they warrant a cartoonist’s blunt satirization. The pharmaceuticals make taking a life easier and unsolicited sacrifices to romantic love cheapen life, reducing it to a gesture. Both conditions are a shame.

no162- p2- 19 Sept 1926- Papagan- HTUK - low res.jpg
(Entire page, Papağanor “Parrot,” 19 September 1926, no. 162, page 2. Hakkı Tarık Us Collection, Beyazit State Library, Istanbul.)

This article has been updated and modified from its first iteration published right here on Steemit on 19 September 2017. For the original version see:
113. Today in 1920s Turkey: 19 September 1926 (A Cartoon Both Crazy and a Bit Creepy)


Hello @yasemin-gencer, thank you for sharing this creative work! We just stopped by to say that you've been upvoted by the @creativecrypto magazine. The Creative Crypto is all about art on the blockchain and learning from creatives like you. Looking forward to crossing paths again soon. Steem on!

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