Some of the people foaming at the mouth this week over Gary Varvel's cartoon depicting Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee have spiced their indignation by harking back to a Varvel cartoon in the Indianapolis Star that showed an apparently Mexican family invading a WASP home during Thanksgiving dinner.
Back then I made an extensive defense of Varvel and his art here, while indicating my long-running disagreement with his politics. Since this is an arts blog, I think an arts-based defense is germane; I do not address the column-writing he has since added to his arsenal.
I will quote the conclusion of that Nov. 27, 2014, post for those not inclined to click on the link above:
The Varvel cartoon controversy seems to indicate a sad, narrowing trend
of permissible discourse in America. Cries of "offensive" and
"inappropriate" — and particularly the loose application of the "racist"
label — tend to rule out of bounds creative expression that ought to be
seen in a larger context. That context was glossed over in the public
apology offered by Varvel's boss, Jeff Taylor.
On this blog, I am a relentless defender of the arts. I see Varvel's
Nov. 21 cartoon as the latest example of his skillful expression of
political viewpoints that are almost invariably opposed to mine. But
this piquant drawing, like most of his work, falls well within the
conventions — including technical aplomb, symbiosis of word and image,
communicative power, and conciseness — of the art form to which he has
long contributed with distinction.
Varvel's boss is now Ronnie Ramos. His apology, like Taylor's, was also disinclined to defend creative expression, especially if it seems likely to offend. It must be the sort of thing expected of corporate bosses. What should be defended by arts advocates like me will continue to have my support. The Star's readers deserve better than undercutting a provocative editorial cartoonist.