By Will Linhares-Huang
In September of 2018, Canadian editorial cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon illustrated the following political cartoon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. The editorial depicts the assault of Lady Justice by U.S republicans. Specifically, the graphic image displays the U.S Republican assaulting Lady Justice by covering her mouth and pinning her wrist down as her scales of justice lay beside her. When MacKinnon released his illustration to the general public, it quickly went viral amidst the allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brent Kavanaugh. The purpose of the political cartoon was to draw exact parallels from how California professor Christine Blasey Ford described an alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh dating back to 1982. Like many, MacKinnon was gripped by Ford’s emotional and powerful televised testimony in which she alleged that a drunken, 17-year-old Kavanaugh forced her down on a bed, groped her and tried to take off her clothes during a high school gathering in the summer of 1982. MacKinnon was able to create such a powerful piece of social commentary through the use of symbolism, perspective, and contrast.
MacKinnon’s use of iconic symbols like Lady Justice and her scales of justice, and the U.S Republican Party logo effectively link the illustration to the Kavanaugh-Ford sexual assault allegations. At first glance at the editorial, Lady Justice is being assaulted by some unknown figure. However, as one eyes the cuff links of the outstretched arms of the assaulter, the reader’s understanding changes dramatically and MacKinnon’s message is clear. The blue and red, elephant illustration is the symbol for the U.S Republican Party and this symbol effectively links the editorial to the allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brent Kavanaugh. The cartoon illustrates Lady Justice pinned down by the Republican figure causing her Scales of Justice to lay beside her, out of her reach. These scales are symbolic of balance, fairness, and harmony. Seeing such a key component of Lady Justice’s identity cast aside because of the assault of the U.S Republican truly conveys how crooked the U.S government was seen then. Additionally, Lady Justice’s mouth is covered by the Repiblican’s hand which directly links to the idea that Republican members of the committee tried to smother justice before it had a chance to be heard, Ford’s testimony. The thought of having someone accused of sexual assault as a member of the Supreme Court of Justice like Kavanaugh seems like a direct violation to Lady Justice and this idea is evidently displayed in MacKinnon’s political cartoon by creating [parallels with Ford’s sexual assault story. Moreover, MacKinnon’s use of perspective contributes to the explicitness of the graphic image. While the cartoon concept of a U.S Republican assaulting Lady Justice is already unsettling, MacKinnon’s use of perspective makes readers deeply uncomfortable. The political cartoon takes the perspective of assaulter, the U.S Republican. MacKinnon frames his political cartoon and chooses to only include and position the violent arms of the U.S Republican in such a manner that compels audiences to feel as if they are taking on the role of the abuser.
When hearing Christine Blasey Ford explicitly describe Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her, it is natural to feel emotionally gripped and strangled. This televised testimony was considered by some as a turning point on how sexual assault allegations were viewed in the United States. MacKinnon’s political cartoon purposefully invoked such feelings to implore for the disccusion of sexual assault to continue. His political commentary is disturbing, but necessary.