October 7, 2012

Icons, Cartoons, and You!

I genuinely enjoyed reading this passage from McCloud's Understanding Comics. I enjoyed how the author was able to use the medium of the graphic novel and visual arts to explain his theories about cartoons and how that relates to human psychology. Seeing his points literally illustrated on the page helped me to understand this, at times, difficult concept. The other rhetoricians that we have studied in this course could learn a thing or two from McCloud and his process.

I did want to take a moment to disagree with one of McCloud's points, specifically the part where he explains human's predisposition to see themselves in cartoon faces. McCloud argues that the reason that humans put so much importance and time into non-photorealistic cartoon characters is because cartoon character's faces are simplified to the point where the audience can assign their features to the character's. It is on this point that I have a differing of opinion with McCloud. While it is true that this allows the audience to relate to the characters better, this is not the reason why people watch cartoons.

The visual art of animation and cartoons allows the unreal to become possible. It is through this medium, and only this medium, that a talking mice can have adventures, three chipmunks can live with an exasperated homeowner, and a lazy cat can eat lasagna all day; and the illusion of reality is never broken. It is the experiencing of these unreal moments that is the draw of cartoons.

I did, however, greatly enjoy and agree with the "objects as extensions of ourselves" argument that McCloud makes. It is only through this cognitive dissonance that driving a car is not a terrifying experience where you fear for your life constantly. Instead of seeing 1-ton heap of metal hurtling down the highway at suicidal speeds. We instead see people on those highways which, as well as curbing our very called-for terror, establishes empathy with the other people on the road.

1 comment:

Joel Bergholtz said...

In reading your post, I would argue that you agree with McCloud's point about human's predisposition to see themselves in the cartoon more than you might think. I am not 100% positive, but isn't the thought process behind seeing objects as extensions of ourselves quite similar to the thought process behind seeing cartoons as extensions of ourselves? I think McCloud's main point in both of these arguments is we put ourselves into everything; we see inanimate objects with human like characteristics, even when those characteristics are not there (McCloud uses the example of the front of a car, a plug-in, etc.). When thinking about past readings, it seems he is thinking in line with Lakoff and Jonston in that we think metaphorically. Although they are making separate points, the same point is made that humans are constantly thinking metaphorically. It is this same line of logic that allows us to see cars as human beings (he hit me!) and argument as war (he attacked me!. Taking this line of thought into comic books, it is easy to see how we instantly put ourselves into the protagonist's shoes. We can't read comics objectively. We have to feel included, and cartoons vague and ambiguous characteristics allow us to do so.

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