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University of Arizona Newspaper Apologizes for Cartoon That Joked About Father Killing His Gay Son

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The editor of the Arizona Wildcat, the student newspaper of the University of Arizona, apologized yesterday for a cartoon which joked about a father killing his gay son.

Wrote editor-in-chief Kristina Bui:

On Tuesday, the Daily Wildcat staff made a serious error in judgment in printing a cartoon that some readers felt was homophobic and inappropriate. We heard from several readers who expressed their disappointment and hurt over the comic strip.

The Arizona Daily Wildcat is now reviewing its editorial policies and has terminated the employment of the cartoonist as of Wednesday. His views do not represent the views of the Wildcat staff, nor does the Wildcat represent the views of the university.

The “etc.” cartoon in question illustrated a parent threatening their child if he ever came out, and the two characters joke about the threat. We agree with the criticism we’ve met, and we apologize. The comic was not funny.

Commenters to Bui's apology seem to mostly agree with one commenter, Andrew Simpson, who calls on the editorial board to resign:

You still do not seem to understand. The problem is not that "some readers felt" the cartoon was inappropriate. The problem is that you knowingly let your paper promote violent hate. You then published a cowardly non-apology along with an incoherent defense from the cartoonist. The readership cannot continue to trust editors after such a spectacular and public series of mistakes. You, the editorial board, can only really end this by resigning.

Nearly 5,000 folks on change.org feel the same way.

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Comments

  1. You know what, even if this wasn't homophobic at all, that is about the lamest joke ever. I'm more shocked by the poor level of humour than the questionable homophobia of it.

    Posted by: danswon | Oct 19, 2012 11:44:22 AM


  2. I am never offended by jokes that are racially inappropriate, homophobic, sexist, etc.. To me, the more offensive and shocking, the funnier it is. However, this was not a funny joke, which is the true crime here.

    Posted by: Luke | Oct 19, 2012 11:56:23 AM


  3. Following this in the AZ media, it appears (must crib off a Mark Twain comment about thieves): They aren't as sorry for doing it as much as they are sorry they were caught.

    Posted by: Roberto | Oct 19, 2012 12:04:29 PM


  4. The question isn't whether or not Parsons deserved to be fired, it's why in holy heck he was still working for the Wildcat by this point anyway. Look at his previous comics, and those of you who think he might just have been trying to expose homophobia here will see that rationale vanish in a puff of smoke.

    Like, how about Parson's comic where a black man is told to marry a Mormon so he can have all the white women he wants? Laughing yet? Or his series of Suicide Prevention Hotline comics where each time the caller is ignored or told to kill themselves? That's some knee-slapping, rib-tickling humor right there, eh? Or how about the strip where the "joke" is this: "My girlfriend doesn't like it when I punch her in the stomach... but I don't like it when she tells me she might be pregnant."

    That last one had already gotten angry letters to the Wildcat back in February. Seriously, though, go read his comics and then tell me why anyone on the editorial staff that KEPT letting this guy publish this stuff still has a job.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Oct 19, 2012 12:10:11 PM


  5. The question isn't whether or not Parsons deserved to be fired, it's why in holy heck he was still working for the Wildcat by this point anyway. Look at his previous comics, and those of you who think he might just have been trying to expose homophobia here will see that rationale vanish in a puff of smoke.

    Like, how about Parson's comic where a black man is told to marry a Mormon so he can have all the white women he wants? Laughing yet? Or his series of Suicide Prevention Hotline comics where each time the caller is ignored or told to kill themselves? That's some knee-slapping, rib-tickling humor right there, eh? Or how about the strip where the "joke" is this: "My girlfriend doesn't like it when I punch her in the stomach... but I don't like it when she tells me she might be pregnant."

    That last one had already gotten angry letters to the Wildcat back in February. Seriously, though, go read his comics and then tell me why anyone on the editorial staff that KEPT letting this guy publish this stuff still has a job.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Oct 19, 2012 12:10:14 PM


  6. I don't expect the cartoonist to apologize, as he wrote it to begin with. The editors may wish to re-examine their policies. I suppose if you support the Mohammed cartoons then this is along the same lines pc-wise, but it's elliptically naive. Either the kid is so scared at the end he cracks the joke to put is his father off, or he agrees with his father that gays are awful, or the father is joking and then the son is joking for whatever reason. Too many ...'s to work.

    I'm assuming the cartoonist is trying to be edgy in order to get noticed. I guess it's working out for him.

    Posted by: anon | Oct 19, 2012 12:31:31 PM


  7. I don't expect the cartoonist to apologize, as he wrote it to begin with. The editors may wish to re-examine their policies. I suppose if you support the Mohammed cartoons then this is along the same lines pc-wise, but it's elliptically naive. Either the kid is so scared at the end he cracks the joke to put is his father off, or he agrees with his father that gays are awful, or the father is joking and then the son is joking for whatever reason. Too many ...'s to work.

    I'm assuming the cartoonist is trying to be edgy in order to get noticed. I guess it's working out for him.

    Posted by: anon | Oct 19, 2012 12:31:55 PM


  8. Where are you seeing previous examples of Parson's "comics"? Seeing this in the context of his other work would help a lot. I've tried finding them on the newspaper site without luck.

    So far as I can tell the whole point of this strip, the "punchline," is do refer to a dead gay kid (killed by a parent, no less) rolled up in a carpet as a "fruit roll-up." That's it. There's nothing there to indicate another level to it, any implied disapproval, just a really bad and offensive "pun." Any attempt to impose a different interpretation comes entirely from outside- there is NOTHING within the "comic" itself that leads to that conclusion.

    If he had drawn a comic about how if a black person is hanged from a tree and set on fire that must make them a Christmas light, would that have passed muster? I seriously f*cking doubt it.

    Posted by: Caliban | Oct 19, 2012 12:51:22 PM


  9. Where are you seeing previous examples of Parson's "comics"? Seeing this in the context of his other work would help a lot. I've tried finding them on the newspaper site without luck.

    So far as I can tell the whole point of this strip, the "punchline," is do refer to a dead gay kid (killed by a parent, no less) rolled up in a carpet as a "fruit roll-up." That's it. There's nothing there to indicate another level to it, any implied disapproval, just a really bad and offensive "pun." Any attempt to impose a different interpretation comes entirely from outside- there is NOTHING within the "comic" itself that leads to that conclusion.

    If he had drawn a comic about how if a black person is hanged from a tree and set on fire that must make them a Christmas light, would that have passed muster? I seriously f*cking doubt it.

    Posted by: Caliban | Oct 19, 2012 12:51:29 PM


  10. Much ado about nothing. I am gay and was not offended. The strip was funny and highlights a reality gay people face with their family.

    Posted by: adine | Oct 19, 2012 1:00:30 PM


  11. The cartoon was a kind of black humor that is too proximal-to seriously unfunny homophobic sentiments for my liking. The cartoonist has been fired. I could certainly support penalties for the EIC or the editor of the section where the comic was inserted - but surely Andy (if not the quoted commenter) knows enough about student journalism to see the illogic in a suggestion that a college newspaper's editorial board resign. Student newspapers are often small-staffed offices where the "Editorial Board" is basically the staff itself. Is the purpose to shut down the student newspaper for a few weeks while a new editorial board (ie new staffers) are hired and trained? The lessons to learned here are undermined by demanding absurd penalties for the offense.

    Posted by: kipp | Oct 19, 2012 1:20:37 PM


  12. So it is the kid's Dad or Mom who's threatening to ice him?

    Posted by: Gry | Oct 19, 2012 3:15:10 PM


  13. I know some people who work at the paper, and I think they did the right thing. The truth is that asking for the entire editorial board to resign is ridiculous; it's a single incident. Not only do the copy editors not all go over the same parts of the paper--the person I know who works there doesn't even see the comics--but the editor-in-chief okays papers every single day and this is the only thing that's slipped through.

    It's a comics page in a college newspaper; most people give it just a glance. Is it awful that it slipped through? Of course, and everybody at the Arizona Wildcat feels awful about it. They've apologized, they've fired the cartoonist, and they've resolved to put everything under closer scrutiny. Why cause them to lose their jobs after a sincere apology?

    Posted by: Yuki | Oct 19, 2012 4:50:18 PM


  14. I know some people who work at the paper, and I think they did the right thing. The truth is that asking for the entire editorial board to resign is ridiculous; it's a single incident. Not only do the copy editors not all go over the same parts of the paper--the person I know who works there doesn't even see the comics--but the editor-in-chief okays papers every single day and this is the only thing that's slipped through.

    It's a comics page in a college newspaper; most people give it just a glance. Is it awful that it slipped through? Of course, and everybody at the Arizona Wildcat feels awful about it. They've apologized, they've fired the cartoonist, and they've resolved to put everything under closer scrutiny. Why cause them to lose their jobs after a sincere apology?

    Posted by: Yuki | Oct 19, 2012 4:50:18 PM


  15. Quelle suprise. Arizona again.

    Posted by: Chicklets | Oct 19, 2012 6:32:47 PM


  16. @Caliban

    They're on D.C. Parson's Facebook page if you want to take a look at them.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Oct 19, 2012 6:44:48 PM


  17. If this is an "attempt" at black humor" then it failed, spectacularly. It isn't even remotely funny, and I like dark humor. Dark humor is usually a hyperbole of ridiculousness, but if you have nothing normal to contrast it to it just seems hateful.

    Posted by: Alexx | Oct 20, 2012 2:14:17 PM


  18. the real crime here is that there were people in place (or there should have been) to approve and check each item that goes into the paper......ya the cartoonist is an emotionally bankrupt person who seems to have forgotten what funny is, but the editor(s)have obviously forgotten what the responsibilities of their position are. The lack of concern on behalf of the people responsible for the content of the paper is the most disturbing of all...i am an Arizona resident and i will not be attending or supporting any event hosted by U of A from this moment on...i encourage others to do the same....and lastly to Jason....playing the devil's advocate only to stir up controversy will not make you popular and it most certainly will not make you appear smarter...grow up.

    Posted by: Samuel | Oct 22, 2012 2:27:24 PM


  19. usually I say you should not back down and apologize because people whine and complain when they don't like what you say.. BUT.. some things are over the line - and in that case if they are dumb enough to publish it in the first place they gotta stand up and admit they were in the wrong.

    Posted by: non-apology | Nov 3, 2012 3:39:17 PM


  20. I am an Arizona graduate and an alumnae of the journalism program. I worked closely with the staff at the Arizona Daily Wildcat and was a founding editor of the short-lived RedBlue Magazine on campus. In short, I understand the pressure faced by college journalists. I also happen to know the current EIC of the Daily Wildcat, Ms. Bui, personally. I graduated with her sister and have watched her love of journalism flourish over the last eight years. The cartoon is appalling. I understand it's intent, and see how it was a horrific failure that should never have seen the light of day, however, I am older and wiser than the current editorial board of the Daily Wildcat and have had the time to learn these lessons.

    Having established all of that, I have two things to say: 1.) The Arizona Daily Wildcat is an independent press that serves the University of Arizona, therefore the University and it's President cannot impose punishment or sanctions on the newspaper or it's staff because it disagrees with printed content. Please understand I am not saying I agree or disagree with this, however, it is a fact and I therefore ask the community not to penalize a wonderful, socially contentious and progressive university for the mistakes and poor judgement of a group of 19-21 year old students. This cartoon in no way represented the beliefs of the University nor, I believe, it's student body. 2.) Ms. Bui, like so many other journalists and journalism students I have known, is an extremely moral person who has chosen to walk an extremely thin line between freedom of speech and morality. Many journalists, especially young ones, pride themselves on trying to be as open-minded and unbiased as possible. We (yes, I was subject to this same idealism) try to view things from all points of view and employ a dark cynicism that allows us to understand the intent of something like this cartoon. We foolishly believe that because we understand it, or think we understand it, the audience will as well. Whether or not the audience likes it is irrelevant as the Constitution does not grant people the right to not be offended. Ms. Bui's choice to print the cartoon was a judgement call. She was walking a tightrope and had to choose which way to walk. Ultimately, she failed in her assessment of the cartoon and its merits, but do not think for one second she and the rest of the editorial board do not understand the serious error of judgement that occurred. They are ashamed of their mistake, Ms. Bui very much regrets the decision she made, but demanding her resignation isn't going to change the fact that the cartoon has been published, nor will it allow her the opportunity to learn from this serious, serious error in judgement and effectively change the way she, and future Daily Wildcat editorial boards, edit the newspaper.

    Posted by: Rae | Nov 5, 2012 6:26:14 PM


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