Against the backdrop of the economic crisis and the disappearance of many print papers, we discover fewer political cartoons in daily newspapers, describing some events on a humorous note.
Political cartoons were something traditional in the Romanian print press, but it seems that nowadays the public and the fine artists alike do no longer take a keen interest in this type of political commentaries. To everyone’s surprise, a new character, “the Misanthrope Rabbit” has emerged, to prove, once more, the endless opportunities provided by the Internet and the virtual reality. A virtual, small, whitish animal, with a blasé, bored figure, the rabbit is commenting particularly on international issues on Facebook, as well as on his dedicated page “mizantrop.info”. His creators, Madalina and Adrian Raileanu, are making together both the drawings and the rabbit’s juicy comments. Adrian Raileanu has further details on the rabbit’s biography:
Adrian Raileanu: “He was born some three years ago, on a blog, and in time he has even got a face. From the very beginning, he has been a sort of news aggregator. With its help, we started putting down what was happening during a week, in an effort to remember what to talk about on Saturdays, when we went out with our friends. The rabbit was born online, grew up on Facebook and is an animal made entirely of pixels. I have always been fascinated by the cat in ‘The Master and Margarita’, the hind leg walking, eternally mischievous giant black cat who was talking ironically to all those around it. In order not to take over the same idea, I created a rabbit, a big hind leg walking rabbit, speaking ironically to all those around him.”
But why is it a misanthrope and ironical rabbit? “Maybe, because it is just like us”, Adrian Raileanu explains. But when asked why the misanthrope rabbit chose to be born on the Internet and to express itself online and not in the pages of a print newspaper, the rabbit’s creators answered openly and clearly, without a shred of irony: “Because the Internet is the most active, lively, resilient and saucy environment”. There, the misanthrope rabbit is commenting mainly on foreign policy and news. Adrian Raileanu.
Adrian Raileanu: “At the moment when the ‘Misanthrope Rabbit’ started to be rather successful on Facebook, foreign policy meant mostly European policy. It was the moment when the economic and financial crisis broke out in Greece. What was happening there back then was a matter of concern to us all. And foreign policy is not the only topic of interest. We are part of a Union and everything that is happening in the EU has a direct impact on us. I think it’s wrong to see what’s going on in Europe as foreign policy”.
In time, the misanthrope rabbit became famous on the Internet. Actually, when it shot to fame, it left its favourite place, the Internet, and appeared in a classical format, too. In January 2014, the Humanitas Publishers launched the book “The Misanthrope Rabbit. Breaking The News. Small Atlas of Realities” and starting last year its sarcastic commentaries have been published in the pages of a publication called ‘Only a Magazine’. Here is editor Gabriel Dobre with more on this collaboration.
Gabriel Dobre: “We try to have as much illustration in our magazine as we possibly can. When the rabbit appeared on the Internet, we found the idea very exciting because although we have very good cartoonists here, at our desk, an inspired cartoon accompanied by a social commentary is something quite rare. It would be difficult for me to find a young cartoonist able to come up with an interesting and fresh approach. I believe that in this context, the idea of the rabbit is even more unique.”
Political cartoons are still being published in various magazines– such as those made by Dan Perjovschi in ‘Revista 22’ and by Ion Barbu in several other publications – but they don’t seem very popular with artists. Maybe it’s because of the readership’s diminished appetite for it. Here is Gabriel Dobre again.
Gabriel Dobre: “It’s very easy to blame the readers for it, but I don’t think that’s the reason. It’s more like a disconnection from topics that are no longer appealing, in favour of a sort of aesthetic, but empty art. I believe that political commentaries, under the shape of cartoons, should be more present though.”
Nevertheless, the misanthrope rabbit has so far got 8000 likes on Facebook, from people aged over 25, who have university studies. Surprisingly enough, most of those who appreciate the rabbit are women. Given the big number of fans, Adrian Raileanu came to the conclusion that readers are hungry for international news and good commentaries.
Adrian Raileanu: “We would like to render people more curious about what’s happening around them, beyond our national landscape, and we were surprised to learn that there are many well informed people, interested in knowing more, people who understand they are living in a global village. Some of the people posting comments are sometimes more informed than we are. It does not bother us, because this isn’t our job, we are not journalists. We have our own professions in various other fields.”
The Romanians have shown a keen interest in political cartooning and the Internet seems to have revitalized this field. In fact, liken in the case of many other fields, the Internet has taken over what used to be, in the past, the privilege of the print press.