The Banality of Villainy: Syd Hoff Eats the Rich

Caricature, when done well, is the art of clarification through exaggeration. Which is not the same thing as simplification. The best caricaturists exaggerate, enhance, underscore and highlight some physical or character attributes that express a deeper insight about its subject. Thomas Nast’s iconic Boss Tweed was not just obese with graft. He was gelatinous, overwhelmed and almost inert from his own power and greed. It was a portentous portrait. It argued visually the seeds of Tweed’s own destruction, an appetite for power that was overcoming his own control and better judgment. It did what caricature does best by attaching ideas and arguments to figures in ways that reach beyond simple journalistic proof or language. And because political and social caricature almost always personifies issues, it tends to explain social problems as aspects of human imperfection.

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