Sunday Mailbag

August 28th, 2011 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: Have you ever been asked to do a job that you weren’t comfortable with for philosophical or ethical reasons? How did you handle it?

A: Yes, I have had a few occasions where I have been approached to do some job that I was not comfortable doing. I handled it by politely turning it down.

What kind of jobs? Well, I am a pretty open-minded sort of guy, so there isn’t a whole lot of things that would bother me to the point of refusing to do work associated with it. There are shades of definition in everything, but in simplest terms I won’t do work that conclude the following:

  • Pornography
  • Promoting drug/alcohol use to kids
  • Blatant and/or malicious racism, sexism or any other type of hate or discrimination directed at a person or group of people

A lot of what I feel falls into those categories is open to debate over definitions. Nudity is not pornography in my book, as long as it is done tastefully and is important to the context of the illustration and whatever story it is illustrating. I do work for Penthouse, and the first thing I told them when they called me was I would not do any real pornography, to which they said they would only consider me for work I was comfortable doing. Some of it has involved nudity, but I was allowed to present it in the way I wanted, and have been very happy with the work I have done for them over the years. I have not crossed my idea of “the line”, and they have not asked me to. I have been asked several times to do work for porno publications and websites, to which I have said a polite, “No thanks”.

As far as drugs and alcohol, I’d be reluctant to do any job that truly glorified the use of drugs in general, but if it is aimed at kids then that is out of the question. That includes cigarettes. I have done plenty of jobs that depicted drinking alcohol, usually in humorous ways, and some that treated drugs in the same way, but again that is not quite what I mean by “promoting drugs or alcohol”. Mostly it would come down to if I thought the article in question was promoting the use to kids, or presenting the use of really bad drugs as being acceptable at any age… I’m talking heroin, crack or the like.

As far as the discrimination thing goes, there is a difference between un-PC level humor and real, intentional hate speech. Those jobs must past the “sniff test”…if they smell bad they are bad, and I pass. Some people may disagree that something I thought was just an off-color or somewhat insensitive joke to be a horribly hateful, racist thing, but there are plenty of people in the world who are way too sensitive about that kind of thing, and everyone has their own ideas about that. If I feel what I am doing is not meant to be hateful, I am content with that decision.

Thanks to Grant Jonen for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

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