Caricatures of Serena Williams

Caricatures of Serena Williams

TENNIS STAR Serena Williams has been making headlines recently and not entirely because of her defeat at the US Open. There has been a global furore surrounding a cartoon of her having a tantrum at losing the match. The critics complain that the cartoon caricatures Serena Williams in the same way as black people were caricatured back in the 19th century and that this (cartoon) was an intentional racist comment.

Personally, I can’t see it that way as it simply a cartoon illustrating a black sportswoman being a bad loser. There was, perhaps, something about the unflattering ‘angry face’ of Serena Williams in the cartoon which riled most complainants and many pointed out the unflattering physique in the cartoon. I wonder if they have actually SEEN her? An impressive build for a man, let alone a woman.

There is a worrying socio-political culture growing at the moment which sees sins/crimes where there are none, if they don’t concur with their rule book of political correctness. The irony of it is that they call hapless perpetrators of these deeds as ‘bigots’ even they are being even more bigoted from the other side of their imaginary fence.

Caricatures of Serena Williams

I decided to try to draw an accurate caricature of Serena Williams in full exertion mode. You can see the result above. Caricatures are not meant to be particularly flattering and the Australian cartoon which caused all the fuss was simply illustrating a news story (albeit with the generic opponent, rather than Naomi Osaka).

As a caricaturist, I try to please my clients, obviously, but I don’t believe the Australian cartoonist intended to cause the tidal wave of offence that his cartoon caused.

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2 thoughts on “Caricatures of Serena Williams”

  1. Hello Simon – I really appreciate seeing this commentary and image of Serena based on a photo of her. I have been having heated and unpleasant discussions with family and friends on the controversy. I had asked the question you discuss here: is it possible to caricature Serena – or other people of African descent who have similar facial features as she does – without the image being reminiscent of Jim Crow racist stereotypical images? My theory was that it was very difficult if not impossible. That seems to be your point of view as well. I had asked my friends & family if they could devise a cartoon portraying Serena in the midst of a tantrum on the tennis court in a satiric cartoon without the image looking similar to Jim Crow racist portrayal of blacks. You are the first one to have come close to my request. Have you tried to portray her in a way even more similar to how Mark Knight portrayed her – with an angry face engaged in verbally scolding the umpire or just blowing her stack? I would really appreciate it if you would attempt to do so. But the image you have drawn on this page is the best example of what I was hoping to see. Thank you so very much.

  2. Thank you Janet. I have recently found a front-on photo of Serena Williams shouting angrily and was immediately able to pinpoint one or two areas where Mark Knight went wrong – easy to do with the slip of the pen in the heat of needing to meet a close deadline. In actual fact, his cartoon doesn’t actually resemble Serena very much at all; you just know who it is supposed to be in the context. I still don’t think it was racially motivated in the slightest. If I have the time or inclination I may well take up your challenge! Watch this space.

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