Commentator Betty Cloer Wallace opines that “Debilitating hillbilly stereotypes resound internationally and hurt us … both personally and economically” [“Fighting Back,” Commentary, May 6]. Obviously, the Xpress editors were not listening, as the Molton cartoon only two pages before implies that a rural WNC resident named Bubba has conjugal relations with his swine [“Pigdemic,” May 6]. Blatant hypocrisy!
Furthermore, I believe Molton’s cartoons are of the political-satire genre. What politics does this cartoon advance? Certainly not the politics of diversity, empathy or respect. Does this mean we should not be offended by doctored photos of watermelons on the White House lawn? Is the N-word now back in vogue?
I expected better of Mountain Xpress. Respect is a two-way street.
— Alex Long
Cartoonist Randy Molton responds: Your concern for oppressed rural white people in our community is admirable. And I am hopeful that one day, they shall overcome the bigotry of my cartoon to gain the same justice and equality enjoyed by the rest of us.
Managing Editor Jon Elliston and Publisher Jeff Fobes respond: It is never our hope or intention to offend readers. That said, we strive to give our freelance cartoonists and humorists (such as Randy Molton and the producers of the Asheville Disclaimer page) pretty wide latitude in preparing their material, because we’ve found that one person’s searing joke may be another’s blatant insult.
The seemingly poor timing of Wallace’s commentary and Molton’s cartoon may in fact turn out to have been great timing: The contrast and tension between the two viewpoints have generated much passion, empathy and concern for victims of stereotyping.
Living in the midst of Appalachia, we have an intimate sense of the diverse worldviews and values its people embody. If anyone knows that the hillbilly stereotype is a goofy figment, it’s us. And if anyone can make fun of that stereotype in a nondebilitating way, it’s probably folks who live here and know mountain people.
What’s gratifying, in the end, is how concerned and responsive readers are when it comes to questions of taste, humor, bigotry etc. These letters, along with the extensive debate and comment following the cartoon’s online appearance, reminded us yet again that many facets of our community are paying attention and are willing to sound off when something rubs them the wrong way.
Humor can be cutting and vicious; it can also help us grow. Even if you think we failed miserably in this case, Xpress always aims to do the latter.
Thanks much for your letters and online comments; active, thoughtful and empathetic people are what make this a great community.