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Bête et méchant

Politics, Editorial Cartoons and Bande dessinée in the French Satirical Newspaper Charlie hebdo

Jane Weston

The weekly French satirical newspaper, Charlie hebdo, which originally ran from 1969 to 1982, pending a revival in 1992, distinguishes itself through its bête et méchant ['stupid and nasty'] humorous heritage, defined in its parent publication, Hara-Kiri, as the freedom to make jokes on potentially any subject, however taboo. Whilst this satirical ethos predominated in Charlie hebdo up to 1982, its enduring place in the publication has become more ambiguous since 1992, with the abrupt sacking of Siné in July 2008 seemingly belying its vigorous defence of provocative humour in the context of the 2006 Danish caricature affair. An important underlying continuity nonetheless remains in Charlie hebdo and transcends the bête et méchant project: that of negotiating a space for satirical expression that has continuously engaged with both elements of bande dessinée and the rich French tradition of polemical editorial cartooning and caricature.

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Local Laughter, Global Polemics

Understanding Charlie Hebdo

Jane Weston Vauclair

Charlie Hebdo became a global name following the tragic events of 7 January 2015 in Paris. Following this, two competing, somewhat reductive forms of commentary on Charlie Hebdo rapidly emerged in the global media. Could Charlie Hebdo effectively be sidelined as a case of egregiously irresponsible and offensive satire, even if the attacks per se were inexcusable? Or could its cartoonists instead be championed as martyrs to free speech, having proved to have a backbone of conviction and courage that had been lacking elsewhere in the media? This article argues that a dual set of tensions have come to the fore through Charlie's vertiginous global exposure. These are tensions between the local and the global, and between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility. It looks to highlight how Charlie Hebdo's contributors have been engaging with these tensions, both in the 'survivor's issue' of 14 January 2015 and in other spaces of commentary.

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Jean (Cabu) Cabut, Anke Feuchtenberger, Harry Morgan, Mark David Nevins, Jean (Plantu) Plantureux, Caroline Rossiter, Tanitoc, Michael G. Vann, and Jane Weston

Notes on contributors