So… What’s This All About? Pt.3

In this section I try to try to explain cartoons that require very specific knowledge about a certain country’s politics and culture.  If you have any editorial cartoons that you would like me to figure out, just send me an email.

For the third installment I picked a cartoon by Canadian artist Graeme MacKay. It is called “Elephant and Mouse”.

Who are these people?

The elephant represents the United States of America, sole remaining superpower and birthplace of the Ziploc Bag. The image is not related to United Statesian uses of elephants as a symbol for the Republican Party.

The mouse reprents Canada, the United States’ neighbor to the north. Covering an area of 9,984,670 square kilometers Canada is actually  the larger of the two nations. Its population, on the other hand, is only about an ninth of the United States population.

Sir Not-appearing-in-this-cartoon: This is Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1919-2000), Canadian Prime Minister between 1968 and 1969 and once again between1980 and 1984. Trudeau was a member of the Liberal Party.

What’s the point?

The cartoon’s iconography refers to a statement made by Mr. Trudeau in 1969 . The Prime Minister told the Washington Press Club :

“Living next to [the United States] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

This image has become a common-place analogy for US-Canadian relations, which may seem a bit neurotic from an outside position. While Canadians tend to emphasize that they are different from the US, at the same time they are somewhat obsessed about the doings of their neighbor. Much to their dismay, the other Americans are usually quite ignorant about what Homer Simpson once called “America Jr.”.

The cartoon was originally published on November 30, 2010 , just after the first diplomatic cables had been published on WikiLeaks. Back then, the  United States were frantically trying to keep the damage from the publication under control. MacKay parodies the Canadian media’s excitement about Canada being mentioned in the cables. As with most Western countries, the revelations in the cables from Ottawa contained common knowlege rather than the kind of information US diplomats were worrying about.

The 2009 cable quoted in the cartoon – apparently the most offending one -  stated that:

“[Barack Obama's] decision to make Ottawa [his] first foreign destination as President will do much to diminish — temporarily, at least — Canada’s habitual inferiority complex vis-a-vis the U.S. and its chronic but accurate complaint that the U.S. pays far less attention to Canada than Canada does to [them].”

(read a Globe & Mail article on the cables )

I hope this was of any help.

Paul Hellmich with Tim David Kremser


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4 Responses to “So… What’s This All About? Pt.3”

  1. Vandersmaa says:

    An interesting article – thanks for posting!

  2. mikey says:

    cool comic. on a side note, you misspelled mr. simpson’s name. keep up the good work!

  3. Paul says:

    I was referring to Homer Simson, son of Löb Simson of the motorcycle Simsons (

  4. Hola, gracias por el envío.Saludos.Seguimos en contacto.

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