The above ‘L’enfant terrible’ cartoon of 1890 was not the first or last one to use a rowing boat as a political metaphor. Few things symbolise the common political phenomena of a group that should be united failing to ‘pull together’ as does a crew inexpertly rowing ‘out of time’.
The idea of a political leader as ‘stroke’ is a common and obvious one.
When illustrating a failure to ‘pull together, only the use of a rowing boat will make sense. However, almost any watercraft can be used when a cartoonist wants to tell us that we are all ‘in the same boat’ – though the shared vessel is frequently one propelled by oars. This phrase has a particularly rich history. According to phrases.org.uk:
When Thomas Hudson translated ‘Du Bartas’ Historie of Judith’ in 1584, he formed a metaphor that equated being ‘in the same boat’ with ‘having the same fate’: ‘Haue ye paine? So likewise paine haue we: For in one bote we both imbarked be’.
The ‘same boat’ that we are all in can be rocked, lost, sinking, becalmed, heading for rocks, or about to go over an aquatic edge. The latter is a particular favourite, cartoonists commonly have the idea that boats are frequently used very near to waterfalls or weirs and that their crews are generally oblivious to the problems that this can produce. A rowing boat is best used in this scenario as, naturally, the crew is looking the wrong way and is oblivious to the danger that is about to befall it.
Britain’s Brexit debacle has given cartoonists from all over the world the opportunity to use (and perhaps overuse) all of their favourite rowing metaphors – here are a few of them.
The final three cartoons have nothing to do with rowing, but I rather like them. The first, suggesting that Brexit is a disaster, conforms to the liberal metropolitan bias that I secretly try to indoctrinate all HTBS readers with. Witty, pro-Brexit cartoons are difficult to find but, in the interest of balance, I also include the second, something that may be suggesting that Brexit is a good thing – or it is just having a bit of fun? I suppose it depends on your view of the 45th President. The third and last cartoon references one of the few feelings relating to Brexit that everyone will agree on: please make the talking stop!
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