Analyzing a Cartoon: "Shoes made in the U.S." (erhöhtes Anforderungsniveau)
Describe, interpret and comment on the following cartoon.
The cartoon is taken from http://www.cartoonstock.com. It depicts a scene in a shoe shop. In the foreground, dominating the center of the cartoon, one can see a middle-aged man sitting on a couch next to two shoe boxes. His facial expression shows discontentment or maybe sadness, as the corners of his mouth are pointing down and his eyes are also slanted. Even his hair appears to be hanging down listlessly. He is looking at a box of shoes that a salesman is holding up to him. The salesman’s facial expression is rather happy, as the corners of his mouth are pointing upwards. His eyes are hidden behind glasses. There is another customer visible in the background of the cartoon who is standing behind the man on the couch and looking at a pair of boots.
The caption of the cartoon says: “Here’s what you asked for...’shoes made in the U.S. by adult U.S. citizens’...that’s going to be $1,795.” This statement is clearly uttered by the salesman, and thus the punch line is established. The inverted commas indicate that he is quoting his customer’s wishes for a fair-trade product. And the ridiculously high price must be seen as a critical comment on both, the prices taken for fair-trade products and the customers’ unwillingness to pay them.
Certainly the enormous sum of $ 1,795 stands in no relation to the actual production costs of the pair of shoes. But this is true for most products – even the costs for very cheap articles. So this can be interpreted as a harsh criticism on the pricing policy of major companies. At the same time, it is known that this profit does not flow back into the wages of the workers, regardless of whether the products are labeled “fair-trade” or not. Adding “adult U.S. citizens” as a specification strongly hints at the unspoken acceptance that many articles we use every day are produced in countries in which child labor still takes place.
But there are several more possible points of criticism implied:
As soon as products are considered “fair-trade”, their prices are unreasonably high, because an extra charge has to be paid by the customer to provide fairer wages. And customers are not willing to pay that price.
Finally, one could interpret the cartoon to the effect that adding a payment of fair wages to the production costs would raise the prices for many goods to such an extent that they become articles of luxury.
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