Comics can be a very powerful medium, either as a catalyst for change or as a way to--even inadvertently--uphold stereotypes.

A New York Times cartoon by Heng Kim Song about India's recent, successful mission to send an orbiting spacecraft to Mars fell into the latter category, angering so many people that the newspaper had to openly apologize.

Here's what the NYT said in a Facebook post:


Heng's cartoon depicts a humbly dressed Indian man, with a cow in tow, knocking on the door of a building labeled "Elite Space Club." Inside, mustachioed white men look toward the door with concern.

The cartoon led to criticism of a perceived condescending tone and stereotypical depiction of Indian people. "While we concede that there are still many cattle-rearing citizens in our country, you'd be hard pressed to find any at the Indian Space Research Organization— the space agency that launched MOM," a Times of India columnist wrote.

The matter still isn't entirely settled. Some critics accepted the NYT apology/explanation of its good intentions, while others are calling it a non-apology. Either way, think about just how big of a deal this situation is next time you want to talk about how something in a comic or cartoon doesn't matter because it's "just comics."

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