We are used to cartoons of politicians and their dumb deeds that come regularly on national dailies. They provide a lot of material to many of our uncanny cartoonists. Film personalities rarely get their due even though they do ‘politician-like’ acts. Of course, they will take anything that gives them publicity. However, we do have cartoons of unknown, common people (including the famous, ubiquitous common man by RK Lakshman) who form a rare group of exceptions.
When a cartoon of a real person is drawn, it is given many aberrations to make the appearance funny. For example, the idea of large head on tiny shoulders is a common feature of many cartoons of real people. It is very rare to see a disproportionate cartoon of any fictitious character (may even be a cartoon by itself). It is interesting that cartoons of real people have to be made disproportionate (odd) to make them appear funny. In addition, it may be true that we are trained to recognize people through their facial features and any drastic change in a person’s face is immediately noticed by people around him/her. There is no doubt that a face gives us easier and more accessible parameters to compare than any other part of the human body.
The human brain has more or less defined portions that control different parts of our body. Sensory (touch/feel) and motor (movement) capability of body parts vary a lot and the amount of nerve endings dedicated to an organ is positively correlated to its feel/mobility. Keeping this in mind, let us look back at the large head to body ratio in real people cartoons.
You may have read about /seen the homunculus (=little man) models. They are human models that represent human body parts in equivalent proportions of brain area dedicated to their control. The head is huge and the body is tiny. Most real people cartoons have this feature, don’t they?
Two main things in most real person cartoons that do not follow the homunculus model are
1. The human hands are not given prominence in real people cartoons, where as extremely large hands (fists) dominate the homunculus models.
2. The exaggerated/elongated noses of most cartoons do not represent the real picture. It is true that the nose is an important part of human physical identity. At the same time, the human nose is one of the weakest in the entire animal kingdom in terms of sensory capabilities. Many animals have big olfactory lobes in their brains, which are as big as the rest of their brain put-together.
(Potential areas for cartoon experimentation)
You might remember that in an earlier post I had mentioned how I would like to live in a standard normal society. Perhaps, not this time. The human beauty lies in its subtle asymmetries. They may not be as exaggerated as they are in a real people cartoon. However, they are sufficient to make it appealing. Real people cartoons attract us because they are disproportionate and some times, (if the cartoonist is serious) make people think. Real people attract us because they are a little imperfect. May be, we should try to be our own cartoons or a perfected version of it.
Before I continue any further, many of you might be saying, “Hey, we do not look inside a person’s brain when we see him/her …the face does the job!”