The 'New Yorker' Madeline Cartoon To Honor Paris Is Uplifting In The Most Honest Way
Over the weekend, there were countless tributes in honor of Friday's tragic attacks in Paris. Cities lit up their buildings with the colors of the French flag, officials called for and observed moments of silence, and individuals changed their Facebook profile pictures to include a temporary French flag filter. On Sunday, The New Yorker ran a Madeline-themed cartoon, which made for an uplifting yet honest tribute of its own.
The cartoon, created by Benjamin Schwartz, shows 12 French schoolgirls, followed by their teacher. They all have sad expressions on their faces, and they walk two-by-two as one of them carries a French flag. The caption reads, "In an old house in Paris that is covered in vines, live twelve little girls whose country still shines." It evokes the famous children's book Madeline, which was written by Austria-Hungary-born author Ludwig Bemelmans in 1939. The book has inspired sequels, movies, toys, etc. (not to mention a huge part of my childhood). Although the book itself isn't French, it takes place in Paris — Madeline is, fictitiously, a 7-year-old redhead living in a Catholic boarding school with 11 other girls. The cartoon stays true to the story, showing the 12 young girls in their typical uniform and unmistakable hats, walking side-by-side in front of the ivy-covered building that houses their boarding school.
What makes the cartoon so powerful (at least to me — aka, not an art expert) is the contrast between the somber expressions that the figures wear and the uplifting message that sits beneath them. The caption is a play on the original book, which was written completely in rhyme. The story opens, "In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines."
The faces of the figures seem to reflect the mourning that Paris — and the world — is doing in the wake of Friday's horrific attacks, which killed approximately 130 people. The caption that Schwartz has improvised from the original rhyme, though, reminds the audience that Paris has not lost its shine. As the City of Lights, the idea of Paris's "shine" doesn't just rhyme — it literally reflects the lights that continue to shine throughout the city, despite the dark events that occurred on Friday.
Although it's just one of the countless tributes made to Paris over the weekend, The New Yorker's Madeline cartoon provides a powerful message. As a fictional character, Madeline was known as the feisty, fearless young girl who didn't fit the mold of the other quiet, unassuming girls in the boarding school. Just like Madeline, the cartoon seems to say that Paris won't give up and won't stay quiet when something needs to be said.