The most recent "Opus" comic strip featuring Lola Granola trying on radical Islam, as well as a burqini, for size was censored by many newspapers for fear that it was insensitive to Muslims. The real punch line, though, is that Aheda Zanetti, the creator of the burqini, thinks the comic strip is laugh-out-loud hilarious.
The first widely censored "Opus" strip showed Lola donning a hijab and rejecting "decadent Western crud"; it was implied that her boyfriend Steve was quite all right with her giving up talk of "American Idol" and gender equality, just so long as she'd still, you know, give it up. This most recent strip shows Steve begging Lola to throw on a "smokin' hot yellow polka dot bikini" for their trip to the beach, but she shows up wearing a burqini.
We were skimming readers' responses to the comic strip in the "Opus" letters thread when we stumbled across a letter from Zanetti, exclaiming: "This is fantastic!!! I love it." Broadsheet gave the Australian designer a call to find out why she was so tickled by the controversial comic strip.
What was your initial response to this comic?
I was wondering why all of a sudden I'm getting really nasty, really nasty, e-mails that say things like, "Keep your crap in your country." Then someone sent me an e-mail with a link to the cartoon.
When I saw this comic, oh my God, it put a smile on my face. It was the most frustrating thing, though, when I started reading the comments and thought, "How am I going to tell the world that I approve of this and that I am not offended by it? I'm actually quite proud of it. I don't understand why anyone would be offended by it.
Why are you so amused by the strip?
[Berkeley Breathed] has done his job in producing something where you have to read in between the lines. I'm sure a lot of people would translate it to their own liking. I see it as [Lola] choosing to do whatever she likes, no matter what her boyfriend says.
In your opinion, what exactly is the cartoon lampooning?
I think it was a little bit anti-American. I translated it to being a woman who has chosen to follow a dress code that suits her and she is sticking to her choice. Her boyfriend wasn't really thinking of her at all, he was thinking of himself because it was going to please his eyes and that was it. As much as I'm not against American culture, it seemed to target the thoughts of the average American male -- though, I don't know because I've never met an American male.
We all have choices and people should respect people's choices. I choose to veil because that is my choice. Before I veiled, I still chose to never wear a bikini. It doesn't mean I disrespect or dislike anyone wearing a bikini. I certainly wouldn't tell them off or put them down in any way -- it's their choice.
What do you think about the cartoon being broadly censored?
I don't know. What's the big deal? Seriously, I can't see it. I've asked a few familiy members, to see if they see something I can't see, but they've made positive remarks about it.
I think a lot of major organizations are quite frightened to lose future business by offending someone of any religious background.
Which has more potential for laughs -- the bikini or the burqini?
The polka dot bikini ... I can't even imagine! You have to have a bit of a laugh about that. That burqini put a smile on my face as well -- it looked good on that woman, it was so gorgeous!