Captain Moonlight: Cutting cartoons

I'M JUST surprised it didn't happen earlier. Up until now, the sway of the awesome Tina Brown at the august New Yorker magazine has been a thing of taste and decorum, its famously fusty staff lulled by the deference offered to their traditions by Ms Brown, one of British journalism's more arresting self-creations. The use of the occasional photograph; articles sometimes less than the accustomed book length with the accustomed balance between worthiness and interest reversed: gentle nudging change, this, nothing revolutionary. Cooperate is still spelt with a diaeresis. True, Garrison Keillor wasn't happy; but when is he?

Now, though, I am sad to report, breaking point has been reached. There is muttering, hissing, and that sad shaking of the head which signifies the confirmation of worst fears. And it all concerns John Wayne Bobbitt's penis. Mr Bobbitt's penis, you might recall, was cut off with a kitchen knife by his wife Lorena while he was asleep in Virginia. She claimed he had raped her; he was acquitted. Ms Brown celebrated the event with no less than three cartoons in the New Yorker. The American staff are outraged, citing this excessive interest as a classic example of smutty, behind-the-bikesheds, low, unsophisticated and generally uncivilised British humour.

Actually, I thought they were all very funny. See what you think. One had a wife saying to her husband at the breakfast table, 'Pass the cream or I'll cut your penis off.' A second had two men at a bar, with one saying to the other: 'What's the big deal? I lopped off my own damn penis years ago.' The third has three blind mice, complete with dark glasses and white sticks. One is saying, 'She cut off his what with a carving knife?'