Connect to share and comment

Greeks joke, "Even God gave up on us"

Greeks draw, laugh and paint on the brink of bankruptcy.

visual culture and visual communication at Panteion University in Athens.

A series of photos that made the rounds in 2011, showed George Papandreou, the country’s former prime minister, photo-shopped in the same style of Apple founder Steve Jobs' book cover. The caption under the altered photo states, “No Jobs, 2009-2011,” a reference to the country’s 19 percent unemployment rate. Similar images of other Greek political leaders feature captions for what they are known for: no votes, no friends, and no clue.

In 2011, as leaders enacted deeper austerity cuts, Athens saw the biggest protests of the past 40 years, as well as widespread police violence. In October, satirists retaliated: The Barbie Parliament Princess photo became one of the most widely circulated images of the year. The original picture was taken during a rally against the new austerity measures, after protesters threw pink paint on the riot police. "The mockery of the policemen with the pink painted suits took a lot of forms and spread rapidly over the Internet," said Skarpelos. "We clearly have caustic humor here, but as a form of resistance against repression — something Greeks have often dealt with in the past two years."

A photo of the Greek Parliament with a window asks if users want to delete Greece’s 300 members of parliament: Lawmakers are heartily blamed for the country’s situation. "The humor used here is bitter," said Skarpelos. "It’s referring to an annoying reality from which the viewer is readily seeking to distance himself from. It’s not trying to generate laughter but a faint smile."

With Germany playing the role of stern headmaster insisting on tougher austerity measures, Greeks often compare today’s imposed economic discipline to the Nazi era. Here, an altered photo depicts the newly appointed Greek government in Nazi-era uniforms; the other the front-page of Ta Nea newspaper showing Greece as Germany's puppet. 

Among many alterations of the EU flag — a motif that all Greek cartoonists love to use is a begging hand amid the 12 stars. The Western European media often call Greece "the beggars of the EU."

“The fall of Mr. IMF," shown below, is a stop-motion video depicting former Prime Minister George Papandreou as Mr. IMF, destroying Greece.

“It was created by our younger class, children between the ages of 11 and 14,” said Tzeni Orneraki, director of the Ornerakis Graphics Design School. “The idea and the script was their own and the professor didn’t help them at all. The director was an 11-year-old boy called Elias.” 


A country in crisis like Greece might seem ideal for a comic artist. But the cartoonists in major Greek newspapers say they sometimes have a hard time drawing. "We’re also citizens of this country and our mood gets affected by the situation," said Elias Makris, a cartoonist for Kathimerini, one of Greece's biggest newspapers.

Every Monday, the headlines prepare locals for “the most crucial week for Greece. So, after late 2009, we’ve lived hundreds of critical weeks, in which nothing changes,” said Makris, who has been drawing humor for decades.

Kostas Mitropoulos has been a cartoonist for the past 57 years, and often features the average Greek, wearing the fez, the headgear leftover from Greece’s Ottoman past. In the cartoon here, which Mitropoulos drew for GlobalPost, the Greek everyman is leaping naked from 2011 to 2012. Underneath him are prickly pears — it doesn’t seem the Greek will make it as it teeters on the verge of constant bankruptcy goes the subtext.

“The easiest thing for me as a cartoonist would be to attack the European leaders, Merkel or Sarkozy,” said Mitropoulos, who draws for the leading Ta Nea newspaper. “That would have been far more popular and it would sell. But the difficult thing is drawing reality and explaining to Greeks that we brought this situation on ourselves.”

For cartoonists, hindering creativity during the crisis is the degradation of the political system. “In the past, politicians had earned the respect of the people, and it was easier to create a twist and elicit laughter,” said Andreas Petroulakis, who draws for Kathimerini newspaper. “When something is already deconstructed, how am I supposed to deconstruct it?”