HBO Updated Suffrage Cartoons to Show Its Female Characters Still Fighting for Equality

Empowering illustrations by W+K and Jeanne Detallante

Political cartoons advocating for (and in some cases opposing) women's suffrage were a hallmark of the movement beginning in the late 19th century. Now, HBO and Wieden + Kennedy New York revisit the topic of women's equality—still obviously an enormous social issue a century after the passing of the 19th Amendment—by going back to the world of illustration in the style of those old cartoons. 

Jeanne Detallante created four illustrations showing notable female characters from HBO shows—Maeve from Westworld, Hannah from Girls, and both Issa and Molly from Insecure—and the kinds of inequality they've faced in the plots of those shows. 

The work was made for Women's Equality Day, which is Aug. 26. The campaign continues HBO and W+K's efforts to tell women's stories and struggles—part of HBO's #BecauseOfHer initiative that earlier this year included an installation of women's diaries in New York and a set of Mother's Day cards.

Click the images to see the cartoons (and click twice to zoom in): 

W+K provided the following descriptions of the four cartoons: 

Maeve

Though Maeve Millay’s character on Westworld is a robot existing in a dystopian alternate universe, the story she represents transcends time and space. Maeve is bound to the puppet strings of the men who expect women to adhere to the gender roles so ingrained in her society and ours. However, Maeve refuses to stick to the story of the Perfect Woman that has been so carefully written for her, and chooses instead to rise up against the men who created the suffering that defines her. Throughout her character arc, Maeve orchestrates a massive power-dynamic shift, demonstrating that women are not equal until they’re telling their own stories. 

Issa 

Insecure chronicles Issa Dee’s awkward attempts at navigating love, work and friendship as a 20-something black woman in Los Angeles. Issa Rae, Insecure’s creator and lead actress, spoke candidly about the restrictive categorization of black women in popular media, stating: “I don’t want to invalidate anybody’s black experience. But it seems to me, we’re either extremely magical, or we’re extremely flawless. But we don’t get to just be boring...it’s a privilege to be able to be boring.” The persistence of these tired archetypes might explain why 88% of black women don’t feel accurately represented in the media. 

This piece represents one of Insecure’s most memorable scenes, in which Issa is seen in the mirror, getting ready for a night out. She tries out different personalities and bold lip colors, cycling through the familiar archetypes, the hypererotic black woman, the magical black woman, until finally settling on a lip balm, choosing to go out as plain-old Issa. By trying out, then opting out of, these stereotypes that loom larger than life in the black experience, Issa reimagines black womanhood.

Hannah

Hannah Horvath’s character in Girls has always been gloriously, refreshingly comfortable with her body—using it as she likes, wearing what she wants and basically, giving the middle finger to anyone who thinks that women should be confined by her body type in a way that men are not. However, while Girls was breaking barriers, conversations continued to center on Hannah’s nudity, and her audacity to flaunt her body in an industry that tells women to hide it—and in a society in which three out of four women report experiencing verbal harassment. By embracing her body, and putting it on display on the world stage, Hannah is physically showing women that every body can be beautiful, and, in doing so, flipping off the double standard that says otherwise.

Molly 

As a high-powered lawyer at a leading Los Angeles firm, Molly’s character on Insecure believes that if she works hard and performs amongst the top at her firm, she will be justifiably rewarded. But when Molly accidentally receives the paycheck of her male coworker, she learns that he makes far more than her, despite not working nearly as hard, and she is forced to confront a painful truth: While white women are reported to make approximately 80 cents to every dollar white men make, black women make only 67 cents and Hispanic women make even less. Molly’s story is a rarely-seen look into the emotional toll of combined gender and racial bias, and demonstrates the necessity for intersectionality in modern feminism.

HBO is sharing the artwork in a way that engages female-founded companies. Man Repeller will host a gallery-style event to show the cartoons, and The Wing will hand out posters, notebooks, tote bags and stickers featuring the illustrations starting Monday at six of its locations. 

See the tote bags here: 

CREDITS

HBO: "Women's Equality Day"
Client: HBO
Project: Women's Equality Day
Format: illustration, collateral    
Client Contact: Jason Mulderig, Dana Lichtenstein, Matt Bataclan, Elizabeth Tillman
Agency: W+K New York
Executive Creative Director: Karl Lieberman
Creative Directors: Jaclyn Crowley, Sean McLaughlin    
Copywriter: Michelle Smith
Art Director: Amy Wheeler
Head of Art Production: Deb Rosen
Art Producer: Sabreen Jafry
Print Producer: Samantha Duncan
Studio Manager: Chris Kelsch
Studio Artist: Chris Thomas
Retouching: Chris McClelland
Account Director: Samantha Wagner    
Account Supervisor: Lee Ford
Account Resident: Demornay Harper
Brand Strategist: Brian Ritter
Social Strategist: Leah Greene
Project Manager: Julie Knight
Business Affairs Manager: Michael Moronez
Public Relations Specialist: Sanam Shah
Illustrator: Jeanne Detallante

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards.