This week we learn that there is no room in the editorial pages of the paper whose motto is "Independent. Always." for independent thought.
No matter what you think of Leunig's cartoons, and after 40 plus years of published work no one is going to love everything he draws, but everyone can dive into his archive and find something that speaks to them.
What is clear is that his style and voice was truly unique and forced you to look at the world anew. But more than unique, he was an independent thinker that put the neurosis of the times on display. That is what should have earned him respect - and certainly why someone who finds plenty to disagree with in his cartoons (myself) will sing his praises.
Almost every year there seems to be a new controversy around one of his cartoons.
Back in 2019, the big controversy was a cartoon with this poem:
Mummy was busy on Instagram
When beautiful bubby fell out of the pram
And lay on the path unseen and alone
Wishing that he was loved like a phone.
If you thought this was an important commentary about how our phones have taken over our lives and relationships, even ones as important as the mother-child bond - you would be wrong, as was Leunig, who defended his cartoon in precisely these terms.
But in an age of 2D relationships through screens and reductive thinking, many mothers felt personally mocked by the cartoon and took to Twitter to call it out as misogyny.
An example of the hate it received came from the typically elegant (read that tongue-in-cheek) Clementine Ford, who tweeted "Hey Leunig, you f**king gronk," and then went on to say that he never had to deal with screaming children whilst working so he had no right to judge mothers.
In May 2021 Leunig was surrounded by controversy again as another cartoon angered the Twitter feminists, this time by likening the government to an abusive partner. The limerick alongside the cartoon read:
Isn't much fun
But isn't this how
the country is run?
the carrot, the stick,
the jail, the fine;
Isn't this how
we're all kept in line?
And yet you are warned
that coercive control
Is a terrible crime
to the heart and the soul.
So do as they say
and not as they do
Or something coercive
will happen to you.
Admittedly, this was a sensitive topic to traverse when both Victoria and Queensland were holding enquiries into the criminalisation of coercive control (which refers to a pattern of controlling behaviours in an abusive relationship).
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