Jan Fran examines Leunig’s '500-word self-pity party'
The kids have a saying: "OK, boomer."
It's used when a baby boomer says a very baby boomer thing, such as "If they ban plastic bags how will I pick up my dog poop?" and "why haven't you accepted my friend request on Facebook?" and "The planet's fine!"
"OK, boomer" is mean and it makes Baby Boomers very sad indeed. If you say it to one, they'll immediately retreat to the walled fortress they bought with some loose change in 1962 and threaten to throw their franking credits at you. (I'm kidding. They'd never part with their franking credits.)
One such baby boomer is cartoonist Michael Leunig, who made an attempt at self-reflection last week with his opinion piece "Aiming to stir the possum, I got engulfed in free-floating hate".
The piece was a reaction to the wave of outrage over his cartoon in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that depicted a mum glued to her phone while her baby lay on the ground. It was accompanied by a poem that read:
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.
Leunig’s generation’s parents would routinely leave their kids in the car while they went into a pub for a few beers before driving home drunk. pic.twitter.com/gGsP9YVZum— Toby G (@Epigrammist) October 23, 2019
My initial reaction to Leunig's op-ed was "OK, boomer", but I accept this goes too far and not far enough, after all, #notallboomers.
So a few points … *unfurls scroll*
Leunig writes: "It was exactly 50 years ago that I started working as a full-time newspaper cartoonist, and as if to celebrate this anniversary, mysterious fate had me drawing a cartoon which brought so much hostile public reaction that I began to lie awake at night wondering why I had followed such a troubled, painful and precarious career path."
The moonlight pierces the room. A saxophone wails. Leunig, dressed in a mauve satin smock stumbles in the darkness. Saltwater wells in his eyes. He flings himself onto a chaise lounge. Woe is Leunig!
The reality is far less dramatic.
Leunig, in all his fortitude, in his half-a-century of being an astute observer of the human condition cannot accept that his opinion is … boring.
Instead, he must mount a spirited defence. Five-hundred words of waah. "Dear diary," he scrawls onto a page wet with salty tears, "no one understands me."
Leunig proceeds to tell us he's had a "lifelong special interest in the mother-infant relationship" as though this is carte blanche to cry-wank his thoughts and feelings onto some butcher's paper sans criticism. "But, you guys," he hops up and down. "I care, dammit!"
Do you know who else has had a lifelong special interest in the mother-infant relationship? Mothers. And women. But how would we ever hear about it unless there was a keen-eyed cartoonist waiting in the wings to decipher this all-female gobbledygook?
Thank Zeus that Leunig "was witness to a lot of this passionate conversation about the best way to care for a baby and raise a child", otherwise we might not have ever figured out the right and proper way to do it. "I listened and took it in," he writes. "A real misogynist would not respect these maternal matters so devoutly."
Ladies and gentlemen, Michael "Mothers Are My Jam" Leunig will forthwith decide who is and isn't a "real" misogynist and he - the great (and respectful!) decoder of maternal matters - is not! Got it? Good!
Now that we've cleared that up, it's become patently clear Leunig was just trying to help. He was simply trying to make us see what modern mothers would've otherwise noticed if they hadn't been too busy playing Farmville on their phones all day long; namely, that modern mothers play Farmville on their phones all day long.
Ya know, for someone who claims to be "fascinated by the talk of mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, spouses and offspring about this ancient business of mothering", he doesn't seem to be taking criticism from said mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, spouses all that well.
Thing is, you don't actually have to read Leunig's entire spiel to get a sense of what's really going on; you just have to read the first line: "It was exactly 50 years ago that I started working as a full-time newspaper cartoonist."
Yeaaaaaaah. Leunig's been illuminating us with his special brand of charming melancholia for half a century now but time has moved on and Leunig hasn't. Fifty sounds like a nice, round number to call it a day. OK, boomer?
What do you think of Leunig's cartoon? Comment below
Jan Fran is a journalist and TV presenter