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‘Karen’s’ mask fight not just about her rights

Mark Knight, July 30, 2020 6:30PM Kids News

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Part of Mark Knight’s cartoon. media_cameraPart of Mark Knight’s cartoon.


Reading level: red

The second wave of the coronavirus in Victoria has hit harder than the initial outbreak.

Due to the extremely poor handling of the hotel quarantine system in Melbourne for returned overseas travellers, the virus escaped into the community and off it went like a horse bolting through an open gate.

The spread was rapid and Stage 3 lockdown was imposed again by Premier Daniel Andrews. But this time the wearing of face masks was mandatory* in the greater Melbourne area. Failure to wear a mask while out saw people cop* a $200 fine.

The public mood was different this time also. Now we were starting to see people defy* orders to wear masks.

Conspiracy theorists* on social media spread claims that the coronavirus was a plot by big governments to control us. They said that COVID-19 was fake news.

Australians import a lot of things from overseas, now it seems we were buying-in whacko* crazy conspiracies from the US!

Another delightful side-effect of COVID was the emergence of “Karens”. As you all probably know by now “Karen” is being used as a disparaging* term for a middle-aged white woman of privilege* who forcefully expresses her entitled* opinions on others. A bit like the term “Boomer” for men of the same age.

We saw footage of various “Karens” around Melbourne filming themselves defying the order to wear face masks, incorrectly proclaiming* their rights under some United Nations charter and confronting unfortunate police officers and workers at Bunnings. I knew I had to draw a cartoon about this

In my cartoon I wanted to explore the idea that in times of great national threat and uncertainty we all need to pull together. Like populations during the World Wars, we have to come together to fight a common enemy. As the jingle goes, “We’re all in this together”.

But going against this is the notion* of personal freedoms and rights. And this is what I look at in the cartoon, the fact that we have some people saying it is their personal right not to wear a mask. But in times like these it’s not just about our personal rights, but it’s also our obligation, our responsibilities to others.

So to contrast between rights and responsibilities I drew one of the “Karens” complaining about having to wear a mask because it denied her her right to some freedom, and then in a second panel I drew an elderly woman in a nursing home where COVID infections have spread in Victoria due to poor infection control. She is in bed on oxygen and is obviously suffering from the virus. The irony* in the drawing is the elderly lady offering sympathy to the younger woman upset by having to wear a mask. “Poor pet having her rights infringed*” she says.

Mark Knight’s cartoon. Right-click and open in new tab for full-sized image. media_cameraMark Knight’s cartoon. Right-click and open in new tab for full-sized image.

You have at some time during school been asked to write an essay where you compare and contrast two aspects of a particular topic, and that is what this cartoon is doing by hopefully pointing out the inconsistencies here. It is comparing someone demanding their rights but forgetting their responsibilities to others by not wearing a face mask and help stop the spread of the virus to vulnerable members of our community like your Gran and Grandpa.


  • mandatory: compulsory
  • cop: accept (a punishment, criticism or decision)
  • defy: go against the rules
  • conspiracy theorists: people who believe that sinister and powerful groups (such as a government) secretly make bad things happen
  • whacko: crazy, nonsensical
  • disparaging: negative
  • privilege: a special right or advantage
  • entitled: believing you are allowed special advantages
  • proclaiming: declaring or announcing
  • notion: idea
  • irony: communicating your meaning by using language that usually means the opposite
  • infringed: actively broke a rule or law


Cartoonist says sorry for taking the mickey

Breaking the rules is no laughing matter


  1. In which state is mask wearing compulsory?
  2. Who is the Daniel Andrews?
  3. What is the jingle mentioned?
  4. Who in the cartoon said “Poor pet”?
  5. What examples of potentially vulnerable people does Mark Knight use?


1. Caption it!
Cartoonists such as Mark are so skilled they can convey a lot of complex information in one or a series of drawings without the need for many or any words. In this case, there are speech bubbles but no caption.

However, Mark’s cartoon was drawn with an adult audience in mind and he knows that most people who look at it will also have read and watched a lot of news stories on this topic. People look at his cartoon with the help of a lot of background knowledge.

Read Mark’s explanation of what the cartoon means again and write two, three or four short sentences, just to make sure you understand what the cartoon is saying.

Using your sentences to help you, write a one-sentence caption for the cartoon that will make Mark’s meaning clearer for children or people who haven’t been reading the news this week.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension: What Happens Next?
Imagine this cartoon is part of a story that is made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell a complete story, and Mark’s cartoon is just one of three. Think about what the story could be and draw one or two other cartoons that tell the story.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking

Stretch your sentence

Find a ‘who’ in the cartoon. A person or animal.

Write it down.

Add 3 adjectives to describe them better.

Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?

Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.

Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Should governments be allowed to make masks to compulsory?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in civics