Thursday, September 07, 2006

I'm not saying Crikey.

Ok, I don't know how to say this without sounding like a total bitch, but the simple fact is that I am just not distraught and shocked that Steve Irwin is dead.

Yes, it is sad, but I am not terribly upset by the news. Nor am I surprised. If he had been killed whilst filing his tax return, or folding his laundry, perhaps. But the man's life work had put him in dangerous situations time and time again. Saying that I am surprised he was killed by a wild animal is like saying I am surprised a pack-a-day smoker eventually died of lung cancer.

Do I feel sad for his wife and kids? Of course, my heart aches immensely for anyone who loses their soulmate, and any child that loses a parent. That goes without saying.

However the fact is that I never watched his shows, went to his wildlife park, or watched any of his international interviews. And although he was famous, I would never have called him a National Icon. In fact, more often than not he has been declared by public opinion in Australia as more of a National Outrage than an Icon. Taking his one month old son into the crocodile enclosure during feeding time in 2004, was an even so publicly despised and ridiculed it rivaled the Michael Jackson-Baby-Over-The-Balcony event in terms of questionable child abuse. So much so that Australian laws were changed in direct response to the event and the Queensland Government released new rules prohibiting children and any untrained adults from entering crocodile enclosures. This was just one of the many public scandals, and within the zoological community he was widely known as a careless risk-taker.

Yet now that he has died, there is suddenly an out-pouring of Princess Diana-like public grieving, selective amnesia declaring him a "lovable larrikin" and even a tribute song. In light of past public opinion, the reaction to Irwin's death stinks of hypocrisy.

Just because the man is dead does not mean I am going to suddenly pretend that I liked him. In truth, his personality irritated me a lot. Just because I agree he had raised the profile of native Australian animals worldwide, does not mean that I think he always did it the best or most humane way he could have. And just because he died in a freak accident does not mean that I consider him to be a tragic hero. The man died doing what he loved, what he had exposed himself and his family to for many years, and what he got paid a lot of money to do.

The death of anyone is sad, but I never knew the guy personally, and I never really liked his public persona either. I can't pretend that I did, just because I'm an Aussie too.

In truth I am more upset over the death this week of my uncle, Ken Hubbard - a man who, after 25-odd years of self-imposed isolation and alcoholism, was just getting to know his family again and getting his life back on track. He died, alone in his bed, and wasn't found for days. Now that's tragic.

7 comments:

LondonMisfit said...

So sorry about your uncle, that's really sad. And I couldn't agree more about Steve Irwin - tragic for his family, but I was astonished to see the reaction back in Australia given what I recall about the general public perception of him when I was living there, and I remember all too well the baby dangling incident.

Dan said...

I agree with you totally... I thought I was alone! It is a sad tragedy, but I really felt embarrased when americans I had just met asked me why I didn't talk like him.

Liz said...

I may be a bit biased, but I definately think that Uncle Ken's situation is definately more tragic than gettin killed by a sting ray, in a dangerous situation that you routinely put yourself into.

Mignon said...

I am really sorry about your uncle. I hope his life had more than enough bright spots at the end to allow him to pass peacefully.

About Steve Irwin... I was pretty sure that was the sentiment of most Australians, but you'd never read something like that on Yahoo news. To you guys he was an annoying buffoon, but to us he was just a crazy character that showed us cool animals. I'm not surprised he died taking risks with dangerous animals either, but I am sad to see him go, because I think he started the avalanche of ordinary-guy-friendly nature shows and networks. Some of the stuff is ridiculous and dangerous, but some shows are very good and informative, and without him I'm not sure we'd have any of them.

Louise said...

Argh! blogger stole my long comment!!

The short version: Mignon- I agree Steve Irwin did some good stuff, I just never really liked him much, and can't pretend I do now just coz he's dead- that's all.

L.Misfit and Mignon- thanks for the kind words about my uncle, I'm certain he did have good times in his life and we all valued getting to know him again during the last couple of years- better late than never.

Liz and Dan- blah blah blah.... just kidding, ya know i love ya!

Philippe said...

what a tough week for Australia!!...

(please ignore my typos as I one-hand-type my way through here)

So here's how it is: a Canadian chap lives with an Aussie. This week two of Australia's icons (Irwin and Brock) passed. Lou, was much more affected by her childhood hero (Peter Brock) passing this week in a car crash during a rally race in Western Australia. But, I felt more affected by Irwin's passing - and yes I know how ridiculous it is that I thought he was just invincible, though I've seen this many times in war correspondents and felt the same about them: they just can't die, it's not possible!!

I liked Irwin. I would even get irritated when he'd get invited on David Letterman's show to be laughed at and ridiculed - when I really admired his passion. Granted I never heard of "the baby incident" or the "Antartica penguin issue" beforehand, but that oesn't change my opinion about things.

In the same way Michael Moore speaks to the American public about politics and the world. As a International Relations major I want to hide under my bed because of the ridiculous oversimplifications he makes. HOWEVER, as a person I admire what he's doing. Though his documentaries have a Hommer Simpson lightness, they are getting out there, they are getting people talking (lively) about politics (no matter the opinion) and they are getting national attention.

So I'm a canadian and live in a great wilderness country... I'm a city rat, and it took an Aussie to get me to watch nature shows - in a world where nature shows have drab boring comments take send me into narcoleptic land.

I wish I had known more about brock, especially sine the Aussie media is elevating him to Senna's, Villeneuve and other racing god's level. I love racing. But in the end I really feel that someone like Irwin passing leaves a bigger hole ih the fabric of our global community.

Eryn said...

I would like to quote the ONLY person to contact me to tell me the pair died (something I am oddly distressed about, granted it was two and a half years before anyone bothered to tell me about the queen mother)
"PS I don't know if you heard Steve Irwin was killed by a string ray. Peter Brock killed in a car accident.TV is taken over with memorials. CRIKEY|||||||||||"
Deep mum, very deep....