Monday, September 04, 2006
Steve Irwin, Death and Children
I was just driving to pick up my son from school and heard Richard Fidler on ABC Radio talking about Steve Irwin in past tense.
I turned up the dial and focused on the story that was unfolding - Steve Irwin Crocodile Hunter - has been killed just outside Cairns. By a stingray. A barb to the heart.
Can stingrays kill you? I had no idea.
Not quite sure why i felt saddened so much by the news. I think its like losing a lovable larrakin cousin.
As i picked up my 8 y.o. son Hunter, i told him of the news.
We tuned into the radio together and listened as the commentators gave updates, and callers rang in with their stories of Steve, who grew up here in Brisbane. Every one was shocked and caller after caller was making references to the death of Diana.
Then things got really sad. We got home and Fluffy, my son's five and a half year old guinea pig was dying. He was only two when we got her. He no longer only grieved Steve Irwin. A cruel double blow.
This is going to be a tough day for an young boy bearing Irwin's nickname.
Death of celebrities are curious cultural events; a strange synthesis of pop culture and national identity, resilience and fragility, transition and mortality. A salient reminder that despite it all, we all bleed red blood, and will inevitably die.
I guess for Australians, especially those of us here in Brisbane, or like me, who have swum off that coast in North Queensland, it is particularly poignant. Perhaps even, to stay on theme, it truly is a suburban gothic event, just decked out in Khaki for maximum accessibility - the masses now face to face with the shadow that stalks us all; the beautiful and the yobbish, the poor and the successful, the good and the bad.
I have to go and be with my son now, but will continue this post later tonight, after the funeral when the boygroom is home and the guinea pig grief subsides a bit.
*Just a note: Hunter asked me not to put Fluffy's picture on the computer just now, so my terracotta spirals will have to suffice. Rest in Peace Fluffy and Steve.
4th Sept 2006.
Update : Well the Guinea Pig has now been buried and two Black Bean seeds have been laid in the earth, to sprout forth in simultaneous memory of Fluffy and Steve.
Just a couple of rambling thoughts this morning - I have been thinking, given the saturation media this is getting, perhaps some of the reason this man’s death is and will continue to resonate for a while, is that in so much as Diana the person gave way to Diana the concept and object of the projection of the princess fantasy archetype, Steve Irwin the man exists in tandem with Steve Irwin the concept - a projection of the collective ‘everyman’, the working class yobbo made good.
This is somewhat similar to the narrative projected upon the miners in Beaconsfield; however i would argue that in his actual case, he, unlike Diana et al, actually was transparent enough for us to see that the overlap between what we thought, and what we knew, was great.
And while i have argued before that the stereotypical larrikin aussie bloke (an obsession that once was put forth as characterising much of our National Identity) is almost redundant in 2006, perhaps a small part of Steve’s actual death is a collective unconscious grief for the loss of that archetype?
You may have noticed that working class white aussie males, are showing an unpreceedented respect and sadness over Steves passing. I find this really significant, because, by all reports, he wasn’t some misogynist bastard, but a fully testostorone driven hetro bloke who made treating your wife and children with adoration (not abuse) and caring passionaltely for conservation and the environment (the antithesis of bush bashing, rootin', croc shooting red-neck-ery) a decent and admirable thing for this demographic of men.
Look i’m sure he was a tosser about some things, (who isn’t) but his legacy is worth remembering and i think its ok for the nation to grieve a bit.