Adventures from Back of Beyond

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

RIP Steve Irwin

Why were we so stunned to hear of Steve Irwin's untimely death?

Steve Irwin was likable. He was an everyman, and embodied Aussie style.

He was never ostentatious. How could he be when he always wore the same khaki shirt and shorts? He never put on airs or tried to be something he was not. He seemed supremely confident and comfortable with who he was and with his mission in life.

And a good mission it was. His values of conservation of nature and saving defenseless animals from extinction were noble.

The guy didn't appear to be especially articulate, well-read, or particularly authoritative about biology. But he was a superb communicator, maybe the best in the action-nature genre. He had charisma, and used it well. He never made the mistake of being pedantic, yet we learned and the experience was fun.

He embodied Aussie style. Attractive young women were "Sheila's". Instead of exclaiming "Christ," it was "Crikey!" Friends were "mates". Very Aussie, and very entertaining. He once commented on how some in his homeland of Australia were embarrassed by him. Maybe they thought he was too Aussie.

If the embarrassment over Steve Irwin's Aussieness represents some form of a national inferiority complex, the massive outpouring of grief after his death shows Australians are deep down very proud of him.

Steve Irwin was good. It was easy to like him. We identified with him because he was a regular guy. And when he married a beautiful American girl and had healthy kids, we shared his happiness.

The crocodile hunter entered our lives as much more than just another nature guy chasing dangerous animals on TV. He lived a good life, with good values, and died tragically while doing something he loved. We were stunned to hear of his death because we genuinely cared.