Torn from the pages of VARIETY: r.i.p. Steve Irwin


Here’s the headline:


Not having cable television, I learned of Steve Irwin primarily through his regular appearances on broadcast television shows such as The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Live With Regis and Kelly. No Animal Planet junkie here. Still, I know this much: the guy is dead, brought down by a stingray and not a parrot as he once prophesized.

“I have a deep-seated respect for parrots. As gifted as I am with all other wildlife, parrots have this uncanny desire to kill me. I’m not sure why, but they’re like my kryptonite!” Irwin is quoted as saying in an interview with the online version of the BBC.

Parrot or stingray, I guess it doesn’t really matter. The guy was bound for some serious animal attack sooner or later, and there were a few sooners until the latest, final blowback. It’s not like the guy hadn’t taken it in the shorts by his subjects before. What strikes me harder is the deluge of controversy surrounding Irwin so soon after his death. Can’t we give the guy a chance to rest in peace (at least not in pieces) for even a few days? The pundits, animal-rights activists and Irwin devotees got going fast: Irwin has been called the “deceased asshole of the week” by Steppin’ Out magazine and “revolting” by Australian feminist Germaine Greer.

It appears you now come down on one side or the other with Irwin: He was a disrespectable circus clown with animals, or a swash-buckling entertainer and environmentalist who brought conservation to the masses, or at least the Animal Planet kingdom. I’m not really buying either.

Take Irwin’s obituary in the New York Times, seemingly penned minutes after his death. (I guess The Times had it figured: the guy was going down soon and they better get that death notice prepared in advance.) The obit reads more like a popular news story and references supposed hugely controversial actions when in the end Irwin was never officially charged with any wrongdoing.

Was Irwin a showman? Of course. A sort of cross between Hulk Hogan and Jacques Cousteau. Do environmental issues need showmen? Of course. Was he a great showman? Of course not. Will he be remembered as a great showman? Of course not. Will he be remembered for his environmental message? Of course not. He’ll be remembered as the Crocodile Hunter who got killed by a stingray. Go figure.

Personally, I always liked Jack Hannah better. At least he’s still around. But then again, you can just go to your local zoo to find the next Crocodile Hunter in the wings. The kids loved Irwin. Though I don’t like zoos.

I can’t wait for the movie. It’s got Matt Damon’s name all over it. Maybe Werner Herzog, hot of Grizzly Man, will direct.

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