Friday, 16 February 2007

Germaine Greer's portrait, hung until recently at the National Portrait Gallery, has been replaced by one showing her nemesis, Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin. Both daily broadsheets covered the occurrence. For a tabloid experience, check out the caption provided with the story that appeared under Nicolette Burke's by-line (News Interactive, a part of News Limited, the Rupert Murdoch-owned service). These, on the other hand, are the pictures shown in the other Murdoch organ, The Australian:

In and out
The Australian employed a far more sedate heading: 'Irwin takes Greer's place in public eye'. The Sydney Morning Herald also declined to dive into the trough with its story ('Greer out, Irwin in').

Having visited Irwin's loudly-trumpeted haven for delinquent crocodiles during my recent trip to the Sunshine Coast, I feel that I have a particular claim on these stories. And I also visited the National Portrait Gallery while in Canberra over Xmas. My impression was not altogether favourable. A slightly pokey, hokey space with a souvenir shop that purveys some rather ghastly examples of Australian kitsch. Doesn't compare with the classy National Gallery, which is located just down the road.

But some readers will have no idea why this transposition of portraits is of interest. To them I say, read the articles linked here. Suffice it to say, when Irwin was speared by a rather butch sting ray in September last year, Greer piped up. He deserved it, she said. He didn't respect the animals he was handling and as a result received his just deserts. John Birmingham, a leading Australian writer, took Irwin's side against Greer. And he was hardly the only one to do so.

Greer seems to relish controversy. As the caption on the News Interactive story shows, by some she is considered to be, basically, a "nut". Those of us further along the liberal-humanist spectrum than Murdoch-funded scribes will probably disagree. After all, Irwin was, at least initially, a bit of an embarassment. Only in Queensland?

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