common stereotype of Australians is that they are good natured, down to earth,
use slang, have a pragmatic sense of humour, have a larrikin streak, are free
of worries and are quite adaptable. On the whole, the stereotype is quite accurate.
stereotype was broadcast to the world on a huge scale with the 1986 smash, Crocodile
Dundee. In the story, wealthy reporter Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski) hears about the heroic tale of survival of Mick Dundee (Paul Hogan) and
flies to the outback to verify his story. As they travel to the outback, she falls
in love with his unpretentious honesty, and good spirited dishonesty. He secretly uses a razor to shave, but when he hears her coming, he pulls out
a huge knife and pretends to shave with it. He looks at his mate’s watch then
pretends he can tell the time by looking at the sky. One night, the two
are visited by one of Mick's Aboriginal mates on his way to a corroboree. Sue
tries to take the man's picture, but the blackfella says:
can't take my picture"
"You are afraid it will take away your
You got lens cap on."
then wanders off into the bush. Sue asks Mick how his finds his way in the dark.
Mick says: "telepathy." Then there is the sound of the blackfella walking
into a tree, and an anguished cry:
"I hate the bush."
underlying message behind the jokes is that stereotypes of Australians are not always
accurate, but that Australians like to have fun with them anyway.
convinces Mick to accompany her to New York. Dundee accepts, and soon finds that
New York life is very different from the life he is accustomed to. Showing great
adaptability, he acclimatizes himself with the new surroundings. Walking down
the street, a mugger pulls out a knife and demands his wallet. A timid Sue tells
Mick to give the mugger his wallet because:
got a knife.”
laughs and says:
not a knife”
out a huge hunting knife, looks at it, and with a voice of admiration:
meets a “lady” in the pub, but is completely unaware that the “lady” is really
a man. When informed of the situation, he verifies the gender with a quick squeeze
of the groin area. Later, he meets a particularly ugly lady who he concludes must
also be a man. Another squeeze of the groin reveals that, no, she is really a
woman, and one that quite enjoyed Mick's exploratory hand.
Dundee is generally referred to as a 'fish out of water' tale. Although this may
be an apt description for the sequels, the story is more a Seinfield style
of holding a mirror of pragmatism at Americans and Australians alike. It plays
on stereotypes of Australians and makes fun of them, while at the same time, reaffirming
them. It is both real, and a joke, at the same time.
Gallipoli, Crocodile Dundee had a huge influence on Australia. World wide, it
generated immense good will for Australia which in turn generated a dramatic rise in
tourism - particularly from the United States. It also laid the groundwork for
another Crocodile man, Steve Irwin, to create larger than life wildlife
documentaries that likewise made fun of stereotypes while simultaneously affirming
Domestically, Crocodile Dundee initially
created a wave good will that was another shot in the arm to the Australian movie
industry. A series of quirky comedies were subsequently released that rode on
the back of the growing sense of national pride.
however, Crocodile Dundee became a source of division. Australia's inner-city
intelligentsia, who don't share the movie's sense of humour, became concerned
that the movie portrayed an unrealistic image of Australians. They argued that
most Australians don't have blond hair, don't wrestle crocodiles, don't live in
the outback and don't say 'g'day'. For Geoffrey Barker of the Melbourne Herald, the movie reinforced international perceptions that "Australians are gauche, provincial and philistine". Another concerned citizen, Veronica Brady, said the film was about "colonial servility, violence and a profound confusion of values". Presumably, the concerned citizens thought that a "true" Australian lives in an inner-city terrace,
drinks soy-milk, complains about Crocodile stereotypes and is gay. In
some regards, their complaints were as silly as an Englishman getting upset about
James Bond movies on the grounds that most Poms do not save the world, are not
gentlemen, and don't seduce lots of women.
Hogan's response really hit the nail on the head regarding the origins of the criticism, as well as the folly of them:
"People are so dumb sometimes in Australia. What are we going to do, put a nice sensible hard-working accountant in a film and say: "Here's a typical Australian, hard-working, industrious". Everyone would yawn and say "Never go to Australia".
the absurdity of getting worked up over a feel-good movie, subsequent Australian
outback movies seemed intent on correcting the untrue stereotypes promoted by
Crocodile Dundee. Instead of the outback being depicted as a place of good-natured
larrikins, the Australian movie industry became forceful in depicting the outback as a place
of rednecks, racists, murderers, homophobes, and sexists. In their process of
throwing mud, they took themselves down a pathway that basically destroyed their
industry, and sent themselves towards the unemployment line. Furthermore, 20 years later, instead of the world having a stereotype that Australia is home to good natured larrikins, the world started building the stereotype that Australia is home to murderous celebrities, serial killers, and homosexual transvestites. Arguably, most of the world prefers the former.