Poor Mark Latham, the former leader of the Australian Labour Party, isn’t happy with the state of Australian manhood. Like so many things, it isn’t as good or as big or as satisfying as it used to be. In his new book (curiously titled ’A Conga Line of Suckholes’) he laments:
“One of the saddest things I have seen in my lifetime has been the decline in Australian male culture . . . Australian mates and good blokes have been replaced by nervous wrecks, metrosexual knobs and toss bags.”
I’m not sure who the ‘nervous wrecks’ or the ‘toss bags’ he was referring to are, but when he was talking about ‘metrosexual knobs’ – the phrase that has made headlines around the world – perhaps he had in mind Jamie Brooksby, this year’s Australian Big Brother winner, a young, highly groomed fitness trainer who spent much of his time naked in the bathroom showing the world his assets.
If so, Mark Latham is a very hard man to satisfy indeed. Jamie’s metrosexual knob was more substantial than Sydney Harbour Bridge. If Latham isn’t impressed with this metrosexual knob what on earth does an Aussie retrosexual knob look like?
Well…. Mark Latham.
That his remarks have aroused so many column inches in the global press and ‘half-cocked’ discussions about ‘the crisis of masculinity’ can only be down to the rather fond, rather dated fantasy that the rest of the world has about Australia in general and Australian men in particular – that it’s the last frontier of ‘real’ manliness in an enervated Western World. A masculine Eden, full of Crocodile Dundees wrestling their lunch onto the barbie and their Sheilas into bed.
This would also go some way to explaining the ‘outpouring of grief’ (to use the mandatory cliché) over the ’shocking’ death of the outdoor cabaret artist Steve Irwin, whose worldwide popularity seemed to be based in large part on him being sold as the ‘real’ Crocodile Dundee.
That he died was not, I would venture (at the risk of provoking an outpouring of rage), really quite so surprising – his act depended on extreme recklessness. Nonetheless, his death was talked about in astonished, traumatised tones as if it marked the passing away of a certain kind of old-time masculinity rather than just a particular TV personality. It’s as if people couldn’t quite come to terms with how the retrosexual was apparently killed off by Nature herself, with a poison arrow through his heart.
While I’m sure there are plenty of retrosexual Australians left who haven’t been Stingrayed, particularly outside the metropoli, and while I personally can be rather nostalgic about retrosexuals (so long as they don’t look like Latham), Australia long ago made the transition from industrial to service economy, production to consumerism, mining to makeover, and was also the country whose cutting-edge media helped pioneer the process of turning the sporting male body into a commodity – into appetising meat.
Australia is a highly metro country – not least because, like Mark Latham and Steve Irwin – Australia is highly successful at drawing attention to itself. Oz, that scarcely-populated dusty continent in the middle of nowhere has for many years been parading in the bathroom of the global media village with its knob out.
The Australian male is still on the frontier – but it’s now the frontier of consumerism and me-dia. Call me shallow, but if they’re endowed like Brooksby, I doubt many people, apart from whingeing retired male politicos with faces like a smacked Platypus, will seriously complain if they’re more into sack-and-crack waxing than sheep-shearing, ab crunches than Crocodiles.
In a mediated world, metrosexual knobs win over retrosexual knobs. Hand(s) over fist.
(Thanks to the website at worst, my best for the ‘grabs’ of Brooksby & Topak for finding them)