The extent of the grief for Steve Irwin was extraordinary. Even the most hardened cynic, I think, was touched and shocked by his death. But I have to say that I’m finding the transferral of Irwinmania to Bindi a little perverse. I know we’re all sorry Steve isn’t around anymore – and no-one seems to be feeling his loss more than the people who didn’t really pay him much attention when he was alive. But Bindi isn’t a substitute Steve. At least, not yet. Let’s leave her for a decade or so, and see how she feels about crocodiles and television cameras then.
But John Stainton, the Svengali manager who produced and directed The Crocodile Hunter TV series and was with Irwin when he died, has been talking Bindi up since shortly after her father’s death. He’s said that she’ll transcend his fame, and that doting dad just wanted to be her co-star. And as the headlines put it, Bindi certainly shone at the memorial service. It was a remarkably fluent, confident performance – very much the announcement that while Irwin has “big boots to fill”, as Stainton put it, Bindi was up to it.
The whole Crocodile Hunter-Australia Zoo enterprise was built around Steve’s image and personality. It was his figure that towered larger than life over the whole project, both metaphorically and even physically – as anyone who’s flown into Brisbane Airport knows, massive billboards of the man can be seen all over South-East Queensland. Australia Zoo is a big business, with 700 jobs that need protecting. Right now it’s one of the most famous places in Australia. So it’s little wonder that Irwin’s business manager is keen for Bindi to step up.
While I have every confidence Irwin did want his daughter to be a star, and her speech was genuinely touching, the whole way the story has developed has smacked a little of a rebranding exercise. The heir apparent takes on the Crocodile Hunting crown and the regime continues.
Bindi literally overshadowed by Steve
And the public love it. This story today about Bindi’s ascendancy reads a little like a press release from Irwin Inc. “A survey in the magazine New Idea shows 93 per cent of readers believe Bindi should follow her father’s wildlife crusades as the next ‘Crocodile Huntress'”, it says. While this similar article gushes that “Eight-year-old Bindi Irwin will, in its September issue, be the youngest person to appear on the front cover of New Idea in the magazine’s 104-year history.” Wow, New Idea history in the making.
A child psychologist has warned that this may not be good for Bindi, but it’s Stainton himself who’s given the best indication of the risks. Irwin’s manager said that he would “imagine she’s going to be as big as the Olsen twins”. Really, who’d wish a fate like that on anyone?
Image: Paul Harris