Thursday, July 9, 2009

We Don't Need Another...

The wait is finally over - more "Smack" talk. This time, Smack and I reminisce on g'days gone by...

Feel free to weigh in by posting a comment, and enjoy.

Within Reason: Alright, random question that hit me driving home the other day: Has any definable entity, i.e. a person, place, object, etc, had a bigger pop culture decade than Australia did in the 1980s?

Smack: Let’s start with a list of their 1980’s pop culture phenomena:

Fine Young Cannibals
Crowded House
Men at Work
Air Supply
Rick Springfield
What else are we looking at besides music?

WR: A few tweaks to your list - Fine Young Cannibals were British, and I would put AC/DC in the 1970s pop culture category.

Your list alone is impressive, but let's throw in:
All of the Mad Max movies - especially Beyond Thunderdome
Crocodile Dundee
Midnight Oil
Jacko (best known for the "Energizer! Oi !!!! Commercials)
Yahoo Serious (of Young Einstein "fame")

It got to the point that, by the late 80s, it seems that the idea - "just do (X), and make it Australian!" was the key marketing pitch of the times. I mean, Yahoo Serious was pretty much Australia's answer to Weird Al, or Pauly Shore. When a pop scene is at the point of lifting C-list ideas and making them their own, you are at a saturation point. America inventing The (curiously fronted by a Brit) Monkees as their 'answer to The Beatles" is one thing, but coming up with Jacko as you answer to Hulk Hogan PLUS Max Headroom is quite another.

S: Well now that we’ve established Australia’s credentials, we need to address whether that’s ever been topped.

Since you bring up the Beatles, how about England in the 60’s? You had countless big name bands, i.e. Beatles, Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Rolling Stones, The Who, Bee Gees. Then you had the whole mod subculture, free love, etc. Figure in James Bond and I think we might have Australia beat.

Britain had a competitive 80’s too, music wise.

WR: Touche with Britain in the 60's - I had figured they'd be Australia's toughest opponent. (Side note - The Bee Gees are Australian)

I think the knock on Britain would be that a good deal of their pop culture impact was summed up as "The British Invasion." Well, maybe that's not a knock, because it points to a similar sort of 'just make it British' marketing in the 60s that was became (to a lesser extent, maybe) the 'just make it Australian' by the late 80s. Perhaps Australia can be given a nod, since they had made major inroads into pop culture prior to the 'sell out' point of Jacko and Yahoo Serious. It took about 9 months for "The Second Wave of the British Invasion" to come about, while Australia was just consistently churning out pop culture dynamite for several years before it veered off into C-list land...

Look at it this way - the Austin Powers franchise acts as a sort of synopsis of the entire British cultural phenomenon of the 60s. Not that it's complete - but if, in 10 years or so, some one tried to do the same with Australia in the 1980s, would the main character hunt crocs in the outback, hunt post-apocalyptic petrol bandits, and play the didgeridoo in a strange, quasi pop band who sings about famine and equality?

It was a pretty diverse, yet strangely identifiable 'scene.'

S: I like it. Let’s get this movie made. Sponsored by Vegemite.

I think The British Invasion wins. Australians are just British vagabonds anyhow.

Do you think we can include in this discussion Microsoft in the late 80’s – mid 90’s or Apple in the 00’s? I think the iPod has become a substantial pop culture icon. iAnything for that matter.

WR: Ooooh - good call. I say Macintosh gets the nod there. The 'i' prefix has totally consumed the tech / branding segment of pop culture. Sometimes I feel as though I should spelling my name iAN.

As far as Microsoft, not so much, I think. To say that Microsoft had a pop culture presence in the 80s/90s is kind of like saying the CIA had a presence in Central America in the 50s - the 80s. Sure it was around, but the point wasn't necessarily to grow brand appeal - not that there was a choice.

Back to the movie: It's growing on me, too. What could we call this, and how could we avoid having this become a rip-off of The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Accross the Fifth Dimension (which is about a near apocalyptic scientist/stuntman who hunts aliens in the American West, and sings in a Culture Club-meets-that band playing at the fair in The Lost Boys) - which, now that I think of it, is another example of 80s Australian influence...

S: Well I think the Austin Powers movies did a good job encapsulating the British Invasion. It would have to be something like that.

I found our main character:
It will be called “Joe Bloggs, Bonzer Bloke.” All we need is a premise.

WR: Hmm...I'm struggling with the idea of incorporating humor into the post-apocalyptic outback.

How's this: It's called "The Super Bonzer Mates" - and it's essentially a live action remake of Super Mario Brothers, but Australian. Bindi Irwin gets kidnapped by some bonkers Aborigines, and a couple of Aussie Rules footballers are 'ired by The Croc Hunter's wife to gather 'er up. They 'op in the ol' Leen Rovah, cruise the outback - jam out at night to groups of atomic orphans, and when they finally encounter Bindi, she's turned into a younger version of Tina Turner's character from Mad Max: Beyond ThunderDome. They return the secret boomerang to it's rightful kangaroo owner - and BLAMMO! No more global warming!

S: Good on ya, mate. There would have to be a high speed dune buggy chase scene, and a tussle with rabid koalas and/or dingoes. But the rest of it sounds good.

WR: Too bad it will only ever exist in Tomorrowmorrow Land.


  1. "'just do (X), and make it Australian!'" explains the outback steakhouse and other wanna-be wallabies with poor Australian [read: American] accents.

  2. Hi Geoff,

    Agreed - is there anything more annoying than being asked to "go Outback tonight" some one with a phony accent? Well, maybe being asked to try disgusting "Killian's Irish Red" by some one with a phony accent - or being asked to experience the fresh clean of "Irish Spring" by some one with a phony accent.

    Are we to believe that the real accents just aren't marketable enough?

    Thanks for checking in.