Australia - Out for a sitting duck : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

In the 'Australia - Be a good sport: stop Kiwi-bashing' found here, CD replied about the OZ bluntness and put-down method. However, are we in rarefied atmospheres...? Story Link

Out for a sitting duck

It's open season on society's scapegoats, so fire at will, writes Alex Buzo For tomorrow they may just as easily be our sacred cows.

If you are a tennis father, a Portuguese colonial administrator, Princess Anne, Christmas, a screenwriter, a rich Asian woman or a West Australian politician, then you have a double identity. You are also a Sitting Duck.

Most societies have their scapegoats or sacrifices. Some cricket fans have been waiting for Mark Waugh to be thrown off the back of the truck so they can tear the remains to bits. For others there is the distraction of Villain of the Week - for example, Ekkart Arbeit, Warren Entsch, Konrad Kalejs.

The Sitting Duck is different. This is a person or institution that can be attacked without fear of reprisal and it takes great character to pass up the chance.

Currently a very fleshy Sitting Duck, Portugal used to be "England's oldest ally" and it was never criticised, for fear it would align itself with France or cut off the wine supply or both. As it loses its remaining colonies one by one, however, they are always "corrupt and maladministered", and finally freed after "centuries of misrule". East Timor was "a victim of 500 years of Portuguese exploitation" while the good citizens of Macau ran into the arms of China with tears of joy streaming down their faces.

In an age when special interest groups are well organised and capable of massive legal retaliation, most people have to watch their tongue. There is no lobby group for Portuguese colonial administration, and since the 1967 Peter Weiss play Song of the Lusitanian Bogey attacked Portugal's custodial role in Africa, to rave reviews and no retribution, it has been open slather. The script might have been boring and opaque, but there was no stinting visually. The torture! The beheadings! The massacres! In Mozambique, Angola, across the sea in Goa ... the Portuguese shingle reads Atrocities "R" Us.

There is equally no fear of retaliation from dead imperialists such as Rudyard Kipling and Xavier Herbert, who were, in the great tradition, "racist, fascist, war-mongering, miserly, misogynist misanthropes". In reviewing Herbert's 1999 biography, Barry Hill claimed that the adventurer was "a writer of mediocre talent ... a manic little bullshit and booze artist ... a boorish chauvinist ... a braggart ... a narcissistic recluse ... a blowhard and ham actor ... cock-strutting [sic] ..." and then it gets worse. I love the use of "little" in this diatribe; not only was Herbs guilty of all the sins of hubris, he didn't choose his parents wisely, either.

As for Kipling, well! It has been open season on the Kipper since his "innards" gave out and he died in 1936. Surely the Hindu-speaking author of Kim and The Jungle Book would have some redeeming qualities? Maybe, but that's not what fuels the biography industry. Interestingly enough, in the PC era, the two writers who were most attuned to the indigenous people - Herbert in the Northern Territory, Kipling in India - have been the most reviled.

Professor David Carment, of Northern Territory University, says Herbert's 1938 novel Capricornia remains the definitive work on both the Territory and its Aborigines. I met Herbert once and found him polite, unpretentious and low-key. I should have told him all writers and readers were in his debt because of his great effort in 1938.

If there is no Defence League for Dead Imperial Novelists, then there is definitely not one for live tennis fathers. The greatest gallery of Sitting Ducks is comprised of Jim Pierce, Stefano Capriati, Peter Graf and Damir Dokic. The veteran commentator Bud Collins saw Dokic as an easy mark, claiming his daughter Jelena was "wrongly the breadwinner" of the family and he should "get a job". Until there is a TFA - Tennis Fathers' Association - these mostly blue-collar men will be urged to do what Collins would never contemplate. It is hard to imagine BC packing a lunchbox and heading off whistling for a day at the lathe.

On daytime television blue-collar men are the regular Sitting Ducks for audiences that are 90 per cent female. Arraigned daily for their insensitivities and charged with everything from forgetting birthdays to forgetting to come home, these stoics are doing what the working man has always done - a filthy job for a good pay packet. The working-class women in the audience are not all that happy with their plight, but they have been persuaded there is someone responsible for all their woes - their husbands. The so-called battle of the sexes has been the establishment's longest-running hit.

If the blue-collar male is a Sitting Duck because of his limited means of retaliation, then members of the royal family are even bigger ones; they are not permitted to respond to criticism. The late British Labour MP Willie Hamilton was known as "the Clockwork Lemon" for his regular denunciations of Princess Anne ("a plain young woman, mostly found on the back of a horse") in particular. The Princess Royal probably has strong views on Hamilton, but we will never know what they are.

For the self-styled Queen of Perth it has been no picnic, either. Rose Lacson-Hancock-Porteous is discovering what Dewi Sukarno and Imelda Marcos already know: if you are an influential Asian woman you are low-hanging fruit. Previous dragon ladies of the East have included Madame Nhu of Vietnam and the Soong sisters, particularly Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, who is a centenarian living quietly on Long Island after a lifetime of flak.

Madame Nhu, the de facto First Lady of Vietnam in the interwar years (1954-64), visited America with her daughter to seek reparations for her decimated regime. When they left, the send-off was a beauty: "No Nhus is Good News," read one headline.

In his 1995 memoirs, the former US defence secretary Robert McNamara described her as a "sorceress" (Westernese for "influential"). He felt he could tee off on the Vietnamese widow in a way he could never contemplate when it came to the saintly Eleanor Roosevelt and others with a built-in claque.

Dewi (pronounced "dare we?") Sukarno was a Tokyo bar hostess when she met the Indonesian president Achmed Sukarno in 1959. "Bung Karno" was crazy about her and they were soon married, but the presidency did not last beyond 1966. Since before Sukarno's death in 1970, Dewi has been a socialite wanderer and a bona fide Sitting Duck, with her punch-ups in Aspen being lovingly chronicled.

There is no doubt the Venerable Bede would not be a party to this. The first-millennium monk wrote biographies, but VB's aim was "to write good things of good men". The founder of the biographer's art, he would be shown the door at all modern publishing houses.

More contemporary men of the cloth such as the Rev Jerry Falwell appear to have been put on Earth for a purpose, that is, to appear as characters in Hollywood films. Falwell has criticised Hollywood's liberal values and was played by an actor in The People vs Larry Flynt.

Does the possibility exist that Falwell might be given some positive qualities? Would he be played by an actor who was better looking, more charismatic than the original? The answers, dear reader, are no and no. Hollywood doesn't glamorise! Our own Sitting Duck, the Rev Fred Nile, has not yet been portrayed in any Oz film; my casting tip, now that Frank Thring is dead, would be Linda Hunt.

The real-life Elizabeth I was known to have put a high price on her wicket, so much so that she was called the Virgin Queen in unenlightened quarters. At some point during the film Elizabeth the issue of the Queen marrying has to come before the bishops. Some poor bastard mentions "the sanctity of marriage" and boy, does he cop it. He's a hypocrite, he's been divorced twice, he's on his third wife, and he has to sit down to a chorus of jeers. The sanctity of marriage. Get outta here! If you think dramatic conflict comes from an even contest, then you must be a purist.

Screenwriters believe that they are the Sitting Ducks of the film industry because they are not in a position to employ people. How often do we hear - from audiences, industry workers and critics - that "the script was terrible", yet producers and directors are let off scot-free? The only scriptwriter to become the head of a major studio, Dore Schary at MGM, was a powerful player in the industry who continued to write screenplays. How were they received? Schary specialised in ludicrous cornball melodramas like Sunrise at Campobello, and his reviews were just as adulatory after he became a studio head.

Nevertheless, the whingeing of the script-ohs does get to the heart of the Sitting Duck phenomenon. It is essentially an attack on the powerless, and the anger that could have brought change has been redirected.

In classic melodrama terms, there needs to be a villain to make the hero look good, and there needs to be a sacrificial offering at regular intervals. When Mark Taylor was made Australian of the Year ABC Radio's PM rang me. Did I think there were too many sportspeople getting these awards? Well, perhaps. I'd have liked to see Howard Florey get a posthumous gong for inventing penicillin. There was a pause. The question came again: did I think there were too many sportspeople getting these awards? Yes. Thank you!

Within seconds of the interview being broadcast Today Tonight rang and asked if I could repeat it on TV. Obviously there was lots of footage of Marvellous Mark and his admirers and a sacrificial baddie was needed to round out the program. So I said, yes; why spoil the fun?

Not being an actor, I don't think I made a very good villain - indeed, I tried to present myself positively. For young professional actors, however, the sky's the limit when it comes to playing bad. Whereas performers of a previous generation might have invented positive qualities for the people they played, today's youngsters are quick to dismiss their characters as "jerks", "wimps" or "pricks". It won't be long before Hamlet is portrayed as a jerk and a wimp who was a prick to Ophelia. Coriolanus is of course a redneck. As for Othello, he's worse than Mike Tyson.

It is axiomatic that US vice-presidents are fools and villains, and many comedians supplement their living by taking pot shots at these Sitting Ducks. Normally, to become a soft target in America you have to mouth conservative moral values, like Dan Quayle. In the 1992 campaign poor old Quayle criticised the sit-com character Murphy Brown for having a child out of wedlock, and the floodgates opened. David Letterman in particular had a field day with his impersonations of the man who was DQed (the vice-president's initials unfortunately stood for "DisQualified").

Al Gore is the current VP and he religiously toes the liberal line, but he still gets ridiculed for being a bore and a loser. As with Quayle, he has to suffer the perception that he has a brainier wife, and in any case the vice-president's powers are so vaguely defined that gaffe-hunters feel they can fire at will.

Many of those who attack Sitting Ducks are cowardly grandstanders, but many are simply following the line of least resistance. It is much easier to sling off at tarnished angels such as the West Australian ex-premier Carmen Lawrence than it is to criticise a powerful bureaucrat like ... well, there are several.

Fashions change, of course, and as Norman May would have said, today's Sitting Ducks could be tomorrow's Sacred Cows. Just the same, if you are a retired Portuguese colonial administrator with a rich and brainy Asian wife and you are working on a film script when you hear the pock-pock-pock of your daughter hitting a tennis ball against the garage with increasing power ... it may be wise to invest in a flak jacket.


The TB2000 fracas bringing about these past few days of rather quaint American dummy-spittings isn't a patch on real life Down Under. Indeed I'll go as far as saying that the 'LL' spam wasn't stylish and lacked class. Rather borish actually. You see, during lucid postings from her I read some real racontuse flair, for a Yankee sheila that is. Pity she couldn't keep it up like a professional & gifted 'Flint' for example...hehe :o).
Anyway things'll probably gravitate to the interesting denominator posts, like the above, which I post to bring out the quacker in us a sitting duck that I am now.

Regards from OZ - 'quack quack'

-- Pieter (, March 04, 2000


Thanks for the post, Pieter. Shall we put a sitting duck on the barby?

Best, from Very

-- Very (, March 04, 2000.

Rollin' on the floor here Pieter! In between reading all these " quaint American dummy-spittings" I would definitely enjoy seeing more Ozzyisms.

-- CD (, March 05, 2000.

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