What makes a 'great role model'? Presenting your grief on a dancing show as 'open' and 'real' like Bindi Irwin? No, we're not idiots, writes Helen Razer.
Helen Razer

9 Oct 2015 - 5:06 PM  UPDATED 10 Oct 2015 - 7:13 PM

The mother of idiots, is always pregnant. So an Italian proverb goes. It’s funny but perhaps not particularly true that the real world gives life to stupid people every minute. It’s the cultural world that’s really at fault, with its habit of midwifing stupid ideas.

Like that which has routinely appeared for the last year which suggests that Bindi Irwin is a “great role model”.

This is not to disparage the young Instagram star and fan of radical population control. Irwin seems lovely and only has the best intentions when she, still a lethally young person, suggested that her gender both start dressing more modestly and stop having so many damn babies. That Irwin makes naïve moral statements is not her fault but that of a culture, and of a family, that permits them to be broadcast.

But it is to disparage those who make the claim that Irwin is a “great role model”. For whom, precisely? All those other female children brought up in a celebrity zoo? Irwin seems a very nice youngster, but she is otherwise only remarkable for inherited fame and selfies.  And so, the moral lessons to her age-mates can only be “make sure you are born rich” and “get a lot of people to look at you”.

Surely it is a silly idea to cause your child regret that they were born to modest wealth and hope that they be valued for their selfies. If one is a parent seeking a “role model” for their female issue, one, surely need look no further than Bindi’s age-mate, Malala Yousafzai.

Of course, the most responsible parenting manuals may not suggest resistance in the face of an Islamist militia but, otherwise, everything Malala has been raised to do is very sensible. Start nagging your daughter “Why don’t you oppose neo-global colonisation like little Malala does?”  Even if you were pregnant with an idiot, by these means, you might be able to reverse the impediment.  Bindi as “role model”, and one whose ideas for good governance are not a scholarly patch on Malala’s, will just make matters worse.

Nobel winner Malala opens school for Syrian refugees
Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, celebrated her 18th birthday in Lebanon by opening a school for Syrian refugee girls and called on world leaders to invest in "books not bullets".

But, of course, blaming parents for idiocy is ineffective. Idiots aren’t born, nor are they made by mothers. They are made by idiotic ideas. And the idiotic idea that Bindi Irwin is a “great role model”, has been birthed again this week.

When Bindi won her round of 'Dancing With The Stars' - an honour more cherished than Malala’s piddling Nobel Peace Prize - the culture’s idiotic parenting started all over again. A storied Australian publishing house asked, “Is Steve Irwin's daughter Bindi Irwin the young female role model we need?” and answered, idiotically, yes.

Bindi, apparently, is marvellous on this occasion because her famous grief was presented before her prize-winning performance to the song 'Every Step You Take'. Bindi cried in an “open” and “real” way about the death nine years ago of her father, according to the piece, and is therefore a great “role model” for young people experiencing the loss of a parent. It’s open! And it’s real!

Nothing that happens on 'Dancing With The Stars' is open or real. Anyone who works within media knows this and, frankly, anyone with a television knows this. Media audiences are largely, and contrary to the view of media idiots, fairly aware that they are consuming media in the moment they are consuming it. We know that 'Dancing With The Stars', of all the fabricated reality programs, is a moment of idealised escapism. We know that it is edited, showered in spray tan and subject to extreme adventures in teeth-whitening. 

We know these people aren’t “role models”. We know they are the pleasant phantoms that serve to entertain us when we are too tired from work or school or life to even bother having daydreams. Bindi, who is dancing to perhaps the creepiest song about extreme surveillance in pop history, is someone we see as the product of surveillance. We know that she happens to be a real person but we do not, at our core, confuse a slickly produced television performances for the real world or the real Bindi. She appears to us as she is: a strictly controlled and scripted teen business.

We are not the idiots, here. We don’t make the mistake of confusing the telly with life and trying to find “role models” within it. The real idiot is our media parent who mistakes us for an impressionable baby.