That’s not a knife

Words by Sam Barson
Art by Nicole Sizer

In November 2017, actors Chris Hemsworth and Danny McBride were unexpectedly ambushed by a water buffalo deep in a remote corner of Queensland, Australia.

The pair were forced to pull over, so McBride could attempt to hypnotize the animal, leaving Hemsworth behind in their Land Rover vehicle.

All of this was caught on camera and released online as part of a nuanced and elaborate hoax. A hoax to fool the world into thinking a sequel to the 1986 Australian cinema classic Crocodile Dundee was being released.

The true purpose of the video was a tourism ad for Australia. Produced by Tourism Australia, it premiered at the Super Bowl in the U.S. A final trailer, featuring cameos from Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Margot Robbie, Isla Fisher, Ruby Rose and the original ‘Dundee,’ Mr Paul Hogan himself, has gone on to reach over 7.2 million views on YouTube.

Why did this fake trailer elicit such a loud, global response? Is more Dundee what the world wants? What the world needs?  (You will soon note that by ‘world’ I actually mean the US…)

The character of Mick “Crocodile” Dundee was first introduced to audiences on September 26, 1986, when the original Crocodile Dundee film premiered. On a budget of only a little more than $7 million, the modest Australian film brought in more than $300 million at the box office, worldwide. Still remaining to be the highest grossing Australian film of all time, it sits above such classics as Babe, Happy Feet and the Mad Max series.

This alone is enough evidence to prove Crocodile Dundee as a successful and influential piece of cinema and pop culture. But there’s been more to the franchise’s success than just numbers and bums on seats. The timing of the original film’s U.S. release in 1986 proved to be particularly significant. In the mid-1980s there was a massive wave of American interest in Australia. Airfares became a lot more reasonable, and the Australian dollar was considerably low (interestingly, as it is now). Therefore, when Paul Hogan broadcasted a strong Australian stereotype through his character of Mick Dundee, American audiences were extremely receptive.

Crocodile Dundee had a huge influence on the nation, generating substantial good will for Australia which resulted in a steep rise in tourism from the US. As the wealthy reporter Sue Charlton fell in love with Mick Dundee throughout their on-screen travels in the Australian outback, so did the whole of America off-screen. The film and titular character went a long way to cement the Australian stereotype into US impressions – a stereotype built around croc fights and ocker blokes.

America has proven to still have a great deal of affection for us, viewing our wide brown land as the home of a bunch of loveable larrikins. This view, however, is quickly losing its ability to truthfully represent Australia as an entire nation.  

In the last 30 years since the original film was released, Australia has well and truly progressed beyond this dated and caricatured stereotype. We’re a metropolitan nation, with untarnished natural wonders, world-renowned wines and most importantly, a diverse collective of people that go well and truly beyond that original Dundee stereotype that America was first presented in 1986.

The brains behind this sly ‘reboot’ must be congratulated. What better way to update America’s view on Australia, than through a cinematic universe that originally succeeded in doing so 30 years ago. Australia, in 2018, has a brilliant modern story to tell. And as was the case in 1986, a Crocodile Dundee film might still be the best way to convince Americans to hop on that long-haul 14-hour flight and come over to experience it for themselves.

But, let it be noted that tasty wines and breathtaking landmarks aside, there is a message that Mick Dundee continues to emphasise that no other character of cinema has or ever will. Integral to Australia is our respect for the land and the people who live in it.

A respectable message for our nation to be recognised by – especially when endorsed by a crocodile wrestling, wide-brim hat wearing larrikin like Mick Dundee.

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