Sep '06 - Oct '06
Steve Irwin died earlier today, his chest punctured by the fatal stab of a stingray while he snorkeled along Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Many know Irwin as the camera-happy croc-wrestler seen on TV. The incident will probably serve to cloak broad notions about nature behind statements, perhaps even judgmental ones, on Irwin's frequent encounters with wild beasts. Beyond those simplifications, this singular moment caught on film--as Irwin apparently would have wanted it--is powerful and full of contradiction. Irwin on the screen seemed to apprehend cultural tendencies to interpret human nature as a condition of vulnerability and innocence. In the end, he was defenseless, like any weaker animal that falls prey to a predator. This is an abstraction about the human being that he worked with, and one of the reasons we watched the show at one time or another. Maybe it makes us think of our supposed innocence, that imaginary pre-human or pre-modern place we were once at. Many others will say that nature's brutal competition and essential unpredictability is no place for a human being, more abstractions about the human condition. Therefore, he got what he deserved, they may say. What made Irwin popular and rich was how he could become all these abstractions all at once: in it or just outside of nature, but staring it down...and being chirpy about it. Until death finishes with all abstractions and now he becomes just Steve Irwin.