Film, News & Commentary

Razer: Pistol whipped by the USA

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Apparently, everyone but you, me and those signed up for monastic silence is talking about our nation’s bold anti-terrier laws. While this publication has no wish to (a) shatter your vow of ignorance re a pair of undocumented toy dogs or (b) play down the importance of national biosecurity as much as Johnny Depp’s bad acting did, it retains its commitment to pose an important question that arises here and in assorted cultural matters. To wit: “what the actual fuck?”

Why have two high-income companion animals been so widely discussed? What does anyone hope to know but in turning over in this bunkum?

Of course, there are plenty of modern, simple answers to this difficult old problem of epistemological doubt. One is “people are stupid”. Another not-unrelated one is “it involves glamorous stars and has an audience”. Of course, both these things are true.

But a third answer, which I imagine has already been proposed somewhere else on the internet, is a slightly more fulfilling one: a story that has privileged and wilfully ignorant Americans at its centre plays to a national anxiety that has been changing shape since the time of ANZUS.

When Nationals MP, and now the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce threatened the lives of Boo and Pistol, he spoke, I think, for many older Australians. This is not to suggest that the slaughter of adorable Yorkies is something I’d buy a ticket to. It is, however, to suggest that those of us who were born to a time of Cold War have some fairly fearful memories of the US. There are many people, say, 40 and above, who, however realist in their approach to foreign policy, feel a little ambivalent about Those Yanks who come over here with their packets of nylons, military installations and self-serving trade agreements. Or, indeed, with their adorable dogs.

For the younger kids snoozing up the back, this isn’t a revulsion that derives from stupid xenophobia alone. It has at its basis a real historical unease. Much as it owns all the organs of the world, the US owns our arse, and some of us born before 1980 don’t feel so great about it.

When notable toddler Kyle Sandilands threatened the reputation of Barnaby Joyce he spoke, I think, for many younger Australians, many of whom think we should just be cool about our borders.

Although Sandilands is my age, he and I seem to have come to midlife from parallel universities. The Sandilands reality, which has perhaps been tweaked with a little ideological Botox to keep him artificially fresh for his young fans, sees sovereignty as a bore.

Chiefly, we have one reaction of the Joyce sort which sees that Australia must hold fast to its borders and identity and another of the Sandilands sort which sees such acts of protection as a harmful and vintage intolerance, hopes for a rabies-free island notwithstanding.

While the Australian interest in animal quarantine is perfectly rational, it happens to be bound up in Joyce’s person with some very irrational views on other forms of border protection. So, just to be tediously clear, Joyce is a “wanker”. (Apparently this is a permissible thing to publicly say.) But, so is Sandilands. His slavish love for our US overlords does not belong on breakfast radio but would be better placed inside Christian Grey’s sexy dungeon.

Joyce’s nativism is horrid. But, so is the uncritically “global” acceptance of any damn thing Those Yanks send over here by private jet or envoy.

Yes. You are right to be impatient with me. I have said that this matter, like other tedious matters, does not merit the weight of serious analysis. Yet, here I am, talking about the generational divide, border security and international trade vis-à-vis a pair of fluffy dogs. Who even am I? Some sort of earnestly deluded Fairfax columnist who writes about the urgent need for more Strong Women on TV?

Look. As much as I’d rather walk around a media landscape that has far fewer mountains of muck built from stories about Johnny Depp and his dazzling partner, the reactions to this story, it seems to me, are quite interesting for the fears and the hopes that they lay bare.

It’s fairly interesting, I think, to observe in this case how older Australians retain their attachment to national identity while younger Australians, who now have a range of other cultural identities to try on, see such a thing as a yoke.

It’s also fairly interesting for me—perhaps not so much for you—to
wonder if I’ve gone completely potty in ascribing so much importance
to a story about effing Johnny effing Depp.

Next week, please join me again as I sincerely restate the importance of more Strong Women on TV.

Related muck: 

The best reactions to the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard hostage video 

27 responses to “Razer: Pistol whipped by the USA

  1. That’s an interesting take. I never got the Sandilands version because I tend to either stick my fingers in my ears or turn off the offending device whenever he appears.
    I had conceptualised it purely as an economic class thingo, whereby the rich get to pick and choose ( quarantine, taxpaying, serving time in jail for making monumentally fucked up business decisions) what seems appropriate to them, and then pick their own version of a penalty ( make a 5minute spoof video – that admittedly will probably do more for Aus Tourism than any $2000 fine would- ) when push comes to shove.
    However, 2 things: First, the real crime was the totally fucked up movie that spoiled one of my favourite books ( Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides). And secondly, if I was thinking of breaking quarantine I’d probably be more inclined to do it just so I could be read the riot act again by Ms Heard.

  2. “National identity ” = attitudes to quarantine + two dogs X two American actors = “potty” might ,possibly , add up 🙂

  3. Razer, I think you’ve missed the point on this one. People are talking about this story because the video is funny and Barnaby is a goose. It’s surreal, kitsch, absurd brilliance. Most people – the ‘young’ included – do understand that biosecurity is a serious matter. Laughing at this episode does not question the importance of quarantine. The fact is, Barnaby Joyce threatening Johnny Depp over his pet terriers Pistol and Boo is hilarious. It just is. And that was before the video even dropped, which has to be one of the hysterical 30 seconds of video ever committed to the interwebs. There is no need for analysis here. Just read the memes and giggle.

    1. Absolutely spot on. The whole thing was hysterical from go to woe. Barnaby telling them to’ bugger off’, the death threats, the fake solemnity and contrition of the guilty pair.
      (And I’m old).

  4. Helen Razer as a commentator either brilliant or bullshit – no middle ground for me! I fear this time I she’s totally missed the point and it’s nothing to do with age … essentially it’s about Australia deservedly being made a global laughing stock … something I do resent and regret. Bad enough Australia’s reputation being trashed due to our bipartisan refugee policies … that is deserved, but this idiotic hoopla about a pair of pampered dogs who at no stage threatened anything is truly Pythonesque … hats off to Depp and partner, they played it brilliantly … 5 stars

    1. “pampered dogs who at no stage threatened anything” It has obviously escaped your notice that rabies and bubonic plague are common amongst domestic dogs in the US. I would prefer that they stay there. Terriers have a habit of chasing rodents and getting themselves either bitten or infested with rat fleas. The threat is very real.

      1. Your point is unassailable, Pete. I’m sure companion animals don’t enjoy their four-week stay at quarantine facilities. But this and other practices have kept our nation free from many diseases that afflict pets, humans and agriculture.
        I have no idea what they still sometimes spray us with on incoming international flights. It’s not a warm welcome, but it’s probably a useful one.
        Anyhow. The dogs were a threat.

  5. This is a non-issue and a waste of your considerable rhetorical powers. May I suggest – the myopia of the drug war – terrorists, automobiles: which kills more – Secrecy and privacy in a computer age: why does government completely ignore one of the most important constitutional issues of all time – citizenship, civilianship, what does it mean to belong to a nation today Are there obligations? What are they? – Can we really rely on “modern” democracy when its formal structure was set down when mail travelled as fast as horses? – What the hell is wrong with Malcolm Turnbull?
    I think any of these issues far outstrip what ever spectacle that idiot Joyce is devising as a entertainment of the national coma-politics. You would certainly be ahead of the media.

    1. I think perhaps a cup of tea, a Bex, and a good lie down my be in order here. Start your own blog you lazy sod.

  6. Why was Joyce involved anyway ? Does he do border control in his spare time ? Was it a bit of ooh I know Johnny Depp and whats her name. My mate, the richest of all of us, has two scots terriers and they eat much better than I did as a kid – bloody steak. Probably have better beds too. In his case they are surrogate children. He’d read the act before he tried to move them O/S in case he could make a buck doing it. I thought the Depp et friend video was great – oozed sincerity I thought. Come back any time in your 75 million dollar learjet and bring the missus and the dishlickers.

    1. He’s the minister for agriculture. Quarantine laws are there to protect agriculture from the many diseases that we don’t have here. I thought the connection was obvious.

      1. Precisely, hes the Minister. My aunt brought queen bees in for years to arc up the hives. Don’t think the Minister of the time had much to do with it. So with Mr Depp, some lowly clerk should have told him about putting “no animals” on the form so send the dishlickers back on the learjet now. It shouldn’t have gone to the Minister. Inappropriate use of his time.

  7. Yet again you nailed it Helen! The video demonstrates a couple of arrogant celebrity tosspots trying to take the piss and failing dismally (despite the fact that Johnny Depp has produced some very good work). It’s good that they fronted the court though and I have to agree with Barnaby Joyce about it going off like a “frog in a sock” and drawing attention to the serious issue of the need to keep out the nasty animal diseases in whatever way we can. I think we should applaud Barnaby because whatever you think of his politics the dude has guts and conviction.

  8. I declare – as Johnny so movingly states – declare everything when you come to Australia – that this is one of his greatest performances – the Goose Barnaby uniquely hoist on his own petar – in this brilliant piece. Johnny DEPP for (Deputy) PM! Ask the Goose from New England why he doesn’t support the farmers in his own electorate. He’s the true fraud in all this.

  9. When this came up on the news it reinforced the notion that most of what is spewed out as news is really entertainment. And not very funny or entertaining.

  10. I agree with the article. There is a divide between generations of Australians and unfortunately so much of the younger generation is held captive to anything that comes out of American.

    As for Sandilands, what a bore is that silly man.

  11. Terrific piece, the point as I understand it – and perhaps other commentators do not – being the observation that “older Australians retain their attachment to national identity while younger Australians, who now have a range of other cultural identities to try on, see such a thing as a yoke.” I guess that’s why we don’t hear a chorus of objection from younger people about subsidy for Australian screen production being eroded, whilst foreign owned multinational media giants are granted millions by Australian governments. Let’s not forget that Johnny Depp and other stars who come here to work, do so because Australia gives their producers location offsets and other large handouts to bribe them into filming here. $21.6 million dollars plus other offsets in the case of Pirates of the Caribbean 5 I believe. Personally I would have thought the gifting of our cultural subsidies to such productions should prompt an outcry from those young Australians who care about having the right to participate – as members of audiences or creative teams – in an Australian screen sector.

  12. Sometimes you make me laugh, and other times think. Today I’m with you (again), “Fuck Hollywood for Hollywood’s sake, and stop clogging up the airwaves with this vapid dross”.

  13. I’m in the middle of a dose of the flu, so I apologize for coming in late. Something that nearly everybody here seems to have missed is that 1) Rabies is one of the worlds nastiest diseases, 2) it’s rife in the Americas, and 3), unlikely though it is that Depp’s dogs would have it (I hope they get regular vet checks), if one of them did it is only one casual snap at another dog or an insect bite away from coming here. Trust me, you don’t want this. Download a copy of Cujo and see what I mean.

    I like Depp as an actor, but his actions were stupid and arrogant.

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