Australia faced up to one its biggest moral dilemmas on Sunday night – and this time it didn’t involve the vexing issue of what to do with boat people, or those pesky carbon emissions.
Rather, our dilemma related to the choice of televised entertainment , with two much-hyped telemovies – Schapelle, the story of the Bali drug mule, and the INXS biopic, Never Tear Us Apart – going head to head in an all-out ratings war.
In a strong vindication of the nation’s tastes, roughly two out of every three TV-watchers tuned into the INXS flick, if the current TV rating system is anything to go by – and the staff at The Public Apology certainly reflected this trend.*
While entertaining, Never Tear Us Apart also sparked a few slightly more cerebral thoughts here at TPA HQ about the status of INXS as national treasures, not to mention the supreme sick-c*ntness of lead singer Michael Hutchence.
We often forget it, but in the 1990s INXS were huge. An Aussie band completely dominating the world. Absolutely killing it. The biggest band in the world. And of course, in the middle of it all, Hutchence being a total legend, rock god and sexual icon.
And yet, for many of us the enormity of their success and cultural reach never really sank in until Michael’s untimely death.
Which got us thinking, given the heights INXS scaled, is it safe to declare Michael Hutchence the best Australian of the 1990s?
Our country gives out awards for the Australian of the year, but what about declaring the Australian of what was one of our most defining decades? A decade where the Hawke/Keating (Ed: mostly Keating) economic reforms truly spring-boarded Australia onto the world stage, to be followed by years of record economic growth and unmitigated sporting success. The decade that set the tone for the shared euphoria of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, widely seen as The Best Ever.
In terms of cultural impact on Australia – and the world – in the 1990s, there aren’t many Australians who would compete with Hutchence. In a decade which saw Australia’s international image develop beyond that of a tokenistic bloke who hunts crocodiles and drinks Fosters, Hutchence was a leading light, dominating in the field of popular music and standing tall as a cultural icon across the globe.
The only person in the same stratosphere is Shane Warne, a man who turned cricket on its head, utterly dominating his craft (and the sport) during the 1990s and beyond. Surely it’s a battle between those two for the most prominent/influential Australian of the 1990s, is it not?
Both Hutchence and Warne had enormous impact: culturally, sexually, and on their chosen craft. Two complete geniuses, each with their own gaping character flaws, each universally beloved. But when it comes to legacy, can you split them?
The Public Apology realises that asking this kind of question is ultimately futile, and there can never be a definitive answer, but when we feel there is an important contribution to the national discourse to make, then we need to make it. If not, how can we ever move past the 1990s?**
Over the following week we will attempt to address this question. Who was THE Australian of the 1990s? Who owned the decade, and why?
Strap yourselves in and get ready for another obscure, pointless, irrelevant battle.
By Ben Shine
*It is rumoured Sam Perry “flicked over” to Schapelle after 30 mins of Never Tear Us Apart, but ultimately returned to the INXS biopic. He may have also caught a few minutes of the seminal ’90s comedy American Pie on 7mate, if we’re being honest.
** We will never move past the 1990s.