Classics all, each in its own way

21 May

According to the Encarta Dictionary, a classic is:

1. work of highest quality: something created or made, especially a work of art, music, or literature, that is generally considered to be of the highest quality and of enduring value
The novel has become a 20th-century classic.
a design classic

So I begin by noting I have been reading Jane Eyre again lately. Most would call that a classic.

Stretching the term to blogs, I would regard Stuff White People Like as a classic of its kind on the grounds of quality of writing, intelligence and satirical edge – the latter because of rather than despite its surgical skill on quite a few attitudes I myself uphold. It seems the author not only holds up a mirror in which I sometimes see myself; he is skewered too, and knows it. But mirrors can be good. There is nothing mean about this satirical blog, however; it is genuinely amusing. I have been following it for some time and it is in my Google Reader collection. That items now appear less frequently is a mark of the author’s success. Not bad for a blog, eh!

The author, Christian Lander, is in Sydney at the moment. See There’s a lot to like if you’re a middle-class leftie.

CHRISTIAN Lander is living an internet-age fairytale. In January last year, the 30-year-old PhD dropout was working as an advertising copywriter in Los Angeles. He started a blog,, to amuse a couple of friends. In March, with up to 1 million people a day visiting the site, he scored a book deal and by July Stuff White People Like was on The New York Times best-sellers list. He’s in Sydney on his third book tour, while a sitcom based on the idea is in development.

"Six months from idea to best-seller," he says. "2008 was a pretty awesome year."

Lander’s blog skewers the sacred cows of white, leftist, middle-class culture. Lander’s own culture, that is.

"Truth is such a huge part of good comedy," he says. "I write from this Lonely Planet type distance, but realistically I’m just trashing myself over and over again. I wrote an entry which was Knowing What’s Best For Poor People. It was the worst indictment of me because I really believed it."…

Have fun going through his back entries.

Also here in Sydney, Rugby League generally and the Cronulla Sharks in particular have been a PR nightmare. My grand-nephew, a Sharks supporter, has even invited me on Facebook to join a group called “Save the Sharks!” Well, they do need saving, as even more strange revelations, not all of them about group sex – though not as far as I know with each other, continue to surface. Mind you, these days, despite spending my first 26 years in The Shire, I rather support South Sydney at the moment. Of late they have been doing rather well, and are jealous of their image too.

All this brings me to my third classic. If ever someone produces a slim volume of the Classic Columns of Miranda Devine today’s effort would merit inclusion: Natural men scolded into timidity. I think Miranda would well understand Jane Eyre’s adherence to Mr Rochester, though there have been columns that might lead one to think she may have preferred St John Rivers – but then he is, after all, a Calvinist. Today she tackles the real men of Rugby League in a manner more than defensive of the sweaty jockstrap.

As the mother of two junior rugby forwards, the wife of a former prop and daughter of a one-time flanker, it is time for me to come to the defence of violent sports and the men who play them.

The attacks on former Footy Show star Matthew Johns, rugby league and men in general – branding them as dangerous predatory brutes who need to be chained, scolded and nagged into submission – have gone too far.

The initial criticism of Johns was warranted, after revelations last week that he and his Cronulla Sharks teammates, during a 2002 tour of New Zealand, engaged in a gang bang with a naive 19-year-old woman, who in the ensuing years became so distressed about her degradation she tried to kill herself.

But since then, Johns has been crucified, with demands he name his teammates, sponsors threatening to pull out of rugby league, a school principal banning NRL players from visiting classes and mothers stopping their sons playing the game.

You always know when zealotry creeps into a story there is another agenda at work – and that is that the Johns case is a beachhead in the war against masculinity, waged by those who think the only difference between men and women is cultural.

This notion of a socially constructed "gender" has been the central idea of the women’s studies movement since it began in the 1960s, with its aim to produce an androgynous utopia. But the culture has changed and there are still men who refuse to act like women – damn them – even if they do have smooth, hairless chests…

Well, I agree that Matthew Johns has been crucified, but you can see where Miranda starts on another agenda of her own. That’s “objectivity” in the Devine world, no doubt, but the column is truly a classic in its own way. Unlike “Stuff White People Like” it isn’t satire, though it unintentionally comes close.


4 responses to “Classics all, each in its own way

  1. Jim Belshaw

    May 21, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    You know, Neil, I think that Miranda has a point on this one.

  2. Neil

    May 21, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Except when we remember what the problematic incidents have actually been, for which the clubs and those involved surely must bear responsiblity. It would have been reprehensible, surely, even when Rex Mossop was a boy… On the other hand not all the matters in the news in the last week or so have been equally serious — that latest Willy Mason thing is comparatively trivial, for example.

    I would not for a moment suggest all players are bad, and note other examples, such as the way the Canterbury Bulldogs seem to have got over some of their problems. Cronulla, after all, is my “home team” in a way, and I am sad to see where they are right now.

    Souths went through a very low time until just recently, but seems on the up. The only Souths player I actually know — via SBHS — I very much doubt would confuse masculinity with the kind of behaviour we’ve heard of recently. I am sure he is suitably rugged, on the other hand, and not a plaster saint.

    I think, though, that Miranda is reading far too much into these things through her own ideological lenses. I don’t think thuggishness or group sex have ever actually been essentials to masculinity; it strikes me she is trying to blame everything except the fact that, if you’ll forgive me, it’s not cricket.

    There is an uncomfortable back-story, according to some witnesses, to the events brought out by Four Corners, but I won’t pursue that.

    I guess there is another side too to this: that we have such access to players’ private lives, and, a celebrity thing, seem to want such access. The game, like so many sports, is so bureaucratic too, with its very own judicial system — and it would appear the fans love that kind of drama even more than what’s on the field.

    I mean, it’s just sport, isn’t it?

  3. Jim Belshaw

    May 23, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Sorry for the delay in responding. There are two ways of looking at Mirinda’s comments, Neil. One is set by the context of the events. A second the broader point.

    I read the column and focused on the broader point.

    If we focus on the narrower point, why is the club responsible for the incident that started this? I can’t actually see this. Did they organise it? The media response abrogates the concept of individual responsibility.

  4. Neil

    May 23, 2009 at 9:59 am

    The behaviour of players inevitably reflects on their club, as indeed (in the case of the Bulldogs in the recent past) does the behaviour of supporters. I am sure all are apprised of this quite often. That said, I do feel some sympathy for club admin.

%d bloggers like this: