Thursday, October 6, 2011

Skippy The Bush Kangaroo As Embodiment Of National Character

Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo (pictured center)
 As I mentioned last week, one of the cultural artifacts my girlfriend Leanne brought back with her from Switzerland was a DVD of some episodes of Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo, enigmatically dubbed into French. To be more specific the episodes are from the 1991 revival series, The Adventures of Skippy. Still the situation is the same - unmarried Austrailian game warden and his two children, sharing adventure with the unusually smart and helpful titular Kangaroo. Pretty obviously male Kangaroo in this case. Don't ask me to give details.

Skippy has captured my imagination.  Even though I don't speak enough French to understand the dialog, it's clear that the show is not dialog driven. It's an action show. Which is why I keep thinking that it must have been unbelievely frustrating for Australians to write it.

Skippy is the main character - you can kind of think of him as a superhero but his chief superpower is indication. "What is it Skippy? What are you pointing at? Oh no, it's a toxic waste spill! Who could have done that?" Skippy's function on the show is to notice the thing that sets the plot in motion, and then accompany the game warden or children as they investigate and solve the problem. If possible, Skippy will notice and indicate something else over the course of the episode.  Perhaps he'll hop off and the little girl will follow him to discover a leaky pipe. But other than that, Skippy ain't nothin'.

Can you imagine the poor staff writers trying to crank out a script every week? "He can't speak, he can't drive a bloody car, he can't hold a gun - crikey, how the hell am I supposed to use this thing? He doesn't even have a bloody pouch." To make matters worse, the characters Skippy deals with most are children, who are similarly limited protagonists. Ultimately the real engine of the show is the game warden, who just does what Skippy and the kids tell him to.

Australians are famously simple men of action, and this show is the most passive/agressive situation imaginable.

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