When “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin died by being stung in the heart by a stingray, he left behind a wife, a young son, and a daughter named Bindi Sue. In the devastating aftermath of his death his fans are forced to deal with the public pimping of his 8-year-old daughter Bindi in the popular media in order, it seems, to perpetuate the family myth and to earn professional fortunes.

Bindi

There is an old saying, “The sins of the father are visited upon the sons” — but there’s also the matter of a father’s irresponsible early death resulting in the obvious financial devastation of a family — and so the daughter, still stinging from her father’s death, is bound to rise up from the fresh ashes of her childhood to not only lead her family and fans with a smile, but a nation of mourners as well.

CANBERRA (Reuters)
– The 8-year-old daughter of late Australian “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin is not being pressured into the spotlight of an American show business career, Irwin family manager John Stainton said on Tuesday. 

Bindi Irwin, who will star in the 26-part “Bindi, the Jungle Girl” series on Discovery Kids network, will address the National Press Club in Washington this week, and appear on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and David Letterman’s “The Late Show”. “My criteria is if Bindi doesn’t want to do it that day, if she wants to go to the zoo or the beach, then that’s what we’re doing,” Stainton told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. “That is the priority, it’s what she wants to do.”

Bindi

There is no doubt Bindi Sue is darling and talented and incredibly gifted with giggles and light, but those delights should belong only to her immediate family for the next decade and never to us.

Bindi is forcibly sacrificing her childhood for fame and fortune and her mother is encouraging her to give up the innocence of her youth for money in the blood of her father.

We cannot leave adult decisions about money and scheduling to 8-year-olds. Young children are wise, but emotionally and intellectually inexperienced, and to give them what appears to be total false control over their families and schedules hurts the child and wounds the mortal coil more deeply than a stingray’s barb ever could.

Bindi needs protection from the limelight. She needs private time to grieve for the loss of a national icon who happened to be her father.

To force Bindi Sue into performing and dancing for money is to animalize her just like those fantastic creatures found in the Irwin family zoo and in that degenerative process one creates a circus child who is always “on” and numb to danger and who is never allowed the rightful and fanciful laziness of sunny mornings on a beach where financials and memorization are not the mandatory concerns of the day.

Critics in Australia and elsewhere have accused her U.S.-born mother Terri Irwin and advisers of trying to rush Bindi into the show business limelight, saying that she is too young to cope. Stainton said if Bindi was too tired or did not feel up to meeting any of her U.S. commitments, she would be able to pull out at short notice.”There’s no pressure on her to do anything at all,” he said, admitting that it would be a hard week for the entire family. Bindi’s U.S. tour coincides with the airing of the “Ocean’s Deadliest” documentary her exuberant, khaki-clad naturalist father was working on when he died. She and her “Crocmen” backing dancers will team up with The Wiggles for concerts in Los Angeles and New York. Bindi has been performing her show already to thousands at the Irwin family’s Australia Zoo Crocoseum in Queensland.

We remember Steve Irwin’s irresponsible display three years ago using his infant son in a live feeding demonstration and the subsequent cruel tempting of a crocodile all in the name of putting on a show for his fans and the television cameras:

Bindi

As a shocked, yet bemused, crowd looked on, Irwin cradled one-month-old Bob in his left arm while dangling a slab of meat from his right hand during a feeding display at his Australia Zoo on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The crocodile, which appeared to be about three-and-half-metres long, lunged at Irwin as its jaws snatched the meat. Irwin took a couple of steps back, with Bob draped over his arm. 

Then, as the crocodile retreated slightly, the television star put his baby on the ground and “walked” him to the edge of the animal’s pond. Irwin’s American wife, Terri, was also inside the enclosure and could be seen giggling at her husband’s actions. The stunt drew comparisons with Michael Jackson’s dangling of his baby son, Prince Michael II, over a fourth-floor hotel balcony in Berlin in November 2002.

We know by their public actions the Irwins callously view their children as toys of amusement and totems of profit for exploitation. Instead of protecting their children from danger and the glare of inappropriate publicity, the Irwins provide them danger and spotlights. 8-year-old children do not know what they want.

They should not be making life decisions for a family. You know Bindi Sue has no real and ongoing opportunity to say “no” to any of this pressed-on fame. She is a child marionette being strung along by adult interests. 8-year-olds need protection and the gentle warmth of a caring parental embrace that heals with privacy and intimacy and not exposure to a panoptic public eye.

Steve Irwin willfully earned his death as an adult by constantly challenging the fate of animal instinct and by pressing nature into unnatural circumstances in order to line his pockets with gold and to dress himself in fame. Let’s hope Bindi Sue doesn’t have the sins of her father visited upon her. She’s been stung enough.

39 Comments

  1. I am glad that you have touched on this issue, David. I was horrified by the croc-feeding incident involving Bob the infant, and assumed from then on that the Irwin children would be manipulated by their irresponsible parents. I did not, however, expect the full extent of exploitation that has ensued since Mr. Irwin’s death. I have considered the many television appearances of Mrs. Irwin and Bindi to be in extremely poor taste, and feel terrible that Bindi is being used in this way. I cannot possibly imagine how difficult it is for a child to begin to understand the death of a parent. I can be certain, though, that immediately pushing her to fill her dead father’s shoes will do nothing to help her heal. It will only prolong her silent suffering.

  2. I predict in 20 years, there will be a “True Hollywood Story” about Bindi.
    I haven’t seen the show “Breaking Bonaduce” but it seems to exemplify the fate of child actors who get too much money at a young age and are left picking up the pieces when a fortune passes through their hands before they turn 21.
    The tragedies experienced by the “Different Strokes” actors should be a cautionary tale against putting children into the spotlight at tender ages.
    A modern example is Dustin Diamond a/k/a “Screech” from “Saved By the Bell.” Mothers fear their boys will turn out like him. Fathers have nightmares about their daughters ending up on videos with him!

  3. Hi Emily!
    Wowser! I love your new Avatar!
    The worst thing about the croc-feeding incident was Steve Irwin’s complete denial that he put his son in danger. He claimed he was in total control at all times and that his infant son would not have been eaten by the croc.
    We all know how Steve died — I’m sure he made the same sort of claims about the stingray.
    Bindi is, I fear, another unfortunate tragedy waiting to happen and her end is being written by the very person sworn by birth to protect her: Her mother.

  4. Chris!
    I hope you’re wrong about Bindi. I hope she finds a way to escape her family and earn a quiet life of her own. My fear is she will not and will end up, as you predict, fodder for the television crocodiles.
    I’ve watched “Breaking Bonaduce” and I find the show to be quite fake. What happened to Danny is quite real and sad. His reality show is fake.
    Gary Coleman claims his parents stole millions from his as his “managers” and under the law created to protect child stars they were “within their managerial rights” to take his money. Parents should not be legally allowed to be involved in the professional lives of their children in any way.
    I can’t think of one child star — except perhaps for Ron Howard — who enjoyed life as a child in the public eye. There are too many fears and too many temptations to the mind and body to ever allow a child that kind of exposure to total freedom.
    I read the other day that the Dustin Diamond video is a fake. The nude scenes use a body double and not him.

  5. Horrid – the clue of course is the phrase *family manager* .
    I am with Chris on this one – there will be a documentary about her, lost childhood and the pressures of stardom and having to perform to keep her mother in the style to which she has become accustomed.

  6. Hi Nicola!
    Gosh, I hope Bindi doesn’t die the ordinary career death of other child stars thrust into the limelight. She has such a wonderful and smart demeanor that could really do some good in the world if she is protected until the age of maturity.
    How does a mother disassociate herself from the want for money and the well-being of her child?

  7. Hey Anne!
    Bindi’s life will consist of those who are a lot older than her, for sure. She needs regular kids in her life, not other shows for kids and show kids like the Wiggles.

    In 2002, the Wiggles and the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin teamed up for a DVD and album, Wiggly Safari, which featured appearances by Terri and Bindi Sue Irwin and songs about the animals at the Australia Zoo.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wiggles
    Mickey Rooney is a good one. I worked with him on “The Will Rogers Follies” on Broadway. He was a great guy and packed with incredible energy!

  8. Hi David,
    The only way to protect Bindi and to allow her to fully mature and develop is to do what the Clintons did for Chelsea; shield her from all attention until she is old enough to understand and mature enough to handle the white hot flame of media attention.

  9. That’s it, Chris! Chelsea is a perfect example!
    Remember Amy Carter? We couldn’t get away from her. Jimmy Carter even told us he “was talking about nuclear proliferation with Amy the other day” and the world still hasn’t stopped laughing!
    😀

  10. I remember your Mickey Rooney stories! That must’ve been quite an experience.
    Liz Taylor is another example, but she’s more a sad example out of hundreds. Interview magazine has a whole issue dedicated to her this month. As a child star she shone. Now we look at her and wonder what happened to her natural happiness and charm.

  11. Liz Taylor is another sad example of a bright young life that gradually decayed into decadence and heartache, Anne. She’s still alive but is she a survivor or a star or something worse?
    I wouldn’t want her life and she grew into adulthood when excess and stardom were much more adored by fans than they are today.
    It was harder to be a star back then. Today anyone with a web page can be instantly known worldwide and that cheapens the culture.

  12. Seeing the face of that innocent young girl and reading your post about her has made me SO angry. Bindi looks so like her late Father, it’s really not surprising that she’s hot news right now.
    Having an 8 year old thrust into the spotlight like this is appalling. How can you expect a child who’s obviously struggling with the death of her father, to perform in the spotlight like a circus monkey? It’s akin to having a five year old child glammed up like an adult and put into beauty pageants. What do these parents find so bad about letting their kids actually be kids?

  13. Hi Dawn! I love your passion on this topic and you are hitting the center of the issue!
    Bindi has her father’s charm and accent while her American mother is rather ordinary and dull. The money and the charm is all Bindi’s. It’s a hard inheritance to take but one Bindi will pay on forever.

  14. Bindi Irwin strikes me as sort of the inverse of, say, John Walsh, who has made a career out of exploiting the memory of his kidnapped son Adam, or Marc Klaas, who has done likewise with his murdered daughter Polly.
    The difference is that Walsh and Klaas are adults, who made their own choices.

  15. Now that’s a brilliant insight, Swan! You’re absolutely right that children are being pimped from both sides in death. One side pimps the child into making money through performance; the other side pimps their memory for profit in the child’s death.
    They’re both disgusting.

  16. Very well written. I couldn’t agree more. I still remember seeing Irwin on some show say that the animals in his “zoo” were still wild animals and therefore unpredictable. A year or so later he’s putting his infant son in danger for his “audience.” When people criticized him he no longer would say that his animals were “unpredictable.” I lost all respect for Irwin on that day and never watched anything he did again.
    I hate to see what they are doing to his daughter. Adults pushing children like this always say that the children can decide not to do something. They either don’t know or don’t care for the fact that children that age will do something they don’t want to do to make their parents happy.

  17. Hi Laura, and welcome to Urban Semiotic!
    I appreciate your fine and sharp comment! Let’s hope Bindi’s mother somehow gets the point.
    Steve Irwin never took responsibility for endangering the life of his young son. Into his death he believed he did nothing wrong. It was very Michael Jackson of him but I really feared for his son and what was really going on in that family behind-the-scenes.
    Now, with the Rise of Bindi, we see what was being privately propagated in the name of profit and fame. Bindi pays. Bindi is bound. Bindi, as we all know, will get all the blame.

  18. I could never do a post inspired by someone on my blogroll and not leave a proper trackback. That’s shockingly rude. I’ve had it happen a few times myself in the past and so I know how it feels.
    You’re very welcome. 🙂

  19. I’m with you, Dawn! It is annoying when you inspire people and they don’t give your credit or when they just scrape your articles and publish them under their own name on their blog. Grr!
    There are others who try to trackback but don’t quite get the code right so it never appears here. Those are the hardest to take because the good intention is there but the credit in the trackback never happens.

  20. from where i see it, she’s with family, doing what she loves. She’s not even sacrificing her childhood. In fact, she is actually closing the gap differences in educating children these days about nature. Her mother isn’t leaving her education behind. She has her own set of friends (I would considered that normal)
    Different people, raise their children differently. Some may look horrid to others but in fact, I’m pretty much impress a child as young as Bindi is actually contributing some good to the world, her herself and to the rest of the world. She grew up with a legacy she wishes to keep, no matter how young she is. Hey Terri listens to her own daughter wants and needs, that’s what important. How about the rest of the parents out there? Beats raising a future schoolt shooter or a future Psychopath. But that’s my opinion

  21. I gotta say I agree with you there David. It takes me back to the days when kids as young as 4 and 5 year olds were forced to work in the coal mines of Britain in order to try and help the family keep their heads above water. It’s just another form of slave labour – Children aren’t heard in much the same way slaves weren’t heard.

  22. I think you’re right on point, Dawn!
    Sure, 8-year-old children may want to work in the limelight, but it is the parent’s prime duty to deny that request at all costs — unless, that is, the parent must rely on the child for financial earning sand my regeneration –- then the family drama becomes one of tragedy and not comity.
    There’s no good reason I can think of for having an 8-year-old do anything but go to school and play and tend to an active imagination.
    Anything else — especially work-for-money tasks — leads to the devastation of innocence and the plucking of childhood interests with a pernicious adult verve.

  23. You said one thing about Elizabeth Taylor:
    “It was harder to be a star back then.”
    You were right, but for more than the simple reason that there were fewer stars. Actually being a star, and especially a child star, was far more difficult to handle 50 years ago than it is now. It’s still not good, but at least now the teachers, nannies, supervisors, and nurses who look after young actors have to be licensed and trained and are watched like hawks by union representatives. When Judy Garland was young, her teachers ignored lessons in order to help her learn her lines, her supervisors kept her away from other children, and her nurses pumped her full of drugs to keep her skinny, awake, and obedient.
    Getting back to Bindi Irwin…I hadn’t heard that the Irwin family was hurting for money. In fact, I had heard that they were eight-figure millionaires. Are you sure they’re doing it for the money and not “just” for the attention? (Although I can’t think of any reason why a child that age should be forced into the public eye.)

  24. Charlene —
    I think people pretend there are more protections today, but many of the American child stars still complain they were ripped off by their families and managers. If one is a minor and a child star, those who control your money only need to visit the courts and demand an exception to the law and they get your money in the end anyway.

  25. Absolutely, David. I also think it’s much easier for modern parents to get their children involved in things they shouldn’t, and that the financial rewards for those who “succeed” are much higher. Unfortunately, that means that more children are made to feel like failures for not “succeeding” in the entertainment industry. For every Dakota Fanning there are 999 children who have learned they just aren’t good enough.

  26. One could argue, Charlene, that even Dakota Fanning, has been misled by those vested in protecting her.

    Cute-as-a-button child star Dakota Fanning, who turned 12 in February, is venturing into sexually disturbing territory in a movie being filmed in North Carolina.
    The screenplay for “Hounddog” – a dark story of abuse, violence and Elvis Presley adulation in the rural South, written and directed by Deborah Kampmeier – calls for Fanning’s character to be raped in one explicit scene and to appear naked or clad only in “underpants” in several other horrifying moments.
    Fanning’s mother, Joy, and her Hollywood agent, Cindy Osbrink, see the movie as a possible Oscar vehicle for the pint-size star. But despite Fanning’s status as a bankable actress – whose movies, including last year’s “War of the Worlds,” have earned more than half a billion dollars since 2001 – the alarming material seems to have scared off potential investors from the under-$5 million indie project.

  27. Has anyone stopped to consider that perhaps Binid is actually enjoying what she’s doing? Or are you simply hell bent on taking that away from her to satisfy your moral outrage?
    As for Dakota, facts are always helpful:
    People denouncing Hounddog, such as Bill Donohue, Paul Petersen, and Sean Hannity, have never seen the movie.
    North Carolina state officials reviewed an uncut version of Hounddog and found no laws had been broken. The Utah Attorney General viewed the movie at Sundance and stated there was no problem.
    Bill Donohue admitted on CNN that if it wasn’t Dakota, but rather some unknown 12-year old actress who had been involved with the movie, he would not have bothered with the issue.
    Children’s Rights Organization First Star and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network both endorse the movie.
    The rape scene is not graphic, nor does the rape itself appear onscreen, but is merely implied. Dakota filmed the scene alone, with her mother and a child welfare agent present at all times. She never appeared nude, nor was she ever in physical contact with another actor. No rape was simulated, nor is the audience ever led to believe that it was simluated or ever occurred.
    Dakota wasn’t raped. Her character was, but we never see it. It’s simply part of the story, and is unfortunately a subject people aren’t comfortable discussing.

  28. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, otto.
    I’m sure children Bindi’s age would also enjoy eating only cake and not going to school and buying gifts for friends all day long. That doesn’t mean they should be allowed to do it or be forced to do it.
    I see you are coming in from the University of Texas Medical Branch Administration. I am surprised a person in your position is so vehemently defending the depiction of child rape in a film you have not seen.
    Don’t you feel a greater responsibility in the medical field to not encourage that sort of depiction of cruelty on film and in the guise of a young child?
    I agree facts are always good! I wish you provided some URLs to backup your claims.
    Dakota’s film bombed at Sundance. No distributor wanted the film:
    http://www.topix.net/who/dakota-fanning/page2
    I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve read the script concerning the rape scene. Have you?
    Dakota made a terrible mistake making this movie and she, and her career, will suffer for that awful choice that the adults guarding her best interests should have been able to readily predict and protect her from its brutal ramifications.

  29. Thanks for the welcome, David, although I have to admit I’m a bit disappointed you took the liberty of divulging personal information about me. But if that’s the price I pay to post my thoughts here, so be it.
    As for “defending the depiction of child rape in a film,” it all depends on how it is depicted. For example, if the movie actually showed Dakota being raped, that would certainly be a problem. But the movie doesn’t do that. As I mentioned previously, the rape scene is not graphic, nor does the rape itself appear onscreen, but is merely implied. Every review of the movie I have read states this.
    Also, according to Dakota and the filmmakers, she filmed the scene alone, with her mother and a child welfare agent present at all times. She never appeared nude, nor was she ever in physical contact with another actor. No rape was simulated, nor is the audience ever led to believe that it was simluated or ever actually occurred.
    I have not read one single review from anyone who has seen the movie, or was directly involved with making the movie, that contradicts these statements. But if you have evidence to the contrary, please let me know so I can take it into consideration. Again, these would be statements from anyone who has seen the movie or was actually involved with making it.
    As for the URLs you requested:
    Utah AG: Movie rape doesn’t break porn law
    http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/view.php?StoryID=20070126-025626-3875r
    Utah, N.C. prosecutors find no crimes committed with “Hounddog”
    http://dwb.newsobserver.com/news/ncwire_news/story/3020808p-9440325c.html
    Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network appalauds Hounddog (last paragraph of article)
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-et-dakota10jan10,1,1248935.story?track=crosspromo&coll=la-headlines-entnews&ctrack=1&cset=true
    Children’s Rights Organization First Star Speaks out in Defense of Dakota Fanning
    http://digital50.com/news/items/BW/2001/07/14/20070129006014/childrens-rights-organization-first-star-speaks-out-in-defense-of-dakota-fanning.html
    Please let me know if any of these links don’t work. Plus I can find more if you’d like, they’re all an easy search engine away.
    As for Dakota making a terrible mistake in making Hounddog and causing her career to suffer, you may want to look at her past films. For example, she made two movies, Trapped and Man on Fire, where her character was kidnapped and threatened to be killed. She played a young girl stalked by and almost murdered by her psychotic father in Hide & Seek. Now I think most people would agree that while rape is a horrible experience for a child to be put through, so are kidnapping and being stalked and nearly murdered by your own father, and any “brutal ramifications” resulting from Dakota portraying those characters must surely be as bad as those she suffered through while making Hounddog. But somehow Dakota got past those “terrible mistakes” and went on to star in movies like Dreamer, War of the Worlds, and Charlotte’s Web. So I don’t see how her career was affected negatively by making those movies. On the contrary, she has been praised by critics, actors, and directors for being an amazing actress. Her current fee for acting in a movie is $3 million, which happens to be the total production cost for Hounddog (Dakota worked for scale).
    I simply don’t agree that child actors should never portray characters in movies who suffer through bad experiences. Schindler’s List is an example of an excellent movie that depicted the horror of Jewis concentration camps, where the brutal murders of several children were depicted onscreen. But I see no evidence that any of the child actors who portrayed children being shot in the head ever suffered any ill effects from making the movie.
    In Hounddog Dakota simply portrayed a character who gets raped, but not onscreen. We never see the actual rape, but we do see the circumstances leading up to it and the aftermath, subjects I believe are very important to discuss, considering that the rape of young girls happens all the time. Understanding why this happens and the aftereffects are key to undestanding the issue.
    So as to your question: “Don’t you feel a greater responsibility in the medical field to not encourage that sort of depiction of cruelty on film and in the guise of a young child?” is a resounding NO, considering the rape never takes place onscreen. While I do realize that rape is a very controversial subject, and that many people are uncomfortable discussing it, rape is also a real problem that needs to be confronted and dicussed. To not do so would be very irresponsible of someone “in the medical field.”
    Now as for Bindi, I personally don’t equate her Jungle Girl series with “eating only cake and not going to school and buying gifts for friends all day long.” But that’s just me.

  30. When you post a factless and accusatory comment, otto, you should expect to be called out from your non-transparent hiding space and stand up for the argument of your words.
    Using real names and self-identifying vested interests always helps when one is being purposefully provocative.
    I will never agree that child rape in any form — real, imaged, suggested, or acted — is appropriate as a vehicle of entertainment and I find both of your comments incredibly disingenuous in the sum and totality of the experience.