By Chris Wallace
Shutting up – it’s an art. Consider the strong silent type cliché. Weak chatty type is the implied flipside.
These are heavily gendered stereotypes and the words “man” and “woman” respectively will have popped into your head involuntarily no matter how good your sexual politics. But in a world where Australia’s super-androgynous modelling export Andrej Pajic’s face is everywhere – you can’t turn around in London at the moment without seeing him on newsstand posters and magazine fashion spreads – let’s sweep gender stereotyping aside. There does seem to be an inverse relationship between words uttered and credibility earned, whoever you are.
Take Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke. Before this week’s Sydney test match against India, Clarke was a pretty good batsman whose chief virtue was not being Ricky Ponting. Clarke’s nickname is “Pup”. Pups are nice, soft, furry gamboling baby animals you want to pet in your lap or gaze at in toilet roll ads ignoring what is really being marketed to you.
The fear factor generated by a cricketer called “Pup”? Zero. “Pup” was so puppy-like he had to be rounded up by butch teammates and hot extracted from his relationship with former girlfriend Lara Bingle in a raid that was more Gossip Girl than Raid on Entebbe. Safe in the supportive arms of hairier teammates, “Pup” manned up with a stiffer grade of hair gel and continued his seemingly unstoppable march to the Australian captaincy, achieved late last year when permanently stubble-smothered Ponting got the shove.
The succession coincided with an Australian cricket team at its modern nadir. Under Ponting Australia had managed to lose home and away Ashes series as well as the previous two Border-Gavaskar Trophy series. As well as finally dumping the captain, Cricket Australia introduced fresh blood into the team and made amazing off-field innovations like appointing a decent bowling coach (Craig McDermott).
All this was rewarded with a sterling “Pup”-led victory in the Boxing Day Test against India. Eyes turned to the New Year’s Test in Sydney. “Pup” not only starred he made history with his second innings stand of a 329 runs not out – the highest ever by an Australian captain at the SCG.
“Pup” batted so well that he had already overtaken the previous test record for an Australian captain at the SCG (Don Bradman’s 234) and the record for any Australian test batsman at the SCG (Doug Walter’s 242) when stumps came on the second day. What did “Pup” do? Did he look purposefully into middle distance and say nothing? No. Did he utter a modest couple of words – “It’s nothing,” for example. No. “Pup” behaved like a weak chatty type and said, amongst other things: “Hopefully it continues to earn respect, that’s all I can do.”
Memo “Pup”: People who garner respect are not those who talk about it. It’s bad taste, bad judgment and sounds needy. Better to keep it short and not mention your own psychic needs.
Arctic Monkeys lead singer Alex Turner also projected neediness in Melbourne this week. At a Festival Hall performance on the hallowed stage the Beatles once trod (according to one of the roadies packing up out the back afterwards), Alex all but turned it into a festival of Miles Kane, his pal and partner in side project The Last Shadow Puppets.
Alex Turner is a big success who’s had a bad year. Five years ago the Arctic Monkeys’ debut album was (and remains) the fastest selling debut album of all time in Britain. The modest boy from Sheffield became a multimillionaire, acquired a glamour girlfriend in Alexa Chung and moved to New York. Fast forward five years: Alexa Chung dumps him in July and the band’s fourth studio album wins neither critical acclaim nor huge sales. At Tuesday night’s Melbourne show, Arctic Monkeys looked like they were going through the motions. The only thing that got Alex Turner going was his friend Miles.
Miles Kane was the support act. A few songs into the Arctic Monkeys set Turner did a “let’s hear it for Miles Kane” in what is a standard acknowledgement of the support act from the headline band. But a song followed dedicated to “my friend Mr Miles Kane”, then Kane made a guest appearance on a song and, finally, another guest appearance in the last song of the Arctic Monkeys’ encore. Miles Kane is like the missing monkey Alex Turner just can’t bear to leave in the shadows. Alex, let him join the band or shut up – it’s just embarrassing!
This first appeared in the Canberra Times, 7 January 2012