By Xavier George
Australia. Not just Britain With Beaches. As the country grows and experiences its cultural puberty, so inevitably must come the time when, like the cuckoo, the country shoves its cultural siblings out of the nest and establishes dominance with a unique identity of its own.
With international travel kiboshed and the world’s largest island all but resuming its former glory as a giant prison, one might be forgiven for forgetting what Australia has been getting up to down under. And judging by its taste in memes, image macros, and braindead Facebook rants – which is openly, proudly deranged – it’s worth the double take.
Disclosure: I’m Australian. I like my V8 hot and my VB cold. As a proud Aussie and connoisseur of stupid humour, I hereby issue you your flanny and Outback pass and invite you on this journey with me. Join me into the dark heart of my countrymen’s absurdity. Traditional breakfast is provided:
Australia suffers much the same social issues as the rest of the Western world – growing socioeconomic division; housing unaffordability and the general glum acceptance that home ownership for the young is basically something that just ain’t ever gonna happen. Wages are stagnant and the spectre of Boomer Politics looms over government like the Illuminati for dads who get upset about the existence of oat milk. In the face of all this, what’s a budding young nation to do?
Turns out, they’ve quite happily lost their minds. Here’s a classic to set the tone: a delightful retro Volvo commercial interspersed with clips of an intoxicated Australian gentleman revving that same car while smoking a cigarette from the wrong end, slurring something about ‘choppin loops in the fucken Volvo’ and ultimately facilitating an introduction between his car’s front bumper and a streetlamp.
There are a few pervasive themes among Australian memery, and they generally add up to cocaine, gambling, beer, and the Fear and Loathing-like things that happen to gentlemen in their twenties when these ingredients are combined in a groggy, booze-slamming, Colombian Frappuccino-sniffing Megazord of excess.
Think Trainspotting meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Lord of the Flies meets r/FloridaMan. Mad Max meets Super Hans from Peep Show. If the UK is a fuddy grandpa and the US their nuclear family, Australia is the wayward trailer park cousin - the Pacific’s Florida. From the rise of what I’m calling Australian Phonetic English (or APE) to playing the “Gatorade Saxophone” all night long in a crackhead Randy Savage extravaganza of alcoholic nonsense, extreme social maladaptation and general fuckedness that would bring a tear of pure Bundaberg rum to the eye of any fella with a quaddie on the dogs, truly this is God’s own country.
What does it mean to be Australian in 2021? Is it flipping prawns on the barbie, or is it going viral trying to steal back the improvised bong (or ‘Gatorade saxophone’) your dog found on a walk? Is it relaxing on the beach by day and getting lit by night, or is it getting so hammered you straight up fall into a firepit while your dickhead mates film you?
Paul Hogan is so passe, so ‘80s. That’s not a meme, this is a meme: the viral hero of Aussie classic series RBT - that’s Random Breath Testing, the show dedicated entirely to guerrilla footage of cops interrogating Australian drunk drivers. Can’t make it up. Behold as his hammered attempts to pretend that he’s coolly “waiting for a mate” with his car’s front end crumpled like a concertina against a lamppost somehow fall on deaf ears. “The motorist continues to deny any association with alcohol” reads the narrator, as the camera zooms in on the corpse of a case of bourbon and cokes in the front seat.
Australia’s taste in memes is proudly debauched. Cast an eye over Brown Cardigan, monument to cocaine inhalation and catalogue of Australia’s finest gronks, bogans and other semi-human wastrels, and tell us you’re not a little worried for the West’s antipodean cousins. Please enjoy this degenerate stealthily farting through his neighbour’s window, or old mate on the site who blue himself.
Australian English is a weird mutt of a tongue, and jumps from odd to straight up incomprehensible when the slang dial turns to 11. Take this gem from pillar of Australian culture Coming up with bloody rippa calls when hangin with ya m8s:
Or take Shannon Noll’s Facebook page, for instance. Shannon Noll is a D-list pub singer whose greatest claim to fame is that he came second place in the 2003 season of Australian Idol. He is, therefore, of course, a national hero, apotheosized into meme Godhood by the same cultural soft spot for cheerful lunacy that underpins so much of Australian memery.
Between his love of the ubiquitous Ford Ranger Raptor – a car so inextricably enmeshed with the Australian identity that it remains an ongoing national travesty that it’s not mentioned in the national anthem – and his Southern Cross tattoo, that illustration of the great southern constellation which is more common on Australian skin than melanoma – Shannon Noll absolutely typifies what it means to be a modern Aussie.
So it follows, naturally, that the comments beneath his Facebook posts are full of people pretending to be his neighbours, engaging in a bit of blokey banter before asking him to return increasingly absurd items of Australiana he’s ostensibly borrowed. That makes sense, right? No need for an explanation? Good.
Screenshots courtesy of some guy on Reddit. This has been a thing for a while and there are hundreds of these. And to think that Australian English isn’t considered a different language yet – baffling..
The template is this:
Cheerful overly-Aussie greeting.
Preliminary banter, generally a bet that’s not the first time you’ve sexual innuendo.
Reassurance that one is only making banter and that it’s all to be taken lightly.
Enquiry about borrowed item; usually something so specifically Australian (such as a deep-cut DVD series of an obscure or long-cancelled TV show) that international readers would all but need an outback Rosetta Stone to decipher it.
Implication that the commenter’s wife (or ‘trouble and strife’ in rhyming slang) is the impetus behind the question, dispersing any notion of mistrust between the commenter and Mr. Noll and again reassuring him that it’s all good.
Some kind of laboured simile, generally sexual.
Overly long and elaborate sign-off that Australians actually do in real life for some reason.
Anyway, Shannon Noll’s Australian Idol loss to fuzzy afro’d meme goldmine Guy Sebastian was Australia’s 9/11. In his memory, Guy Sebastian’s grinning shithead face has long been the display picture for that cultural cornerstone of Australian Facebook memehood: the aptly named Shit Memes, run by the mysterious figure known only as Dart Sultan.
Paragraph breaks are for Seppos.
Xavier George is an Australian writer. If not a welfare queen, he is at least a member of the welfare aristocracy. Follow @HSP_Quest for more literary excellence.