‘Metrosexual Knobs’ – Can They Satisfy?

Poor Mark Latham, the former leader of the Australian Labour Party, isn’t happy with the state of Australian manhood. Like so many things, it isn’t as good or as big or as satisfying as it used to be. In his new book (curiously titled ’A Conga Line of Suckholes’) he laments:

“One of the saddest things I have seen in my lifetime has been the decline in Australian male culture . . . Australian mates and good blokes have been replaced by nervous wrecks, metrosexual knobs and toss bags.”

I’m not sure who the ‘nervous wrecks’ or the ‘toss bags’ he was referring to are, but when he was talking about ‘metrosexual knobs’ – the phrase that has made headlines around the world – perhaps he had in mind Jamie Brooksby, this year’s Australian Big Brother winner, a young, highly groomed fitness trainer who spent much of his time naked in the bathroom showing the world his assets.

If so, Mark Latham is a very hard man to satisfy indeed. Jamie’s metrosexual knob was more substantial than Sydney Harbour Bridge. If Latham isn’t impressed with this metrosexual knob what on earth does an Aussie retrosexual knob look like?

Well…. Mark Latham.

That his remarks have aroused so many column inches in the global press and ‘half-cocked’ discussions about ‘the crisis of masculinity’ can only be down to the rather fond, rather dated fantasy that the rest of the world has about Australia in general and Australian men in particular – that it’s the last frontier of ‘real’ manliness in an enervated Western World. A masculine Eden, full of Crocodile Dundees wrestling their lunch onto the barbie and their Sheilas into bed.

This would also go some way to explaining the ‘outpouring of grief’ (to use the mandatory cliché) over the ’shocking’ death of the outdoor cabaret artist Steve Irwin, whose worldwide popularity seemed to be based in large part on him being sold as the ‘real’ Crocodile Dundee.

That he died was not, I would venture (at the risk of provoking an outpouring of rage), really quite so surprising – his act depended on extreme recklessness. Nonetheless, his death was talked about in astonished, traumatised tones as if it marked the passing away of a certain kind of old-time masculinity rather than just a particular TV personality. It’s as if people couldn’t quite come to terms with how the retrosexual was apparently killed off by Nature herself, with a poison arrow through his heart.

While I’m sure there are plenty of retrosexual Australians left who haven’t been Stingrayed, particularly outside the metropoli, and while I personally can be rather nostalgic about retrosexuals (so long as they don’t look like Latham), Australia long ago made the transition from industrial to service economy, production to consumerism, mining to makeover, and was also the country whose cutting-edge media helped pioneer the process of turning the sporting male body into a commodity – into appetising meat.

Australia is a highly metro country – not least because, like Mark Latham and Steve Irwin – Australia is highly successful at drawing attention to itself. Oz, that scarcely-populated dusty continent in the middle of nowhere has for many years been parading in the bathroom of the global media village with its knob out.

The Australian male is still on the frontier – but it’s now the frontier of consumerism and me-dia. Call me shallow, but if they’re endowed like Brooksby, I doubt many people, apart from whingeing retired male politicos with faces like a smacked Platypus, will seriously complain if they’re more into sack-and-crack waxing than sheep-shearing, ab crunches than Crocodiles.

In a mediated world, metrosexual knobs win over retrosexual knobs.  Hand(s) over fist.

(Thanks to the website at worst, my best for the ‘grabs’ of Brooksby & Topak  for finding them)

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  2. I’m just curious as to what you’re basing your assumptions of Australia on. Media images, movies or television shows have never been an accurate indication of how the majority of people live, and my travels around the country and in the cities really doesn’t offer much evidence of metrosexuality ‘existing’, let alone dominating our culture.

    You’re assuming living in a city automatically equals a modern, cosmopolitan outlook for the entire population of said city.

    There’s a good reason why all the young het couples and party queens in Sydney want to live in Darlinghurst, Newton and Surry Hills. You only have to take the train a few stops out west as far as Strathfield, (still technically the inner city), and culture becomes scare. You can completely write it off after Parramatta – the cultural divide feels a lot wider than a matter of 12 kilometres.

    In Melbourne, you may have your pockets of upmarket fashion stores and trendy little coffee shops, but since we’re talking about the majorities, there’s far more Just Jeans, K-Mart and Target stores per suburb than anything else and they’re the true relections of the majority of fashion culture in my country, to the extent now that travel is frequently dislocating because you’re walking past the exact same stores you see everywhere else.

    Inner city living tends to create a bubble of isolation, and gives an inaccurate view of the rest of the city itself. You may feel safe to hold hands with a guy walking down Oxford Street but you only have to go an extra three blocks down to Haymarket and the level of tolerance drops sharply.

    The typical aussie bloke isn’t going anywhere, of which Steve Irwin wasn’t an accurate image of to start with, (he’s the outdated ‘cockie’ stereotype that Paul Hogan sold to the world, which is basically how people’s rural grandfather’s might have talked a good 20 years ago or more).

    I think both our yob cricketers, and the beach riots of last year, are, (unfortunately), more accurate indications of Australian Masculinity than the fame-hungry kiddies of Big Brother, or Ian Thorpe, our most commonly named ‘metrosexual’, which everyone believes is just his way of pretending he’s not gay, (even by the gay guys).

  3. Mr Knight, thanks very much for your update on what’s going on in rural Australia. In some ways it reminds me of the part of the world I now live in: North Yorkshire.

    You may well be right that metrosexuality is ‘purely a city thing’ – but since well over 80% of Australians now live in cities, and the largest of these by far are Sydney and Melbourne, the rural Australian lifestyle of mateship and mullets is the marginal and peculiar one, not, alas, the metrosexual one of makeover and moisturiser.

  4. Mate, as an Australian, I’ve got to say, you’re wide off the mark here. Metrosexuality is purely a city thing. If you dress / act that way in a country town like mine, you’re either gay, or you’re suffering Rock Star delusions of going to leave town the moment you turn 18 for the big smoke and Be Somebody.

    Guys want to look put together to pull the girls, but not in a manner that looks like they’ve taken *too* much time doing it.

    The gay scene of Sydney is its own little world, out of touch with larger society, and no way to judge the country, and if you head out to the football clubs and RSL’s of the Western Suburbs, you’ll see how much stock people really put in it.

    Discard Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and really go wander around Australian Towns. Mateship is still the Australian male religion.

    A metro ‘look’ might look like the wearer has put some time and effort into it, but the local K-Marts and Lowes stores basically only sell those kind of clothes now. Therefore, the guys may give the appearance of metrosexuality but it’s simply a lack of options and an example of high fashion becoming lowest common denominator, and unavoidable.

    The most common hairdo amongst young men of the last couple of years seems to be the ‘Fro-Do’ – the LOTR hobbit look, which seems evidence that the straight boys are more obsessed with D&D than DKNY.

  5. I prefer “retrocausuality”to “retrosexuality”!

    if there were not so many retrosexuality conservative elements around m barrymore would not have had such a hard time!