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article imageBindi Irwin: Jungle Girl enters Marketing Jungle, trailed by critics

By Paul Wallis     Jan 7, 2008 in Entertainment
The kid’s had enough attention to flatten a water buffalo. Since her father’s death, she’s become a brand, and a global image. She’s also picked up some indirect criticism from people concerned for her sake about how all this is being done.
Bindi has taken her father’s show to her age group, and done it so fast that it’s been hard to follow it all.
The New York Times has done a piece on her, and the trail of criticism. This is the CV so far:
She has her own show, “Bindi the Jungle Girl,” on the Discovery Kids channel, an offshoot of Discovery Communications. She also stars in a fitness video with her own back-up dancers, and tours the world making public appearances. Last year, she delivered a speech at the National Press Club in Washington about wildlife conservation; a few months later, she was a presenter at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.
The Discovery Channel picked up Bindi as a possible star, which it needs, and Bindi The Jungle Girl, with Steve Irwin’s shoots included, came out fast. Not too profitably, though, and the Irwins' manager had to subsidize the show because of a short budget.
Her mother, Terri Irwin, is always around somewhere when Bindi’s in the public eye, and has said that if Bindi says she doesn’t like doing it, they’ll stop doing it. Apparently it was Bindi who asked when they were going to get back to filming. Terri Irwin is herself doing no minor balancing act, coping with the loss of her husband, holding the family business together, and raising the family, as well as hovering protectively over Bindi’s every move.
Now, the criticism:
The blogosphere and TV land, in their unmatched wisdom, have more than a few reservations about Bindi’s celebrity status. Some are “weirded out” by the presence of Steve Irwin, who’s not described as dead, or whatever they’re supposed to do with a bit of information like that on a kids’ show. The child star syndrome is another unavoidable issue. An Australian blogger questioned the “appropriateness” of the whole idea.
Terri Irwin says Bindi’s not being “robbed of her childhood” or turned into a Hollywood celebrity.
That I tend to believe. I’ve seen Bindi’s show, and the only weak spot I can see is the script, which is a bit infantile for her. It's too “this is for kids-ish”. Missing the market, too, because kids often become experts at her age and younger. They don't need to have things dumbed down for them, and neither does she. In some cases they actually learn their language skills sooner and better, specifically because of watching educational shows like that.
She’s as much of an animal fan as her father, and can obviously handle zoology more fluently than celebrity. Her presentation’s good. Steve Irwin does his own job as himself, dead or alive.
The NYT isn’t in a position to know this, but in Australia the reaction to Bindi, her own coping skills, and her workload, has been sheer awe.
When her father died, Bindi was the Tower of Strength, the bright spot who cheered up her father’s horrified friends, most of whom were in shock. Irwin wasn’t hated, he was genuinely liked, and as a matter of fact, was pretty much the sort of person he presented himself to be.
She’s now in a much less interesting jungle, where the market flora and fauna could fit in any catalog of domestic appliances.
If the market apes have any sense they’ll let her develop her own obvious talents.
It’s clear Terri Irwin is fully prepared to pull the plug if necessary, which is the relevant bit of actual news so far on the subject.
She’s done it all so well.
“Crikey!” would be the general opinion.
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