Last week an unlikely event took place: something interesting happened at the Arias. The Australian Recording Industry Association Music Awards (which, upon reflection, should really be called the Ariamas) are usually as bland as the industry they celebrate. Faded musicians present each other with awards for hours, until the show is rounded out by an international celebrity who, invariably, looks as though he doesn’t really want to be there. All the while Australia’s radio programmers and record executives stand around congratulating themselves. Whatever for, God only knows. These people haven’t laid claim to a successful international act since Michael Hutchence died in a freak masturbation accident.
The talking point generated by the 2017 Arias had nothing to do with music, but everything to do with genital misuse. Indie rocker Kirin J. Callinan arrived on the red carpet wearing a kilt, turned to face the press gallery full frontal and, quite deliberately, raised his garment. According to news.com.au, the singer, whose latest single is aptly titled Big Enough, ‘stood proudly for a solid moment to make sure it was seen and captured’.
The episode harkened back to the only memorable Aria award ceremony prior when, back in 2006, an over-refreshed Axle Whitehead unsheathed himself live on stage, and simulated self-pleasure on the phallic award he was supposed to be presenting. Aussie show business will only tolerate figurative wankers.
A few days later the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Whitehead had lost his job at Channel 10, leading the story with the easily-misread headline: ‘Axle Whitehead rapped for exposing himself.’ In the intervening years, whenever Whitehead has popped up in the press, they make mention of the time he popped out. Last year, for example, the ever concise Daily Mail ran the headline ‘Former Australian Idol contestant Axle Whitehead who infamously exposed himself at the Arias is helping a Liberal candidate campaign for the election.’
By and large though, Whitehead’s career has been rehabilitated. He now hosts a mindless gameshow on Channel Seven — which seems a rather worse fate than banishment from show business — but to each their own.
The press’ reaction to Callinan’s recent display has been markedly different. Whereas Whitehead was chided for boorish behaviour, Australia’s progressive media is attempting to make the case that Callinan’s revelation constitutes an horrific sexual crime. Mashable, for example, equates Kirin the kilt-lifter with high-profile sexual predators: ‘amid revelations of sexual harassment by the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K., it’s a worse time than ever for would-be exposers or harassers… When will men learn, you may ask? The answer seems to be never.’
Over at SBS, there was hopeful speculation that Callinan might be punished by the law, on account of folks on social media ‘agreeing that exposing his penis to unsuspecting people is an issue of consent, as well as being a serious crime (indecent exposure holds a 6-month prison term and a fine of $1100 in NSW).’ A young journalist on twitter has thrown impartiality to the wind, and is requesting that Callinan be dropped from an upcoming music festival.
The people over at Junkee were particularly horrified, following up their hysterical news report (‘the bottom line is — it’s not funny, and it’s really f–king gross’) with an extensive character assassination the next day. Callinan’s supposed crimes include not only public nudity (‘It’s not a funny joke; it’s a violation’), but also his having used the word ‘epileptic’ instead of ‘a man with photosensitive epilepsy’ in 2013. That’s not all! He has also been known to wear women’s clothes on stage, and when a bloke wears a dress, this ‘de-legitimises the work’ of transgender artists, indirectly leading to their murder. In short, the gender-subverting lefties think that men should shut up and wear trousers like they’re supposed to. But wait, there’s more! You can also add ‘racist’ to ‘transphobic-epilepsy-bashing-sexual-deviant’. Inside his latest album there’s a photograph of Callinan naked (again!) but for being painted the same colour as a shiny orange-brown leather couch on which he is reclining. This, apparently, is tantamount to a minstrel show.
Trumped up charges aside, it is, of course, a serious breach of decorum to whip your junk out in mixed company. Since Harry Styles was present at the Arias it is being speculated that somewhere, perhaps, a sweet and innocent young person might have witnessed (and been scarred for life by) Callinan’s undercarriage. One would rather expect a few days of moral grandstanding from prudes and retirees, and yet they are nowhere to be seen. Instead, it is the supposed bohemian vanguard that is clutching at pearls. Today’s young leftist is a world away from the free-love, hippy-dippy boomer of yesteryear. These people have no time for sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll: they think rock music is culturally appropriative and misogynistic, their drugs have been prescribed by a doctor to treat a plethora of neuroses, and sex is, statistically, something they very seldom have. These people have more in common with Helen Lovejoy than Hunter S. Thompson. In the case of Callinan, there has been something of the extremist in the fanatical demand that men keep their bodies covered up. It’s not exactly something the Taliban would do, but the impulse is familiar.
Not all of the criticism has been puritanical. Some of it has simply been sad. ‘Anyone who thinks Kirin J Callinan is an artist of any merit (and there’s too many of you) is tripping. The music has never been good,’ tweeted Junkee political editor/guy suing Mark Latham, Osman Faruqui. It’s not enough to disagree with Callinan’s politics and conduct — no, the only moral thing would be for us all to hate his chord progressions too. ‘Sydney music scene needs to stop losing its mind over these extremely average northern beaches losers,’ continued Faruqui, sounding rather like one of those sweaty, crumb-covered persons one used to avoid in record stores. Whether or not one’s music is ‘good’ can’t be settled by a tweet. As the Romans put it, De gustibus non est disputandum. In matters of taste, there can be no argument.
As for whether this latest penile showcase constitutes high art, a bad joke, or sex-pestery, who can say? At very least, it is a promising sign for Callinan that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.
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