"Keep a Civil Tongue in Your Head!"


Did you hear about the [latest] set-to between the Australian actor Russell Crowe and a member of the media [Mark Lawson of BBC 4]? There’s an audio clip, if you’re interested, with expletives prissily deleted. During an interview @ the Cannes Film Festival, the mercurial actor took great umbrage at Lawson’s [repeated] observation that he heard “a hint of an Irish accent” in Crowe’s Robin Hood, and ultimately walked out, in medias res. Apart from mild [Poetic] sarcasm, when Lawson asked him if the accent had been “more northern English,” [to which Crowe retorted, “No. I was going for an Italian, yeah. Missed it? F@#k me. Anyway…”], he used the Referential speech function. Nothing went airborne except a few Emotive phrases. Wolf held in check, compared to past form.

More to the point, what do we think got up Crowe’s nose, about the attribution that he sounded slightly Irish? Humiliation of some sort, one gathers. His bio says he spent his youth pinging between New Zealand & Oz; and that apart from one indigenous ancestor, his heritage is [like most Anglo-Antipodeans] Welsh, Scottish, English and (ahem) Irish. Much was made of the film’s efforts to be more historically accurate than previous versions, and a dialect coach was mentioned. Was there an implied slur on that person’s accuracy or efficacy? Or on Crowe’s capacity for mimicry? Or was the presenter insinuating that the actor was playing Robin Hood as a crypto-Fenian [out to overthrow the English monarchy]? I’d go see that film, now.

“Anyway…” [to quote Crowe], here’s the point of this post. Which would you prefer: to be told something offensive, or to be told a lie? The Indigenous American expression for the latter, is [for a European incomer] “to speak with forked tongue.” After several incidents in which East Coast tribes of Indians were schmized into “peace talks” with colonists, only to be massacred, they came to fear them, having before only resented their intrusion.

For my part, as much as it angers [humiliates] me to “get panned by the critics,” it is far more infuriating [as in, frightening] to be deceived. When a dog is barking at you, or a horse is pinning its ears, you know just where you stand with them [if possible, out of strike range, until their limbic system has chilled]. When poor old Russell was being interviewed by a presenter “notorious for being oleaginous and obsequious,” how could he tell if the guy loved the movie or hated it? Especially if, rather than just giving him a thumbs up or down, Lawson made himself obscure, with a forked-tongued, passive-aggressive. a propos of nothing “question” about “a hint of Irish.” Like Lili would have, Crowe rose to the bait and barked. But he didn’t bite. He chose to disengage, to leave the field; but as he departed he was still trying to clarify whether Lawson had intentionally dissed him or not: “I don’t get the Irish thing, by the way,” he murmured, as he left the room. Now, that was civil enough, wasn’t it?

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Filed under aggression happens, attribution theory, lesser of two evils, limbic system

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