As a movie buff I like movie related trivia. After, or sometimes even during, a movie I always browse through the trivia section on that movie’s IMDB page. It tends to contain fun little tidbits. Tidbits that occasionally even come handy in a pub quiz. One item on the trivia page of Crocodile Dundee stood out to me: this the second biggest Box Office Hit of 1986.
The reason I think this stands out is because this would never happen today. It shows how much has changed over 30 years. Movies that sell the most tickets are now often big spectacle superhero movies filled with CGI. But in 1986 a low budget Australian comedy could become the second most popular movie of the year. In 2019 it would be hardly a blip on the radar. When was the last time a non-superhero-related comedy was such a box office hit?
The premise is simple: after hearing something about an Australian guy killing a crocodile with his bare hands and surviving in the wilderness American reporter Sue Charlton goes to the Australian outback to do a story about him. They meet in a small Australian town and she goes on a trek with him. Clearly charmed by his presence she invites him to New York City.
Crocodile Dundee is a classic fish out of the water movie. When we are first introduced to Mick “Crocodile” Dundee he’s the alpha male of the local bar. The subsequent trek with Sue establishes him as a guy who can clearly look after himself. A survivalist who can live off what nature brings him and who can handle the apex predators that roam the wild. In this case enormous crocodiles.
The first act also functions as a set-up for a romance between Mick and Sue. But there is a slight problem: Sue is romantically involved with a superior. One who also happens to look down on Mick. Seeing him as this uneducated bush dweller. Why? Because every story needs a villain.
Watching Crocodile Dundee it shows how much has changed over the last 30 years in terms of what we find acceptable. Today it’s much more frowned upon when a superior is romantically involved with an underling. Mostly due to the whole #MeToo movement. But that’s not all. Mick himself is quite a piece of work too: He’s sexist, actually grabs women by the pussy on multiple occasions and smokes a lot.
This is all not very surprising. The 80s were truly a different time. In movies every successful business man did cocaine and something like drinking while pregnant was even encouraged in the original Die Hard. How times have changed.
Crocodile Dundee is one of those classic movies that you could not have missed if you were alive in the 80s. One of the lines in the movie has become a classic. I’m talking of course about the “That’s not a knife. THAT’s a knife” exchange between Mick and a mugger. Since I was in my early teens when I first saw this movie the scene in which goes out bathing in the Australian outback also holds a warm place in my heart. They could have shot that scene in a 1001 ways, but they chose to shoot her from a behind angle with here wearing a bathing suit that doesn’t cover her buttocks. It’s gratuitous, but 14 year old me didn’t mind that at all. 40 year old me neither actually.
But portions of the movie have not aged well. Especially the scenes in which Mick has his own take on surviving New York City. It’s supposed to be hilarious to have a guy who can kill a crocodile with his bare hands and a knife be afraid of an escalator, but I made me only chuckle slightly. It’s stated in the beginning of the movie that Mick has never visited a big city. But the movie portrays him as someone who doesn’t even know what a prostitute is.
That’s probably one of the reasons the mugging scene holds up so well. Because it presents Mick as the alpha male he was when we first saw him. It reminds us that he might be a fish out of the water, but this fish is a shark and even on land he can still use his teeth. Or in this case his fists or a bowie knife.
Crocodile Dundee still has its charms, but in hindsight the scenes in Australia are better. Mostly because they present both Mick and Sue as these solid characters. Once she’s back in New York . Sue doesn’t have so much to do other than introduce Mick to people, events and locations. I know that the whole selling point of the movie was “let’s laugh about the Australian guy who doesn’t know what cocaine and hookers are”, but these scenes are not as funny as I remembered them. They tend to feel like they were taken from a bad comedy sketch show.
But watching Crocodile Dundee did made me realize one thing: as a joke he goes around grabbing women by the pussy. Exactly 30 years later the U.S. would actually get a president who boasts about how he grabs women by the pussy. Maybe times haven’t changed so much after all.