Melissa George

Article: “Melissa George – The Aftermath”

The following article first appeared online on the website 3AW 693 – News Talk, and is reproduced here in full. It was written by Jim Schembri, and is reproduced here with Melissa’s consent

It has become known as The Melissa George Incident. But is the Aussie actress really a prima donna or was it a storm in a teacup? Jim Schembri offers his thoughts.

OK. So, what happened with this whole Melissa George thing? You know, that thing she did that caused the Earth to go off its axis while everybody with an internet connection screamed for her blood. Here’s what.

George – the 36-year-old, US-based Australian actress best-known recently for her award-winning performance in The Slap – was here a few weeks back promoting her new TV series Hunted, in which she plays a spy with killer moves and a gun.

She was about to appear on Seven’s The Morning Show with Larry Emdur and Kylie Gillies, but there was as snag Apparently, allegedly, she didn’t want mention of her three-year stint as Angel on Home & Away back in the 1990s, lest it overshadow her more recent achievements.

And it’s some CV. Her TV works include: Grey’s Anatomy; In Treatment (which got her a Golden Globe nom); Bag of Bones; Lie to Me; and Alias. Amongst her better films are: The Limey; 30 Days of Night; A Lonely Place to Die (on DVD now; strongly recommended); and Triangle (ditto).

According to reports – this all happened off-camera – George threatened to walk off set if Angel came up. Depending on which account of The Incident you read, George either “lost her cool”, “unleashed a tirade”, had a “hissy fit”, a “tantrum” or a full-on “meltdown” over the mere prospect of Home & Away being raised. It wasn’t.

Angel was clearly a touchy topic. In subsequent interviews George demonstrated alleged disdain for H&A by cutting short interviews when it popped up.

Was this a mistake? Of course it was. Should she have known better? Of course she should have. Did she think through how such a lapse in judgement would play out in the media, both mainstream and social?

Obviously not.

She had a human moment that went “viral”. And given the negative bio-feedback loop of digital media, the impression was quickly created of a precious, self-appointed prima donna, an up-herself, snobby, look-at-me, don’t-you-know-who-I-am screen diva who was dissing – nay – disowning the show that helped make her a star.

And it’s no surprise her lapse created a feeding frenzy.

Melissa George is talented, intelligent, beautiful, ambitious, confident and very successful. This makes her very easy to hate – thus, an irresistibly juicy target for online “haters”, the term given to those internet lemmings who love ripping into things and people, usually for the sake of it.

On her home turf, George became an especially attractive target thanks to the Tall Poppy Syndrome, that long-standing symptom of Australian cultural cringe that so vividly highlights the hypocrisy embedded in our national character.

To wit: on the one hand Aussies champion the concept of the “fair go”. Yet the second somebody is deemed to have gotten too big for their Crocs all notions of being fair gets junked and it’s stacks-on-the-mill time to see who can hurl the biggest insult.

Paul Hogan once quipped about how Australians are the most well-balanced people on earth, in that they have a chip on each shoulder. Never a truer word was spoke and Hoges never needs to prove his comic genius in any other way.

Today, of course, love for the Tall Poppy Syndrome is steroid-fed by Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and YouTube and everything else that can instantly amplify something into an international event, whether it’s a prime minister’s speech or a cat playing a piano.

The impulsive nature of digital media has eroded the frame lines of perspective. The ability for independent, critical thought evaporates as people forward, pass on, reply and retweet before they think.

Everything requires an instant reaction, the more volcanic and extreme the better. And the more negative, the better. After all, that’s where the fun is.

The stacks-on-the-mill culture, the immediate dissection, pap-analysis and theorising of an incident before all the facts are in resulted in a firehose of vitriol being directed at George.

The line that irked people so was her quip that she’d “rather be having a croissant and a little espresso in Paris or be walking my French bulldog in New York City” than bear mention of her Home & Away days.

Back in the 1980s that would have been written off as an example of her having “mis-spoken”, a regrettable slip of the tongue, however deeply planted-in-cheek her tongue might have been.

Today, however, it’s tantamount to a hate crime. She was even blasted for being un-Australian. The harsh reality is that even if Melissa George cures cancer and goes on to win 10 Oscars, that quote is destined to follow her forever.

Or maybe not. She might get lucky.

It’s obvious George is proud of her work on Home & Away. She’s said as much. Repeatedly. Not that she needs to. For if she wasn’t, she would have taken the two Logies she won playing Angel, smelted them into a Frisbee and thrown it into the face of the show’s producers.

To her credit, George also apologised fairly quickly if her remarks offended fans. Most people don’t know this. It received comparatively scant coverage and didn’t ignite any discernible online reaction in her favour. This is understandable. After all, where’s the fun in that?

After some initial remarks on her Twitter feed defending herself, George wisely withdrew – going on a “Twitcation” – no doubt aware that further engagement would only fuel the fire.

It shows how the whole kerfuffle is far more revealing about how the modern media operates in the digital age than it does about Melissa George having a problem with the early innings of her career.

Call it a storm in a teacup. Or, more accurately, a typhoon in a teaspoon.