We Should Remember Steve Irwin’s Life—Not His Death

For many adults and children, the news of Steve Irwin’s death (best known as The Crocodile Hunter) was a shocking reminder that no matter how famous we are, we can’t cheat what will be the inevitable ending to all of our mortal lives.

However, the passing of this lover of all things wild with big teeth has set off a whole new debate. His untimely death occurred while filming a sequence for a new television show to be hosted by his daughter Bindi. Irwin and his cameraman accidentally cornered a Giant Bull Stingray, and the animal took opportunity to attack. Of course, the horrifying incident was filmed with broadcast quality.

Currently, the tape is in the hands of Australian police. John Stainton, Irwin’s manager, has expressed his horror of watching the recording during an interview on Larry King Live.

"I would never want that tape shown. I mean it should be destroyed. At the moment, it’s in police custody for evidence. There’s a coroner’s inquest taking place at the moment. And when that is finally released it will never see the light of day ever, ever. I had to watch it because I wanted to make sure what was on that tape that was going to the police and we had to watch it to sign off on it that it was the tape. It was a hard experience," said Stainton, visibly upset.

Thankfully, The Discovery Channel, where Irwin’s face was a regular appearance, has said they will not broadcast the video of the actual stingray attack. However, Irwin left instructions that were contrary to his manager’s desires. Quoted from many sources (with the attribute leading to British gossip web site Contact Music UK), Irwin supposedly once said, "My number one rule is to keep that camera rolling… Even if a big old alligator is chewing me up I want to go down and go, ‘Crikey!’ just before I die. That would be the ultimate for me."

During a 2002 Associated Press interview (perhaps a more reliable source), Irwin said, "If I’m going to die, at least I want it filmed… We could have gone to MGM and gone, ‘Hey, look at this tape.’"

This has left many people speculating that it will only be a matter of time before the grisly images reach at least the Internet, if not even television. And this is where we must ask the question, "Why?"

Certainly Irwin’s wishes are to be followed—and they have been. The cameras were rolling, and the record of his death was committed to tape. But I never heard him say anything about having the images foisted into the faces of his millions of young fans. Just as a fireman might proclaim that if he dies, he wants to go down in flames trying to save a life, Irwin loved his profession, and wasn’t afraid to put his life on the line for what he believed in.

In this era of "anything goes" reality TV, society is "racing for the bottom in our culture," says Media analyst Martin Kaplan, of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California, in an AP interview regarding Irwin’s death. "The only remote justification for publicizing this would be accident prevention," said Kaplan. "But that argument is a stretch."

In another article on the issue found on the website TV.com [http://www.tv.com/story/story.html&story_id=6192], Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism professor Samuel G. Freedman is just as certain the tape should be kept from public view. "It would be purely titillation and necrophilia if anyone were to show this," says Freedman.

Considering how many children admired Steve Irwin, I can only hope someone recognizes how important it is to allow his young fans the opportunity to remember their hero for the important conservation causes he stood and fought for, instead of recalling horrifying images of his last moments of life.

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