Friday, June 28, 2013

The Search For The Steakhouse Accent

Have you ever watched an Outback Steakhouse commercial? I mean, truly watched an Outback Steakhouse commercial? And listened to it? I fall into a "Desperado"-like trance whenever I'm watching TV and an ad for the restaurant airs. Here, watch and listen:

My fascination has little to do with the food, though I don't doubt that the Mac n Cheese with Lobster and Bacon is tasty and is authentic Aussie cuisine. But the it an accurate representation of the accent one would hear in the Land Down Under?

I wonder. Hugh Jackman didn't have such an exaggerated accent in the X-Men trilogy, or in the several interviews with him that I've seen. Try as I might, I can't imagine Wolverine serving my table at a restaurant in Sydney and attempting to sell me on a meal that costs as low as "twelve noinety-noine."

Paul Hogan, the Hemsworth brothers, that Gotye song...they are my only other strong reference points, off the top of my head, and their accents are dissimilar to the one featured in the Outback Steakhouse commercials, too.

The more I've watched Outback Steakhouse ads in the past year, the more curious I've become. I really want to know whether the accent is genuine. Recently, I did what any inquisitive person in my position would do: I traveled to Australia, on a fact-finding mission.

Here's one fact I uncovered: there aren't many Outback Steakhouse locations in Australia. There are six in the entire country -- just one more than in the state of Idaho, the Australia of North America. Seems the Mac n Cheese with Lobster and Bacon hasn't caught on there yet.

I wish I had known before my trip how rare the Steakhouse is in Australia. I had simply assumed that I could throw a boomerang in any direction on the streets of Sydney and hit an Outback restaurant. Was it so unfair of me to expect to see a popular Australian-themed restaurant in Australia? When I'm in Australia, I want to eat a six-ounce sirloin with a "soide."

Oh, none of the Australians I spoke with had that type of accent. But none of them had ever voiced an Outback Steakhouse commercial, either. And I never came close to spotting an Outback restaurant. What I'm trying to tell you is, I accomplished little on this trip and it was an epic bust.

No, I shouldn't say that. There was one highlight: I pet a koala bear, a requirement of all tourists in Australia.  I have the obligatory picture to prove it.

Koala bears are as cute and cuddly as advertised. They are friendly, too, though not exceptionally friendly. When I snapped this picture, it was 10 in the morning, and I'd estimate that these koalas had already met with 15 giddy Americans that day. The experience wasn't nearly as thrilling for them as it was for the tourists. 

I suspect that the only thought running through the minds of the koalas was, "You can take as many pictures with me as you want, and you can touch me, but I'm still going to eat these leaves. They're far too tasty to stop now."

I also spent time with kangaroos, and they took a similar approach with myself and other visitors. They were accepting of our presence as long as they could eat, hop around freely, and poop as they please wherever they wanted. Reminded me of my next-door neighbor's dog.

The koalas and the kangaroos certainly did not act as if their lives had been enriched by the fact that so many people flew so many miles to see them. Do you have a group of friends who irritate you, who show up to your home unannounced, who caress your fur without permission? That's probably what we are to the koalas and the kangaroos.

While they will tolerate us, they're not going to engage with us. If you've ever been to a zoo, you understand that most wild animals are not going to put on a performance for you. You may simply watch them as they continue to live their lives as they see fit -- as they eat, sleep and hide for long stretches of time. If you're entertained by the bears walking around aimlessly and taking a dip in the pool every now and then, great. If not, they won't lose six months' sleep over it.

I have a theory for why the animals behave this way. I believe zoo-bound animals have preferences for where they would like to be placed. That, somehow, they understand that the San Diego Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, and a few others around the world are more popular and more highly regarded than the rest. So each animal lists said zoos as their top choices, and applies to a couple of safety zoos, too. But since there is such fierce competition, most animals are shipped off to their fifth or sixth choice, where the food isn't as great and the other animals aren't as nice, and they fall into a deep depression and stay in their cave all day long, ignoring all visitors. (I came up with this theory during my freshman year of college, by the way.)

It also doesn't help that zoos are blatantly racist. It's true. I don't have hard evidence to suggest that it bothers the animals, but I know it would upset me if I were in their paws. "White bear," "black bear," "brown bear"...c'mon. It's the year 2013. We should be past this by now. Who cares what color they are? What does it matter? All bears are equal. They're all part of the bear family. They're all the same on the inside. I don't care what the plaques in front of the exhibits say.

In any event, when I look at the koala bears in the picture above, I can't help but wonder whether some of their friends have been sent to zoos far away, and, if that's the case, how those friends are holding up now. And whether they're as confused as I am when they see and hear an Outback Steakhouse commercial.