Colleen McCullough Obituary Followup

Colleen McCullough
Colleen McCullough

Last week I wrote about how horrified I was to read the obituary of Australian author, Colleen McCullough, in The Australian newspaper which basically pointed out that she was fat, but had a nice personality here.

Here is is again for those who missed it:

COLLEEN McCullough, Australia’s best selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: “I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.”

And here is the full link which is still online. There has been no apology or retraction from the Australian, however, they have also published several more appropriate obituaries for Colleen, including this one by Stephen Romei,

The independent media outlet, Crikey, claims that the offending obituary was written many years ago by an anonymous staff obituary writer who has since passed away and somehow managed to slip past the editor in their rush to print the story. News of Colleen’s death reached newsrooms extremely close to their print newspaper deadline. How inconsiderate of her!

Considering the tight deadline, I can imagine that this may be true. Perhaps the obituary writer was asked to get started on Colleen’s file sometime in the 70’s or 80’s at the height of her success. (How creepy!)The writer was a bit peeved at her at the time for any number of reasons and assumed that since it wouldn’t be needed for a long time there was no fear of it actually being published.

This should serve as your number one lesson on why editing is vital, always. No matter what you’re writing or who you work for, YOU MUST EDIT AND PROOFREAD YOUR WORK. And the work of everyone else associated with you. At least three times. Being in a rush to publish is no excuse for not bothering to at least triple check the actual content of what you’re publishing.

And this excuse doesn’t make it any less offensive though. Sadly in Australia this is something that happens often to celebrities, especially female ones, and definitely outspoken female ones. We even have a name for it, tall poppy syndrome, which basically means that if someone seems to be getting a bit too big for their boots it suddenly becomes everybody’s job to bring them down a peg or two.

As several of the wonderful people who commented on my original post, on social media, and in other news outlets have pointed out, the most offensive word is actually the ‘nevertheless.’ As if being overweight and female and witty and warm were mutually exclusive. Many have pointed out that the physical features of males are rarely mentioned in their obituaries.

But my favourite response has come from Twitter and the hashtag #myozobituary where Twitter users decided to imagine what their own backhanded obituary might be like.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Josh Thomas @JoshThomas87

Despite his womanly hips, wobbly face and thinning hair he still managed to sleep with lots of men. Was on Celebrity Splash.

Hugh Riminton @HughRiminton

“Hopeless, but at least he wasn’t a girl.”

Terry Tyler @TerryTyler4

Although no Miss World, luckily she learned that dying her hair blonde made more men fancy her. Oh, and she wrote a few books

Katy Brand @KatyFBrand

‘Spotty of chin and wide of thigh, she nonetheless summoned the courage to leave the house and do things.’

I could go on and on for days, but I’ll stop now at this risk of being repetitive. But thank you Twitter, this response was perfect. Colleen would have gotten an enormous laugh out of each and every one.

My Oz Obituary would probably read something like this:

She was certainly a bit fat, wore glasses (four eyes) and had really frizzy and untidy looking hair, nevertheless, she still managed to hold onto at least one man and was pretty ok most of the time. For a girl.

What do you you think your Oz Obituary might be like?