A Victorian couple destroyed a rare and valuable Woolworths collectable on The Today Show this morning in protest of the abuse they received attempting to trade it for irrigation water at their struggling farm.
It was one of the bleakest things I’ve ever seen on breakfast television.
When Melissa and Stephen realised they had a ‘one of a kind’ Lion King Woolworths Ooshie they advertised it for sale in exchange for much-needed water. However, after relentless abuse, Stephen destroyed the valuable Ooshie LIVE on air in protest of online trolls. #9Today pic.twitter.com/jVFkZ4XyTT
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) August 1, 2019
Melissa Portingale and Stephen Black, who found an exceedingly rare furry Simba Ooshie in their supermarket shop and attempted to sell it online for $5,000, told hosts Deborah Knight and Georgie Gardner they had received a vicious backlash to the proposed sale.
“People were just disgusted, the abuse started and it was just hate, and suicidal threats,” Portingale said.
Black said the couple weren’t seeking riches from their chance run-in with the serial number #001 furry Simba, but were simply seeking funds to ensure they could continue irrigating their Katandra West property.
After the abuse, Black said they would accept a straight trade: they would give the Ooshie in exchange for a guaranteed supply of water.
“We’ve got a problem through the Murray-Darling basin with the water system, so that’s really more important to us than water at the moment,” Black said.
“And I really couldn’t understand why that item was worth so much money, but if everyone was so interested in that, maybe they would be interested in what we needed and why,” he added.
“When you’re pushed to the limit as it is, and your mental state at the best of times is really, really stretched, and then you get the abuse on top of it… it’s very difficult,” Portingale said.
Then, after six and a half harrowing minutes, the couple made one final act of desperation. They destroyed the Ooshie.
“You ask yourself, ‘what is a life worth?’” Black said, Simba in one hand, scissors in the other.
“Is it worth – what money? We don’t know. So, is it worth this? It’s not,” he said, scoring the tiny toy’s head with the blade.
I feel like this encapsulates our current moment – like we just witnessed the wound of modern Australian culture opening back up.
There’s Australia’s ongoing climate crisis, which has seen communities like Katandra West struggle with back-to-back seasons of poor rainfall.
Equally, there’s an understanding we are collectively ignorance to that disaster, shown in Black’s crushingly perceptive realisation that it would take the destruction of a plastic trinket to draw attention to his plight.
John Steinbeck didn’t live to see the rise of Aussie breakfast TV, but he probably saw this coming. His 1947 parable The Pearl tells of pearl-diver Kino, who imagined he could pay a doctor to heal his sick son. But:
Every man suddenly became related to Kino’s pearl, and Kino’s pearl went into the dreams, the speculations, the schemes, the plans, the futures, the wishes, the needs, the lusts, the hungers, of everyone, and only one person stood in the way and that was Kino, so that he became curiously every man’s enemy. The news stirred up something infinitely black and evil in the town…
Kino failed to sell his pearl and tossed it back into the ocean. By that time, his son was dead.