So 78 year old Barry Humphries, aka Dame Edna Everage, has announced his retirement, so that (ever joking) he can look for his true self. I believe he is in private life an avid collector of old books, among many deep and enquiring interests: a sort of latter-day Man of the Enlightenment. May he discover a new planet or comet then, or the true meaning of life.
Dame Edna, as a character, lampooned pretention and bling and false glamour, and in her own vulgar way presented the Australian way of life to the world. Certainly, during her 'reign', Australia emerged as a cool and savvy place as never before. And you can't put that wholly down to Mel Gibson and the cast of Neighbours. Who in fact are the best-known living Australians? Let me see: Rolf Harris, Dame Edna, Mel Gibson, Kylie Minogue, Rupert Murdoch (born there, anyway), and some sporting people. Dame Edna is up there with her county's greatest, isn't she? An institution on her own.
But as much as I might salute the wit and cleverness (and deliberate bad taste) of Barry Humphries' humour - even though he didn't actually make me laugh much - I can't help thinking that a big loud farewell to Dame Edna would be a very good thing, possums. That character had as much to do with womanhood (including trans womanhood) as Pinky and Perky had to do with real pigs, or Lennie the Lion with the real King of Beasts.
Two entire generations have grown up 'knowing' that if Dad comes out and confesses to his gender problem, he's immediately going to hit the local streets looking and behaving like Dame Edna Everage, complete with the voice, a Barbara Cartland outfit, and aggressive glasses encrusted with fake jewels. Such has been the overwhelming power of Dame Edna to cloud the national consciousness, and prejudice the initial public reception of a late transitioner.
Still, she wasn't camp, she was feisty, and she was never lost for words. If you can imagine her encountering some leering and jeering chav, my money would be on Dame Edna to get in the last word, the knockout withering punchline. Except that it would actually come from the mouth of clever and confident Mr Barry Humphries. Let's never forget that Dame Edna was a man.