SMH: A US rapper has used the death of Steve Irwin in his lyrics against a competitor, which the SMH thought was newsworthy enough to publish. It included this quote:
"It is in poor taste for him to make reference to the death of Steve Irwin. However, I don't think he intentionally meant to offend anyone by it. He obviously isn't aware of how big a loss it was to our country and our culture.
Which is going overboard. It's normal to lionize people after their deaths, but this unselfconcious recitation of the "loss to our country and our culture" goes beyond that. I think Steve Irwin had a good style and was a successful businessman, but he was far more famous outside of Australia than in it and before his death you would have been very hard pressed to find anyone saying he was benefiting Australia's culture.
The last time I saw this sort of response to a death was to that of Lady Diana -- which also came out of nowhere as people who had previously showed nothing but contempt for the royal now called her demise a devastating loss to humanity. There are some parallels which makes me think the response is for the same reason.
Both Steve and Diana became rich and famous in an unusual way, Diana by becoming royalty and Steve by becoming an adventurer. Their lives were (superficially) like fairy tales, and even if someone didn't want to follow that path it was probably something they'd dreamed of doing at one point in their lives. They also died on the job -- not for anything they did wrong, but for something that wouldn't have happened if they hadn't "lived the dream". If Diana hadn't married into royalty she wouldn't have been hounded by paparazzi, and if Steve hadn't been an adventuring TV star it's unlikely he would have been attacked by a stingray.
They didn't just live out a very common dream, they died because of that dream in an unexpected way, which I think brought hope to people that it wasn't a dream after all it was their lives, and it was this realisation that hit so close to home.