Tourism Nightmare or Beloved Icon? Candid Revelations About Australia’s Mascot Leave Nation Divided

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Amidst a swirling debate, Australia’s tourism mascot stands at a crossroads, stirring intense emotions and dividing the nation: is it a cherished symbol or a tourism nightmare?

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous tourist destinations have grappled with instilling confidence in travel and expenditure. With a few exceptions, such as Hawai’i, most major locales launched extensive campaigns in 2020 that have continued without interruption.

Tourism Australia, the government agency responsible for these initiatives, has encountered occasional controversy and unforeseen outcomes. 

Is Australia’s Plush Mascot, Ruby the Kangaroo, Becoming an Unlikely Sex Symbol or Reigning Royalty?

However, its recent promotional efforts featuring Ruby the Kangaroo, a plush souvenir serving as the agency’s newest mascot, have garnered an unexpected and intriguing response.

The comments on the video predominantly consisted of phrases like “would” and “hear me out,” suggesting a premature response to the question of engaging in sexual relations with the mascot. This type of reaction is familiar in certain online circles. Rather than expressing a bashful or boastful desire, it seems to challenge one’s courage.

Conversely, a new wave of comments exclaims “QUEEN,” likely influenced by Ruby’s recognisable voice provided by Rose Byrne and the feminised attributes bestowed upon the kangaroo character. The fact that Ruby is a stuffed animal resembling Judy Hopps from Zootopia might contribute to the altered perception.

Is Australia’s Mascot Ruby Pushing Boundaries on YouTube and TikTok, Blurring the Line Between Promotion and Controversy?

Ruby appears in various YouTube and TikTok videos, including TikTok ads. Interestingly, the reception of her character varies significantly depending on the context of the video. 

When depicted in adventures alongside her companion, a toy unicorn named Louie, voiced by Will Arnett, the response tends to be ordinary. Common reactions express confusion at encountering an advertisement for an entire country. 

However, when Ruby appears alone, or the humour aligns with Millennial or Gen Z sensibilities, a different audience discovers and engages with the content. 

This could be due to a joke gaining momentum or advertising targeting accounts that generate comments like “would.” It is also plausible that a generation of youngsters is experiencing their first sexual awakening through an animated creature.

The potential expansion of Ruby as a meme or a figure with sexual connotations represents one of the Australian tourism agency’s challenges in recent years. 

In 2020, the agency faced criticism for launching a massive campaign showcasing landscapes while wildfires devastated those locations. Understandably, Australians expressed their displeasure, temporarily stopping the costly commercial featuring Olympians and a song by Kylie Minogue.

Is Australia’s Tourism Agency Guilty of Exploiting Wildlife for Profit, Ignoring Animal Rights Concerns?

The agency also faced backlash upon introducing Ruby as its mascot due to concerns about the kangaroo’s association. 

Australia confronts significant issues regarding the kangaroo market, kangaroo culling, and habitat loss, primarily driven by commercial activities such as farming, mining, and climate change-induced wildfires. 

Animal rights advocates consider Tourism Australia’s use of a kangaroo hypocritical, given the government’s perceived failure to adequately protect these animals. 

Louise Bonomi, the Director of Development for Animals Australia, stated in 2022, “Tourism Australia employing a kangaroo as its tourism ‘face’ is tantamount to Japan adopting a whale as its tourism symbol or Canada promoting itself using images of harp seals.”

All these endeavours come with substantial costs and would greatly benefit from a more thoughtful approach to promoting tourism without alienating the individuals who stand to gain from it. 

This includes considering the concerns of animal advocacy organisations since Australia’s remarkable wildlife often comes to mind for many, particularly Americans when they think of the country. 

Interestingly, only some seem bothered by those who have an excessive fondness for Ruby, highlighting another disconnect between the target audience and the advertising efforts.

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