Why do Aussies feel obliged to share in the success of home-grown talent?

Bathing in the pure enjoyment of the perfect first episode of the superb second season of Big Little Lies, I couldn't resist reminding my viewing companions, mostly American, of a crucial fact: Nicole Kidman is Australian. That's why, in a show filled with distinctly Californian accents, Our Nic pronounces "road" with at least three syllables. Pointing this out – which happens a lot in a show where most characters spend their days driving across scenic bridges – renders some portion of the Kidman stardust mine to claim. That's just how it works.

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Why do we do this, Australians abroad? Keep a mental list of famous countrymen and women, ready to proffer their nationality in even the most tangential of circumstances, and to a largely uninterested audience? An entire Spanish holiday in the summer of 2012 was spent miming over plates of ham whenever Somebody That I Used to Know came on the radio that Gotye was one of Ours. On the occasion that an Australian song makes it big internationally, I prepare for six months of such concerted campaigning as a civic duty, like democracy sausage or ignoring Cory Bernardi.

Yet it's not as though we all know each other. I barely know my neighbours. One caveat: travelling in Greece a few years ago was like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Never has the phrase "Do you know my cousin in Marrickville?" received so much of a workout, nor received so many surprised responses in the affirmative. As for Notable Aussies, the list in my head is always growing. Sia! Duckie Thot! Everyone on Instant Hotel, the Netflix reality show from which it's impossible to look away!

The obligation to share in the success of exemplary Australians extends even to incongruous situations. Penicillin is never mentioned around me without a shout out to Howard Florey. This comes up more than you'd think for someone who was very bad at high school science, because there's an excellent scotch-based cocktail named after it. When receiving the HPV vaccine in New York, I made sure to tell my doctor that we had Ian Frazer to thank. She told me to stay still.

But when it comes to Hollywood celebrities, the habit seems particularly absurd. Although I feel warmly about them both, you will always have to remind me which Hemsworth is Thor, and which is married to Miley Cyrus. Margot Robbie and I have very little in common, not least because she looks like Helen of Troy. That doesn't stop me bringing up her Australian-ness with uncomfortable frequency.

We've even taken to claiming famous people who aren't ours (Sam Neill), or at least are ours only in a technical sense (J.M. Coetzee). When overseas I'll often elide the boundaries of Australia and New Zealand, simply because everyone else does. This allows me to claim Jacinda Ardern, Lorde and, if he's behaved himself, Russell Crowe. (Wikipedia tells me that while he's lived most of his life in Australia, Crowe is still a New Zealand citizen. Which I guess means we won't be seeing him in a legionnaire's uniform in parliament promising legislation that will "echo in eternity" any time soon.)

All that's left to do in articulating this code of conduct is to mention a notable exception. Yes, he's a permanent resident. Yes, he attended high school and drama school here. And yes, he performed in some of our country's most iconic films. But no, Mel Gibson is not Australian.

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