On Friday morning, Australian time, a farmer went on live TV and took a pair of kitchen scissors to a tiny plastic Disney figurine potentially worth thousands of dollars, and everyone lost their minds.
When struggling farmers Stephen Black and Melissa Portingale found themselves in possession of the #001 furry Simba Ooshie — a wildly popular and rare collectible created by an Aussie supermarket chain — they saw a way to get themselves a bit of relief. They initially listed the little lion for A$5,000 ($3,400), which is, incredibly, the going rate for such things, on a farming buy/swap/sell page on Facebook.
In the grand tradition of Facebook group drama, they were naturally told they should kill themselves.
“People were just disgusted — the abuse started, and it was just hate and suicidal threats, and just some really awful things were said,” Portingale told breakfast TV show Today.
So instead, they decided to ask to swap it for irrigation water for their farm — to raise awareness of how tough it is for farmers at the moment due to a long-lasting drought. “I couldn’t understand why that item was worth so much money, but if everybody was so interested in that, maybe they’d be interested in what we needed and why and the message might get out there,” Black said.
Australia is in the middle of one of its worst droughts in living memory, which has affected of the most populous state, New South Wales (which of the country’s farm businesses). There’s also a massive and complex (or , depending who you ask) scandal afoot involving the Murray-Darling river system, which is crucial to farmers in both NSW and the state of Victoria to its south.
A Northern #Victorian farmer’s hoping to change the national conversation and he’s using a rare Simba ‘Ooshie’ toy to do it. Steven Black wants Aussies to stop fixating on the plastic collectables and start talking about water issues plaguing his industry. More at 6 @WINNews_She pic.twitter.com/oPEKC0ZY4T
— Beth (@ExcellBeth) August 1, 2019
The move created what Black described as a “media frenzy” — hence the morning TV appearance on Friday, live from their Katandra West property, where they grow animal feed.
For some reason, Australians have gone absolutely apeshit in recent years for collectible toys sold and given away by two major supermarket chains. For Woolworths, it’s Ooshies: 1.5-inch pencil-topper toys that have turned into a collector craze the likes of which each generation sees but once.
The rarest Ooshie is a bonus addition to their with Disney’s The Lion King: an individually numbered variation on Simba that has a . Only 100 were made, and #100 recently reached up to A$100,000 in online bidding (although it was relisted after the triumphant bidder ). The #017 appears to have been flogged on eBay for .
Portingale says she fielded over 4,000 messages of varying legitimacy offering anywhere between 25 cents and A$25,000 for the toy, as well as water, but the bogus bids and trolling persisted: They said Melissa was selfish for selling it, and then for not selling it.
So the couple decided to troll them back, specifically by chopping the fuzzy figurine in half before the eyes of the nation.
“We’re taking a stand against this online bullying,” said Black at the end of the live segment, pulling a pair of black-handled scissors from his pocket. “What is a life worth? Is it worth this?”
“For the people who bullied us, and they want to buy this thing, this is what I say to them.”
And he hacked into it like the hero he is. By 10 a.m. AEST, the word “Ooshie” was trending nationwide on Twitter.
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
I didn’t think you could destroy an Ooshie without a basilisk fang???? Confused
— 🍂❄️🐕Patrick Lenton🌚🍁🌬 (@PatrickLenton) August 1, 2019
Endless amounts of End Of Days stuff, friends, but ‘farmers with no livestock, who offered to swap extremely rare supermarket lion king trinket called an “ooshie” for water, destroy the toy on national breakfast television after intense online abuse’ might be a winner.
— brad esposito 🍃 (@bradesposito) August 1, 2019
There’s a genuine mental health crisis in Australian farming communities, heightened by the drought and the water crisis. Furry Simba may not have deserved his fate, but the televised Ooshie-cide might draw some real attention back to those crises — as well as pissing off the kind of person who abuses someone on Facebook over something called an Ooshie.