Saturday, September 29, 2012

tall poppy syndrome

Amy Stein and Stacy Mehrfar have just published a collection of photos which explores tall poppy syndrome in Australia. As Amy states in a recent interview with Benjamin Starr, “Stacy was visiting NYC from Sydney and... in the course of discussing life in Australia she mentioned the term. I immediately said that would be a great book. The term was so strange and arresting to me. When we realized that it represented a viewpoint and practice so far from ideas of American individualism and exceptionalism we knew that we potentially had an interesting project.” For rest of brief interview and selected images go to

Given current election campaign dynamics, perhaps the ideological proponents of great wealth would do well to address critics in relation to this particularly "unAmerican" concept.


  1. First I would like to address the article about the book, Tall Poppy Syndrome, I feel that the article was not detailed enough. After reading the entire article I still didn't really understand what the topic of the book addressed. Now that I've researched Tall Poppy Syndrome, I don't feel that the idea is too far from American culture. Although, we don't openly "cut" people whom are better then us, we do feel awfully jealous. I can't think of a single conversation where the topic included a famous person and only positive things were said. For instance, "Bill Gates donates billions of dollars, but he could and should donate more." Or,"eminem is a fantastic lyricist, but he is an awful person, Did you know he beat up his wife?" Although, American's don't use the term, Tall Poppy Syndrome, It is a part of our culture. We still get jealous when someone is able to achieve a higher social class. I would like to end with the saying, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." If you have more individuals entering the higher social classes then you are adding to the distance between the higher social classes and the lower social classes.

    1. Amanda, thanks so much for your most thoughtful observations. I agree with you that the attached piece re interview is a bit abbreviated, but at least it pointed us to the phenom and also encouraged you to learn more about it. I also agree with you that the concept is not altogether foreign to American culture as you aptly point out the tendency among us to put-down successful people. Also, there seem to be some broad equivalents to TPS within American culture--specifically,
      (see and
      "acting white"
      I encourage you and other students to explore the social contexts in which these metaphors appear.

  2. The idea of the tall poppy syndrome is so insane to me that people would hurt others emotionally or physically for being better. They must really hurt inside or they think that this world is heaven and that we cannot possibly have any one that might show us that it could be better. I kind of feel sorry for people that think this way.

  3. I'm with Amanda, after reading the article, I did not really understand what TPS was. (And I am still confused about what the pictures have to do with anything). But after looking into it a little more on wikipedia, I got the idea.
    I do think that it is very unfortunate that people will put others down because of their talents or achievements. In some ways I do think that America differs from this way of thinking. One of those reasons is because we praise people with talents or higher social status. They are glorified in the news and media and we are encouraged to be like them. This is so different from the TPS because when dealing with it people are judged and even shunned by their peers for exceeding them when it comes to talent.
    At the same time though, America does not really differ from TPS because, like Amanda was saying, there is always that hint of jealousy. Looking into the "crab mentality", people will try to pull others down when they see them succeeding because they feel like they can't have what the other person does.
    Also, when reading into "acting white" (which is a term that has been used to describe me many times) it just makes me understand even more how American culture does not differ from the TPS that is common in Australia. "Acting white" is something that is frowned upon typically by African-Americans because some see it as shying away from your "true" culture. Of course, I disagree with this because I don't feel like there is such thing as "acting white", but I do see people being criticized for exuding intelligence while communicating with others.
    So in conclusion, TPS is very prevalent in our society today and I am sure it's not just in the US. There are probably different forms spread all around the world; it just depends on how you look at it.

  4. I agree with Amanda in that the article doesn’t give enough details explaining what exactly the phenomenon of Tall Poppy Syndrome is. In response to the book cover being a bit abstract, it seems as though the focus was to be contradictory. The book’s cover is a photo of a simple neighborhood street, with the title Tall Poppy Syndrome representing “strange and arresting qualities”. I definitely believe the same type of behavior exist in America just in a different version as Amanda stated. However, America is unlike other countries in that it is vastly diverse which alone creates problems. The many different cultures within America are amazing yet also America’s crutch. At the same time, people negatively reject each other’s successful qualities because of their own personal lack of knowledge. In my opinion these rejections reinforce marginalization and not only create a larger gap between the high and low classes but also relay that this is more American concept than others are willing to accept.