TV: Are We Dumb, Drunk & Racist? Yeah, We Kinda Are.

 

I’m loving all the independent Australian programming that attempts to show how racist we really are.

Last year, it was Go Back to Where You Came From (which is apparently airing a “celebrity” version soon!) which drew on our contempt for “boat people” and this year it’s Joe Hildebrand’s Dumb, Drunk & Racist, not only about Australia’s racism, but our drinking and thought habits.

Hildebrand introduces four Indian expats to the world of sun, surf and skin, but which could more accurately be described as “Dumb, Drunk & Racist”. Can you blame the Indians for having such a closed-minded view of the land down under when their students are constantly bashed and their call-centre workers denigrated for doing an honest day’s work? I think it was Radhika who asked, “Why Indians, not Bangladeshi or Pakistani [people who are bashed]?” To be honest, I don’t think racists are that savvy: they see someone who doesn’t look like them and it’s on. I think it’s pure coincidence that a lot of the student bashings that go on in Australia, and particularly Melbourne, are of predominantly Indian students.

And there’s an insidious kind of racism that’s embedded in a lot of cultures, not just Australia’s. Amer contends that sometimes a fight is just a fight, and sometimes there’s no racial undertone but people want to put the racism sticker on it because it helps explain what we can’t:

“Two white guys fighting is just a fight; a black guy and a white guy fighting is ‘racially motivated’.”

In the show, which aired its last episode last Wednesday, Amer, Gurmeet, Mahima and Radhika go to the outback, hospital rooms, Cronulla beach and Melbourne’s train lines after dark in an attempt to work through our apparent inherent racism, alcoholism and unintelligence. I hate to say it, but by and large, Australia is a Dumb, Drunk and Racist country. That’s not to say that all Australian citizens abide by these lifestyle rules, but as a whole, the quintessential Aussie does.

Having said that, though, the Indian’s weren’t exactly open to some of our ways of life. While racism is bad, so is homophobia, but Gurmeet had no problem frowning upon a lesbian couple they met a few weeks ago.

And I hate the notion of reverse racism, but Gurmeet was guilty of it when he said that we’re Dumb, Drunk and Racist because of our “criminal DNA”: “It’s in the mind of the Australian people.” So I suppose that means that oppression of women, arranged marriages, extreme poverty and third world living standards are in the “DNA” of Indians? (To be clear, I don’t actually believe this.)

In one of the episodes, when India was being compared to Australia and the different standards and living conditions of each country, Hildebrand scoffed, “Why should we compare our statistics to those of a developing country?” Here, here.

The most sympathetic of the bunch is Radikha who, when faced with the plight of Indigenous Australians who are so marginalised they often don’t warrant a mention when talking about racism, said:

“When there is a community which feels so hurt, so wronged, so scarred, so alienated there will be a hesitancy to come forward. Even if they have any kind of motivation, there are a million things to quell that motivation.”

What did you think of Dumb, Drunk & Racist? Do you think we are?

Related: My Response—Go Back to Where You Came From.

Image via Xceler8.

TV: Top 11 TV Moments of 2011.

Paper Giants.

One of the best shows this year. Unfortunately, it only ran over two nights.

The Kennedys.

Wow. Just wow. I loved this miniseries that was cancelled by the History Channel in the U.S. because it allegedly portrayed the Kennedy family in too negative a light. Luckily, it was picked up by the ABC here. I am now officially in love with Greg Kinnear.

Go Back to Where You Came From.

Apart from Sarah Ferguson’s Four Corners expose on the meat industry (below), SBS’s Go Back to Where You Came From was the most groundbreaking television this year. Unfortunately, I don’t think it changed anyone’s minds about the plight of refugees in this country, because those who already empathise with asylum seekers were the show’s target audience, and those who think refugees should go back to where they came from snubbed the show.

Sookie & Eric Finally Get Together on True Blood.

While I’m more of a Sookie and Bill fan, and an Alcide-in-general fan, Eric’s turn as sensitive Sookie-lover in True Blood’s fourth season was a must-watch. But thankfully, the Nordic vampire is back to his old, heartless self.

Charlotte King’s Rape in Private Practice.

Private Practice is an oft-shunned show, in favour of its Seattle counterpart, Grey’s Anatomy, but season four dealt with abortion and rape particularly sensitively and realistically.

Four Corners’ Expose on the Meat Market.

This was probably one of the most talked about news stories in Australia, if one of the most poorly rated episodes of Four Corners. Not because people didn’t care, but because it was so hard to watch. It’s perhaps too soon to tell, but I think we are seeing a chance in meat practices in Australia because of this story.

The Slap.

I found one of ABC’s most anticipated shows of the year to be a spectacular letdown. I’d had Christos Tsiolkas’ novel on my reading list since it was released, however I missed out on reading it before the show premiered in October. Perhaps if I had read the book first I would feel differently about the show, but I found it to be stereotypical and tokenistic, and a massive disappointment from the screen version I had hyped up in my mind. Fail.

MamaMia Gets Its Own TV Show.

Probably not many TV watchers outside of the insular community of MamaMia and Sky News would have known about Mia Freedman’s lifestyle website making the switch to TV. I don’t have pay TV but, luckily, the shows are available to watch on the MamaMia website, YouTube and Facebook, where the panelists talk about all manner of things, like sex, mental illness, celebrity, porn, religion, parenthood and more.

Angry Boys.

I hadn’t watched any of Chris Lilley’s stuff before Angry Boys and, while a lot who had thought the show was a bit of a letdown, I really enjoyed it.

Housos.

Another one that was a bit hit-and-miss, I’d anticipated the show all year. While some moments were gold, others were just supremely unfunny.

At Home With Julia.

Finally, the cherry on top of a parody-tastic television year. I really enjoyed Amanda Bishop’s portrayal of Julia Gillard, but I still found the fact that there was a show about a sitting prime minister pretty offensive.

Any TV moments I missed here that you thought defined 2011?

Related: Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo Review.

My Response: Go Back to Where You Came From.

Private Practice: Pro-Choice?

The Slap & Men Who Cheat.

At Home with Julia: Funny or Disrespectful?

Magazine Review: Sunday Life, 24th July 2011.

 

You’d better duck into your nearest newsagent and hope they have a spare copy of The Sunday Age/Sydney Morning Herald, as its weekly insert, Sunday Life, is a must-read.

In addition to the usual fabulous columns by Mia Freedman and Sarah Wilson, who talk about the hullabaloo surrounding the recent plus-sized (and scantily clad) cover of Vogue Italia (p. 7), and being “deliberately” and uncomfortably vulnerable (p. 10), respectively, Rachel Hills writes on classism in Australia (p. 16–17) and deputy editor Natalie Reilly ponders the magazine’s recent Kate Ellis cover (p. 19).

What with the recent carbon tax being slammed for not being affordable for lower income earners and “Wayne Swan and Tony Abbott… falling over themselves to defend the livelihoods of ‘battlers’ earning more than $150,000 a year—an income more than double the median for Australian families,” class is more of an issue in Australia than ever before, but talking about it “just isn’t cool”.

It’s a very interesting issue, one that has somewhat reared its head in SBS’s Go Back to Where You Came From, the still-to-be aired Housos, a satirical take on life in a housing commission, and the backlash against Cate Blanchett backing the carbon tax.

I have written a little bit here and there about such things, but ultimately, it’s hard to take the “cashed-up bogan” seriously when they say they can’t afford to pay the carbon tax: if they just turned off their $2000 flat-screen TV that they bought with their baby bonus, we might not be in this mess. (Harsh, yes, but it is an anecdotal example!)

Hills quotes Housos, Pizza and Swift & Shift Couriers producer Paul Fenech, who likens the uproar over Housos as “a rich wanker test. The truth is, when we show this comedy to people who live it, they love it.” This could also be applied to the carbon tax and the public reception of shows like Angry Boys: you can always count on the conservative, upper-to-middle class right to become uproarious about such things. Could it be because “talking about class makes us nervous… because it suggests that we might not be as equal as we’d like to think we are—and that’s threatening”? I’d bet it is.

I saw this first hand when I brought up Go Back to Where You Came From with a right-leaning friend. Then I told him I was going to vote Greens next election. Then he called me a communist.

But what’s so wrong with believing everyone should receive the same civil rights? Abbott would argue, “why ‘screw over… people who want to get ahead’?” Indeed; but does it mean that we have to step on the little man to do so?

In “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”, Reilly addresses the age old conundrum of serious women not being able to be taken seriously if they’re dressed in anything remotely “sexy”.

Apparently, there was an outcry from Sunday Life readers regarding the June 26 issue, which featured Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis, dressed in a pink high-necked blouse, red pencil skirt (above the knee, but I wouldn’t call it a mini) and killer turquoise heels. And therein lies the problem:

“When a female politician wears anything other than a sensible suit, outrage ensues.”

Yet, when Prime Minister Julia Gillard wears an unflattering get-up, she’s criticised for not being fashionable enough. Seems a girl just can’t win.

Related: My Response: Go Back to Where You Came From.

Does Pop Culture Glamourise Our Carbon Footprint?

Conservativism Reigns Supreme in The Sunday Age’s Opinion Section.

It’s Not Easy Being Green: The Latest Trend in Discrimination.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] $150,000 Doesn’t Make You Rich. Discuss.

[MamaMia] The Four Reactions to This Magazine Cover.

[Sarah Wilson] How Do You Get “Deliberate” About Your Life?

[Girl with a Satchel] “Carbon Cate” for T Magazine & the Prius Effect.

[Sydney Morning Herald] Go Back to Where You Came From Strictly for the Gullible.

[Heathen Scripture] The Other Reason Why Raquel Was Wrong.

Image via Sydney Morning Herald.

TV: My Response—Go Back to Where You Came From.

 

Last night marked the “where are they now?” special of SBS’s groundbreaking reality TV series social experiment, Go Back to Where You Came From, which aired over three emotional nights last week. The episode was called Go Back to Where You Came From: The Response, so I thought I’d offer my response to the show.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I thought it was one of the best things I’ve seen all year. Hell, I’ll even go as far as saying it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Given the opportunity, I would have loved to go along with Raye, Adam, Darren, Raquel, Gleny and Roderick to Malaysia, Jordan, Kenya, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Certainly, I would think twice about going to those countries on my own, but were the participants in any real danger with a camera crew and, I’m guessing, copious amounts of security around? My money’s on no.

While there has been a lot of criticism of Darren and Raquel, especially, and I was (and still am) one of those naysayers, a lot has to be said for the participants’ willingness to enter into the experiment; their willingness to let the experiment change their views.

I still think Raquel is a bit ignorant and sheltered, but I was really proud of her embracing an offer of friendship from a woman in a “teatowel” on the special last night. She said it right when she said “we all have hearts”, and witnessing what they did would be enough to soften even the hardest heart. Darren notwithstanding.

In fact, I think Raquel hit the nail on the head when she kept complaining throughout the journey that she’s an “Austraylyan” (is that the phonetic spelling for the bogan pronunciation of our country?), that she hasn’t been brought up like this, and—especially—that in the refugee camps, everyone was staring at her and she felt like she didn’t belong. I’m sure these are all feelings refugees have. We’re lucky enough to be raised in the “lucky country”, so to speak. Don’t you think we should extend some of those privileges to those not as lucky?

Another one of the participants I was really proud of was Adam, the Cronulla lifeguard. He certainly came into the program with a set of prejudices from his upbringing in the affluent beachside suburb and his involvement in the 2005 riots there, but I almost cried in the second episode when he sheepishly admitted that he would get on a boat: the very action that he’d been decrying from the beginning. I was happy he changed his mind because a face like that goes to waste on a person so right-wing!

Raye was another who had a marked turnaround. In most of her scenes I wept along with her, and it was great to see her spending time with the Masudi’s, the eldest child of which is coming to stay with her and her husband this weekend.

That leaves Gleny (yay!), Darren (boo!) and Roderick (meh!).

I felt that Roderick didn’t get much screen time and therefore we weren’t really clear on his motivations for going on the program, nor his beliefs. I wasn’t such a big fan of his Tony Abbott t-shirts but, as he said on last night’s special, he believes in the freedom of speech and religion, which is what the Liberal party stands stood for.

Gleny was super awesome and I applaud her efforts to more fully understand the plight of refugees and her offer to house some should it come to that. And if it comes to that, I would be there right alongside her. If people are complaining about people from other countries “infiltrating” the Aussie society and that they should “speak our language”, what better way to integrate them than to have them live with you? Next SBS “social experiment” right there!

Darren was someone I couldn’t really understand; to witness everything he did and the only result be downgrading his vilification of asylum seekers from “queue jumpers” to “system dodgers” is pretty cold-hearted. Especially seeing as his wife is Taiwanese, and could very well have been an asylum seeker if her circumstances were different. A lot of attention was drawn to his children, as well: would he put his family on a boat if it meant the possibility of a better, safer life for them? (The answer was no.)

One of the many things I found interesting was the different reactions from different participants when their views were challenged. Raye and Adam were quick to change their status on refugees and became the darlings of the show, somewhat. But Darren and Raquel, who had the furthest journeys to take in terms of changing their opinions, dealt with this with anger and frustration. The angrier they got, the more the audience could see just how uncomfortable they were with this. Again, as Raquel said, “we all have hearts”.

You’d have to be positively heartless for this show not to affect you. Most of the people I spoke to who watched it said they cried at some point each night. Them and me both. I just hope what eventuates from this show is a deeper understanding of the plight of asylum seekers, and a fire being lit under the government’s ass to make some actual change happen.

Elsewhere: [SBS] Go Back to Where You Came From.

Image via SBS.