Archive for the ‘self-image’ Category

Book to read: “The Words That Made Australia”

October 6, 2012

Hmm, probably need to read this…

The Words That Made Australia

How a Nation Came to Know Itself

Edited by Chris Feik, Robert Manne



“three horrible Australias that substitute for the Australias we actually live in.”

September 30, 2012

Australian Art : In the suburbs, and below them
from Club Troppo by Richard Tsukamasa Green

Australian art (in the form of literature and film) is afflicted with three horrible Australias that substitute for the Australias we actually live in.
The first is the fake hinterland. The small country town, the drover, the bush. Australia has always been mainly urban, but this doesn’t rid us of the idea that the rural is an authentic part of a nation’s soul, and the city a false one – so we end up with a literary bush that represents neither Australia, nor even the bush that exists. We should be thankful I guess. This distrust of the urban led to pogroms elsewhere, here it just led to shitty literature.
The second is focus group suburbia. Apparently the same demographers that control political campaigns also write dramas for television. They’re understanding of the country is as strong, and as fruitful in both contexts. The resulting product is for an average Australia in suburban Sydney or Melbourne that doesn’t exist, and is resolutely (and carefully) boring.
The third is determined to address the chronic underrepresentation of middle class white people on TV. They’re there to remind you that the self conscious Fitzroy/Newtown monoculture is fascinatingly distinct, despite all evidence to the contrary. To remind you that all one needs to know about an entire society is found in a shallow pond of wealthy lawyers.
The portrayal of these Australias share a few rules;

  • One can only learn about Australia through Big Issues like drugs and murder and adultery, regardless of the limited role they play in the lives of most people.
  • People can only express themselves to each other through confrontation, which always them to exposit their viewpoints and motivation without them having to actually be developed characters.
  • Under the Australian Film and Drama Act (1992) they must also do this in full sentences with pronounced full stops – speaking like a human being would be inauthentic…

Taint misbehaving

August 29, 2012

Having a convict ancestor is quite the thing in Australia now. There’s even a society for descendants of the very first ones, the First Fleeters – the aristocracy of convicts. It’s a perverse kind of prestige.
When I was growing up in the 60s, through, it was nothing to be proud of. The index cards in the state library were regularly thinned-out by people who surreptitiously ripped out the card that proved their convict ancestry. Having a convict in the family was called “the taint”. There was even a suspicion that it might be a hereditary defect.
Kate Grenville Guardian 18 February 2006

This is an authenticity bid, isn’t it? Between the 60s and now whitey has had to admit he (and she) nicked the land. And have been joined by “waves” and “floods” etc of “foreigners”, that is to say, not white – or at least European – like us. So, being able to trace yourself back to the “real” lot becomes a mark of respectability. FFS.

Chris Franklin, where have you been all my life?

January 28, 2012


and “Jack Off Australia”

Australian Citizenship Test – hilarious

August 28, 2011

This is roll around on floor laughing your ass off material, this is…


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Film Review: Crocodile Dundee

August 20, 2011

Watched this for the first time since, well, 1987 or so. What a set of myths it taps into/sprays around!

The Rugged Outback hero, a bit of a conman, but with a core of competence too.  (Most Australians live in towns or cities).

Tarzan, pure of a state of nature, going to the big city where the confusions of race and gender and class don’t baffle him for long. (After the ‘now that’s a knife’ scene, Linda Kowslowski’s character actually references Tarzan)

The Fugitive healer, who teaches a woman What’s Important (and saves her from life with an effete journalist).

That this was such a huge hit says/said something about a) the jokes (which were relatively funny) b) Australians’ need/wish to see themselves as Dundees and c) The wider world’s desire for these kinds of myths, I guess.

Best stuff I ever read on this was by Meaghan Morris, in her wonderful collection “The Pirate’s Fiancee

Fear of a non-white planet

August 18, 2011

The Indian political psychologist Ashis Nandy has suggested that Australia’s tendency to see itself as a colonial power, when in actual fact it is a colonised society, means that there has been an ongoing struggle for our supposedly rightful status as ‘a European colonial power with a civilizing mission.’ This struggle has fostered a fear that ‘even faint streaks of yellow, black, or brown detract from Australia’s nationhood’, which in turn has promoted the active denial of cultural space to others.  This anxiety is now a feature of Australian political culture, playing out in electoral battles and other ideological contests concerning, for example, our acceptance or rejection of asylum seekers.

Page 32 of Sarah Maddison’s “Beyond White Guilt”

The symbolism of Boat People

April 2, 2011

Les Rosenblatt writes, in Arena 109

In The Gauche Intruder, Jennifer Rutherford is ‘interested in the ways that fantasies of the good provide a camouflage for aggression at both a national and local level: an aggression directed both to an external and an internal Other.’ This aggression in Australia – and its associated guilt – is perhaps being presently displaced onto ‘boat people’…

Rutherford’s book “The Gauche Intruder: Freud, Lacan and the White Australian Fantasy by Jennifer Rutherford was published by Melbourne University Press in 2000” is sympathetically reviewed here.

“Sydney is sadder, meaner, angrier”

March 18, 2011

Sydney is the Elizabeth Taylor of Australian cities. It is a little-appreciated fact that the ageing Hollywood glamazon was born just weeks before the grand opening ceremony for the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. The city and the star have been making a living off their good looks ever since.

Jessica Irvine has gotten a bunfight goin‘…

Citizenship Ceremonies

January 15, 2011

I read this and thought it was funny.

The next step is a citizenship ceremony which I had imagined to be quite an emotional, identity-shaping event until a friend did hers and described a very amateur, polystyrene map of Australia sticky-taped to the wall, and watching Tasmania slowly peel off and fall to the floor as the mayor made his speech. If something similar happens at mine Ill laugh, and everyone else will too, for that is what it means to be Australian – not being too up ourselves, and having a laugh, and not taking things too seriously. And I should really learn the words to Advance Australia Fair, but it seems a lot more Australian to not know them.

From “Who am I?” A zine about identity
Phiona Stanley