Further Movement at the Station

First, the bad news: according to Fairfax, wog humour is back and it’s broader than ever!

“Why can’t more non-Anglo characters be doctors or lawyers?”

In debates about racial representations on screen, this is a perennial refrain. According to some critics, the blue collar jobs of fictional Mediterranean migrants are gratingly stereotypical (and insufficiently inspiring).

Never mind that a law degree is the archetype of white, middle class respectability. For a new breed of “wog” humorists, such assessments ring hollow.

Don’t worry though, these stereotypes are a-ok – because they’re grounded in fact:

As a general rule, Mediterranean migrants – having fled the deprivations of war-ravaged Europe, while speaking almost no English – did not step into professional jobs upon arriving in Australia. Rather, they worked long hours in factories, shops and restaurants.

This reality informs most Sooshi Mango characters: pensioners obsessed with Chemist Warehouse, for instance, or fathers aghast at the prospect of their children spending $25 at Grill’d. (“You no go anywhere! We make hamboorgar here!”) Occasionally, the racism they endured is re-directed at other ethnic groups. (One old Italian man accuses another motorist of driving “like a Chinese”, oblivious to his own dreadful road skills.) But mostly, it’s channelled into a defiant pride.

We could go on about how outdated stereotypes often result in lazy thinking – which leads to bad comedy – but why bother when the article does that for us:

“It’s raw, blue and dirty,” says ABC’s comedy chief, Rick Kalowski. “But the crassness isn’t a substitution for comedy. It’s always funny.”

Superwog revolves around a teenager and his best friend, struggling to cope with life in the suburbs. It’s something the Saidden brothers can relate to, having attended a “colonial and regimented” elitist private school. Indeed, many of their jokes are at the expense of uptight white people.

Kalowski is rankled by accusations of stereotyping. “There are endless examples of god-awful Australian films that seem custom-built to get five-star reviews or be included in a festival,” he says. “They’re just as stereotypical as so-called ‘wog’ comedy and it’s interesting no one singles them out.”

And we all know what he means by “endless examples”, don’t we. You know, there’s… that film. And the other one. And that one that was on at that festival. Ahhh, you know what we’re talking about, right?

But while there’s still this stereotype of Australian film as this endless parade of upper-middle class wank, it’s no longer all that true. There are no “endless examples”, because those films hardly get made any more. A decade ago you could point to something like Somersault; almost every Australian film this year has starred Shane Jacobson and no-one’s giving him a five-star review.

Of course, for those of us of a certain age, we grew up with wanky Australian films and so they’re a stereotype that has a basis in fact – for us. But you just have to look at the list of Best Film winners at the AACTA Awards over the last decade to see there’s been a serious shift in the kind of films Australians hand out awards to. Red Dog? The Babadook? Lion? Where’s the stereotypes there? For a new generation of comedy fans, those jokes won’t make any sense; most people don’t think about “Australian film” as a thing beyond Chris Hemsworth fighting Cate Blanchett in the last Thor movie.

If you’re going to defend your stereotype-based comedy by claiming there are other stereotypes out there that are getting away with it, it’s probably a good idea to check and see if those other stereotypes are still current outside your own memories. Otherwise people might think what you really mean is nostalgia, and that’s not anywhere near as funny.

*

Speaking of marketing, the one ABC show about consumer affairs that didn’t treat selling shit to idiots as the pinnacle of human civilisation seems to have got the chop:

The ABC has put popular consumer affairs program The Checkout on ice, with executive producer Julian Morrow breaking the news to fans on Friday morning.

Said news being broken in this fashion, which we’d describe as “somewhat salty”

So sustained was the outcry that the ABC had to then explain that the show wasn’t being axed – merely being put on hiatus:

An ABC spokesman confirmed the broadcaster wouldn’t be commissioning a seventh series “at this time”.

“The programming slate regularly changes for any number of reasons, including the need to strike a balance between new and returning programs,” he said. “Putting The Checkout on hiatus does not preclude the program from returning in the future.

“The ABC is proud of its long association with The Checkout and production company Giant Dwarf.”

There are at least two ways to look at this:

A): by stressing the “hiatus” angle, the ABC have made it clear that if the current cuts to the ABC’s budget are sustained – and considering Pauline Hanson seems to have made kicking the national broadcaster a direct path to gaining her party’s support in the senate, it’s hard to see the Liberals letting up even if they hadn’t recently voted to sell the whole ABC off – then programs people actually watch are going to have to be taken off the air. And it’s not like the Liberals can complain, as this is exactly the result they wanted. So by making it clear that this current policy will have consequences, the ABC have let the public know that if they want the ABC to continue in its current form, they have a choice to make at the next election. Well played, ABC!

B): As the ABC is basically run by right-wing types these days – by which we mean either literally card-carrying Liberal supporters, people earning six figure salaries for whom the working class are just the people who used to live in the funky gentrified suburb they now call home, or folks so worried they’ll offend the current government they’re bending over backwards to push the Liberal Party side of things just in case – a show that points out the shonky scams and dodgy nature of corporate Australia was always on thin ice. Who needs consumer affairs when there’s a nightly business news segment anyway? And it’s not like Gruen is going anywhere. Maybe The Checkout should have had Gerry Harvey on each week to give his side of the story just for balance. Boo, ABC, boooooooo.

Or maybe it’s just that, having run for five years, it’s not like The Checkout was a spring chicken. And with Giant Dwarf’s War on Waste seemingly going strong*, it’s not like The Chaser are out of the consumer affairs business just yet. Dammit, if only there was a television program out there to tell us what to think about important issues like these. When’s Screen Time coming back?

*correction: we’ve since been informed that War on Waste is not a Giant Dwarf production and that The Chaser’s Craig Reucassel appears on it as a host-for-hire.

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1 Comment

  • EvilCommieDictator says:

    (Let me read everyone’s minds) Something something Gruen something

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