Here’s our take home from Shock Horror Aunty: most things that people say are shocking aren’t. Especially when you see out-of-context clips of them 30 or so years on. This is particularly true of satire. What did we think of all those clips from The Gillies Report and The Dingo Principle? They’re fascinating, obviously, but also quite baffling. Unless you know lots about the politics of that era you’re just left wondering why a mock funeral for Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen would be done in the style of Ragtime. And why there were lots of Meter Maids in the procession. Assuming they were Meter Maids.
Thing is, for a TV show to be shocking to someone it has to mean something to them. Nudity might offend a person because of their morality or religious beliefs, while a satirical song about Kerry “Goanna” Packer presumably insulted Kerry Packer because it hit some kind of nerve and he was rich enough to try and sue the left-wing satirists at the ABC. Or something. It wasn’t quite explained enough for those of us who’d never heard of the incident in our lives. (Maybe it needed to be dramatised in a Paper Giants first?)
Anyway, you end up wondering if Shock Horror Aunty might be a better show if it looked at less clips in more depth. There were several series worth of fascinating insights in to what got people’s goats across the three episodes but a lot of the time it just seemed like an endless parade of tits, bums, swearing and blackface. For example, we’ve never seen Wollongong The Brave before so we’ll have to take Rory O’Donoghue’s word for it that there was a solid satirical point underpinning that immigrants sketch with Italian grandmothers on dog leashes. It’s hard to imagine what it might have been or whether it was successful, but we’ll assume it was there and that the sketch wasn’t the Jackson Jive of its era.
At least with the more recent comedy, such as The Micallef P(r)ogram(me)’s “Weary Dunlop: Transexual” and the various Chaser sketches, most of us saw them at the time. And what marks these controversies out, particularly the Chaser sketches, is that the media in the internet era has become a lot more cynical about controversies in that they actively seek them out and beat them up to get eyeballs on their websites. In another era you wonder how many Chaser sketches would have got the media upset, and by extension the wider public, who particularly with the “Make A Wish” sketch only got upset after the media OUTRAGE kicked in. Not that anyone made that point on the show or that “Make A Wish” got shown, so clearly there are still limits when it comes to the ABC gazing at its controversial naval.