The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'miracle ingredient a'
With it being Australia Day, The Age has a raft of articles looking at Australian culture and identity, including one examining the idea of something being "un-Australian" (for the first time since the end of the Howard era):
Current generations might believe that to be un-Australian and its attendant "ism" were coined in the conservative 1990s, when the values debate raged and the then prime minister, John Howard, spearheaded a failed attempt to get the term mateship enshrined in the constitution. But its ancestry goes back much further. Etymologically, it began life as a literal recognition of things that were not Australian in character; the first recorded use, in 1855, described a part of the landscape similar to Britain.
Cultural commentator Hugh Mackay has argued that anything labelled un-Australian is, in fact, Australian: "Surely it's 'Australian' to do whatever Australians do. It's Australian to drink and drive, to get hopelessly into debt, lie to secure an advantage — whether political, commercial or personal — and engage in merciless and slanderous gossip. It's Australian to give vent to our xenophobia through outbreaks of racism, to reserve our nastiest prejudices for indigenous people, and to worship celebrity … It's Australian to do such things because it's human to do them."And there's also a piece titled "I speak Aboriginal every day", about the surfeit of Aboriginal place names in Australia, most of their meanings all but forgotten to most of the people who use them:
Prahran turns out to be an Aboriginal word — a corruption of Birrarung (mist, or land surrounded by water). Dandenong was Tathenong (big mountain). Geelong comes from Tjalang (tongue). Moorabbin means "mother's milk". Looking up a single page in a street directory now to check a spelling (because I know these words better spoken than written), I find Kanooka, Kanowindra, Kanowna, Kantara, Kantiki, Kanu, Kanuka, Kanumbra, Kanyana … and on and on. Forty-five per cent of Victorian place names are Aboriginal.I didn't know that Prahran was an Aboriginal word; if pressed, I would have guessed that it was taken from India, perhaps in honour of some earlier triumph of the British Empire (by analogy to the area near Flemington which is sometimes referred to as Travancore), or alternately came, badly mangled, from some indigenous British minority language.
Film critic Lawrie Zion on the malaise afflicting recent Australian film; in particular, about recent films sticking to the theme of true-blue-dinky-di-Aussie-battlers vs. the evil forces of change:
What makes the recent Australian crop distinctive, however, is the way that even relatively sophisticated fare such as The Bank resorts to a one-dimensional character when it brings on its American villain. Accordingly, Anthony La Paglia, who gave us such a refreshingly understated performance in Lantana (2001), is reduced to a cardboard cut-out portrayal of slimy greed in The Bank. By contrast, the key American character in The Dish, played by Patrick Warburton, is given a chance to establish himself as a fully developed character, which not only provides the film with a less blinkered view of national "types", but also allows its "culture clash" moment to become something more interesting than a showdown between good and evil.
More troubling, still, with films such as Take Away is the way that Australians themselves are portrayed on the screen as naive and dim survivors of a laconic but cloistered culture that simply can't deal with change (though some might argue that this is a very accurate description of Australia in 2003).
Underdog motif or not, I can't recall having seen a recent Australian film where the characters weren't one-dimensional caricatures. More often than not, the actors (some of whom are footballers, comedians or both) ham up their performance, exaggerating the characters. Sometimes you even see them mugging at the camera after letting loose what they think is a devastatingly witty one-liner, as if giving the drongos in the audience the cue to laugh. It seems like so many Australian films are the bastard offspring of Hey Dad and the 10BA tax dodge.
Even in films which do not descend to this nadir, the film is usually slathered in Miracle Ingredient A, using its Australianness to sell an otherwise conventional story and one-dimensional characterisation to audiences looking for an alternative, however shoddy, to the McWorld monoculture from Hollywood. (Which is not unlike the plot of a recent Australian comedy, in fact, but I digress.) They don't see the films for quality, except in the "see, our sets/cinematography/special effects can be every bit as technically slick as American movies" sense, but for Australianness.
Which makes me wonder why Australia doesn't produce filmmakers like Canada (which gave us Vincenzo "Cypher" Natali and David Cronenberg) or Britain (too many to name). Surely it can't be a lack of talent. Perhaps the local market just doesn't encourage such innovation at anything above the Tropfest level?
The Bible, now with added Miracle Ingredient A; because you can't underestimate the importance of believing in a supreme being of your own nationality.
Australia is moving one step closer towards developing its own version of a US-style culture of jingoism, only combined with the "unique Australian national character" endlessly waffled on about by the Professional Australians: a group is planning to distribute a commitment oath on Australia Day. The oath itself, which is inoffensively content-free, has attracted support from everybody from the conservative RSL to the go-getting trendies in the Republican Movement. I wonder how long until schoolchildren are reciting something like this every day, with the magic of peer pressure and herd psychology ensuring compliance.
And does anybody else consider the idea of an oath pledging tolerance and openness a bit ironic, if not hypocritical?
"What's the biggest lie the political and cultural ruling class tells itself? Where's the greatest disparity between image and truth? What are the attributes which any self-respecting Professional Australian boasts about the most -- and possesses the least? ... Suspicion of authority. Independence of spirit. Nonconformity."
-- Greg Egan, Distress (pp120-122)