Contempt for ordinary Australians among the self-selected arts and media elite

I SUPPOSE it takes a special form of moral courage and artistic sensibility to mount a comedy television series that "satirises people living in public housing" (The Diary, Monday). It promises to be a hoot. The individual responsible, one Paul Fenech, has uncovered "a whole bunch of people in Australia who spend so much effort not working that it would be easier to get a job". I cannot wait. Such clever japes have not been heard since the Murdoch family comedy troupe were at their peak.

It is comforting to know that Fenech is not on his own in the creative community in teaching us about the debased lower orders. Only last week, the Herald's Spectrum pages ("Career on track" October 15-16) marked the arrival of "an artist with promise", a Mr Nigel Milsom, a latter-day resident of Glebe. This chap likes to draw dogs, apparently as "metaphors for our own nature".

However, Milsom has had a nasty surprise of late. As he tells it, "it seems that every Friday and Saturday there's an influx of weirdos into the area". These freaks are the people who attend the Wentworth Park greyhounds and who do so in order to "change their lot in life" and gain a "golden ticket out of their situation". Mr Milsom knows all this because he took his crayons to the course one night and observed these worse-than-senseless things in the flesh.

In times past, these "weirdos" were actually known in and around the inner city as "residents" before the whole area was much improved by the land clearing occasioned by the arrival of sensitive and creative people who are good at colouring-in and such. Over the decades many thousands of families have been forced out, some even to public housing in the city's outskirts where Fenech can now expose to the world their essential worthlessness.

Such developments are sadly consistent with some other trends in the creative and performing arts. The television series Kath & Kim consistently depicted its subjects as crass, materialistic and emotionally stunted. There was a form of characterisation in it that provided a superior and condescending perspective for the viewer. We laugh at them; not with them.

Worse still is the work of Chris Lilley, who moves well beyond gentle mockery. His work sneers at the ordinary people with everyday lives he focuses on.

There was a time when satire was directed at exposing the follies of the privileged, the powerful and the self-important. Apparently, modern Australia has rulers who are doing a cracking job. Our rich are beyond reproach. Marie Antoinette would approve.


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