Culture cringe and fever pitch

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
December 02, 2010 /

Click here to view original /

Eschewing the much-favoured attaché case full of cash, overnight and Australia offered the 22 upstanding men of FIFA a short film.

Reviews of the Phillip Noyce short are mixed.

Serving up a bumper crop of the clichés that we’re well used to – Bondi and budgie smugglers, outback panoramas and gratuitous use of aerial shots – all that was missing were some singing children and a grounded Qantas flight.

Ah, but will it do the trick?

The trick. And there’s the rub. For reasons I don’t really understand, we apparently want the World Cup here in 2022. As a nation we seemingly like team sports and men patting each other’s backsides in the spirit of good clean athleticism. And the Noyce short, apparently, was our last-ditch effort to prove our hosting chops.

So will a cartoon Skippy really make a difference?

Will a leather-clad, nipped and tucked 71-year-old really tip the balance?

Nah, probably not.

Australia has plenty working against us when it comes to buying in international events. Time zones and the tyranny of distance, inadequate skills relating to graft and corruption. To counter such shortcomings, we exploit that knock-about, larrikin spirit we’re known for – with just a dash of naïveté for good measure – and shunning slick and corporate, we offer natural splendour and wildlife.

This, after all, is our default position.

Every year or so Tourism Australia unveils yet another shrimp-on-the-barbie/where-the-bloody-hell-are-we love-fest designed to get those cashed-up and passportless foreigners Down Under. We’ll see girls in bikinis and cuddly koalas, desert scenes and something with water. They’ll be a dash of didgeridoo on the soundtrack. Of course.

And the reviews will always be mixed.

Personally I’ve never been to Uluru, nor ever wanted to go. I’m short, chubby and it’d be in no-one’s interest for me to don a bikini. The only time I’ve seen a kangaroo is in a zoo. Or on a can in the pet food aisle at Woolies. I don’t relate to these ads.

But I’m not the target audience. I already live here.

In Chicago last month, a woman in a store told me how much she loved Summer Heights High. She then, very strangely, retreated, apologised and assumed that I must hate being associated with such a show.

In fact, I’d be delighted to be associated with such a show.

No, Summer Heights High isn’t a snapshot of my life, but it strongly – almost cringe-worthily – reminded me of my schooling. Did it capture everything it means to be Australian? No. But what possibly ever could?

There’ll be Australians who’ll hear a spot of Icehouse, get a tear in their eye, drape themselves in their flag bath towel and maybe set something on fire. For others, patriotism will be considered the tackiest, trashiest, conservative crap around.

The idea that one video, one television commercial could ever possibly represent an entire country is completely and utterly ridiculous.

Advertising is a strange beast. We’re often inclined to criticise it for its false promises and unattainable physiques, forgetting that it’s never ever been a mirror. Advertising doesn’t show us our life, it offers us aspiration. It offers idealism.

We didn’t see rain on the FIFA video. Or bushfires. Or people glassing one another outside popular nightspots. Or George Pell. There are really wretched things about Australia too. We show the bits that make the landscape appear beautiful, appear exotic and appear different from where our targeted cash-cows live.

Our fine friends at FIFA probably made their decision long before Noyce was ever recruited. On the flipside, even if we walk away empty handed, we got the opportunity to show them a film with the central narrative theme being theft.

Something a good majority of us can smirk at.

© Lauren Rosewarne