Reality bites

I was channel surfing earlier this month and witnessed my first “rose ceremony” on The Bachelor.

What a time to be alive.

Television is supposed to be a visual reflection of the society we live in. Yet the cultural products we ingest and broadcast to the world bear no semblance to the nation we have become. Home and Away and Neighbours have been two of Australia’s biggest cultural exports. So why are all the plot lines and characters whiter than a Napisan ad?

If smart televisions keep getting smarter and start speaking their mind, this is what my kids would hear: “Hey darkie, the strayan narrative has no space for you unless you’re organised criminal scum, a would be terrorist or working at 7-11 for 43 cents an hour before tax – like it or leave”.

The complete denial of the positive ethnic narrative alludes to a much bigger problem systemic in this country. From a creative perspective though (and with one eye on professional self preservation), it means our entertainment industry is destined to die in the butt as networks keep pooping content that half the population can’t relate to and won’t watch.

There is a reason why we are the biggest downloading pirates in the world. There is nothing good on TV. When was the last time the commercial networks created a show that captured our collective imaginations, reflected the true demographic of Australian society and became a source of genuine excitement or national pride?

Reality TV has become the predominant format on our television screens for two reasons. A: it’s cheap to make and B: because everyone loves a car crash – there is a guaranteed audience. Creating original and compelling narratives is much more difficult. It requires time, commitment and dedication to create characters that resonate and situations that captivate. Above all, it requires balls – the willingness to try something different and the willingness to fail.

With risk comes reward. Netflix is living proof that there is an audience yearning for compelling stories. More importantly, Netflix is living proof that people will pay for it. There are hundreds of talented story tellers waiting for this chance to rekindle our love with the small screen by creating original and entertaining content that speaks to all Australians, not just the few. This means there is hope that my super smart television might have this to say to my kids: “Hey little ones, your dad may be a wanker punching well above his weight, but remember this – it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you look like, you’re here because you belong here”.

Here’s to hope.


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