The Media Making ‘Australians’

I have a number of observations on the continual portrayal of who and what is an Australian in this country and continual media bias. Let me use Nick Kyrgios as an example. Not withstanding bad behaviour should never be condonned, Corinne Grant, a white Australian woman wrote an article about this on Hoopla:

“Nick Kyrgios is un-Australian Apparently Nick Kyrgios is too rude. He swears, throws the odd tantrum, and his clothing is way too loud. Many Australians are tut-tutting about this young man and his potty mouth. How very un-Australian! Acting like a self-entitled dickhead is the preserve of middle-class white men, not young upstarts with Greek-Malaysian heritage and less than lily-white skin. Rage Level: Deep indignation. Whatever happened to tennis stars with names you could pronounce and acceptable skin tones? What about that nice John McEnroe? Or that Lleyton Hewitt? Sure he was a bit arrogant, but that was different. He was white. That lovely Andy Murray dropped the f-bomb quite a few times sitting side of court after losing a game the other night, but he’s Scottish. It’s so cute when a little white-faced ranga goes off tap. It’s rather different when a brown boy with a mohawk thinks he has some sort of right to belong. We decide the tennis champions in this country, and the manner in which they win.”

In fact just in today’s SMH there was a report on the expletive laden barrage of Andy Murray’s girlfriend. But I guess when you’re white and beautiful, it’s more permissible.

The media certainly know who to prop up as our nations faces and who we would rather sideline. The treatment of Michelle Leslie and Shapelle Corby is a another case in point. You could argue that Ms Leslie donning female muslim attire to curry favour with her prosecutors didn’t exactly warm her to Australians but the treatment of her in the media and the response by the Australian public was vastly different from Shappelle Corby. Yes the facts of the two cases did differ however I do know that Michelle’s offense was much less than Shappelle’s and yet on talk back radio the vitriol towards Michelle Leslie was quite astounding and disproportionate to her ‘crime’. Ms Corby on the other hand was deemed ‘one of us’ and therefore worthy of the attention and sympathy from your average Australian. I’m only gathering this from the tone of talk back radio and newspaper comments sections and the fact that Channel 9 thought her ‘Australian’ enough to retell her story in a telemovie.

A few years ago in a baby photo competition by a well known Australian brand, a multiracial couple sent in their photo of a Eurasian baby; part Chinese and part Anglo Australian. The awful amount of name calling and questioning whether that child was truly Australian enough to win an Australian baby competition was really disgusting. That baby was born in Australia and her identity and worth as an Australian should never be questioned nor based on her phenotype. The fact that the general public saw fit to abuse this couple highlights a couple of issues : a) the general lack of manners and respect in Australia towards difference b) the publishing of such commentary by the media and allowing it to take place c) the lack of media advocacy and support for the family. It kind of slaps in the face of a ‘fair go’, a supposed unique Australian value.

There are many examples of how a white face is chosen to be splashed across the front cover of popular women’s magazines (e.g The Australian Women’s Weekly), how a white story is more relevant and important than a person of colour and how indigenous news is treated by mainstream media (read articles by Celeste Liddle).

Even in popular television programs, you’d be hard pressed to find a non-white face. A very good play on the issue of media and it’s whitewashing in Australia is one called ‘Lighten Up’ performed at the Griffith Theatre in Sydney. It challenges the over use of white Australia in film. Even in media outlets like Foxtel, its own productions still cling to a white Australia but they feel good about themselves inserting ‘foreign’ channels for the rest of us. Why can’t a non white Australian face be used in Australian drama? What’s so uncomfortable about that when you walk down the streets of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin and see many non white Australian people?

If we are to accept differing phenotypes as being Australian then we need to have responsible and fair portrayals from our media, and we need the heads of these mainstream media organizations to re-engineer who is an Australian. As challenging as this is for Anglo Australians to let go, putting your head in the sand long enough will only lead to suffocation.