Tag Archives: ABC Television

The Slap: a middle class morality tale

7 Oct

I haven’t read the book but I watched the show.

The first thing I thought was how absolutely awful that middle class marriage looked from the outside, and I thanked God I wasn’t in one. He’s drinking, smoking, snorting coke and considering an affair, all to escape the confines of a relationship that he looks to be pretty fed up with, and the responsibilities of fatherhood he seems to be pretty much over as well. I mean, telling your slightly plump young son to get off his fat arse isn’t loving, especially after you’ve yelled at him for eating potato chips and being sedentary into the bargain. Is it?

She’s harassed, feels she’s responsible for everything he doesn’t want to be responsible for and therefore is unfairly burdened, and on top of that she’s got highly manipulative in-laws he won’t stand up to, who want to ruin the only couple holiday they’ve planned in years by taking them all to Greece instead. He is not overly concerned with this interference, leading one to imagine he wasn’t that keen on the couple holiday in the first place.

Somehow we are meant to believe that the slap itself brought about a complete change of heart in him, and in the much younger woman he was planning to conjoin with as a temporary reprieve from his miserable life. The slap apparently shocked them both out of their  lustful fantasies, and caused them to within half an hour or so re-evaluate their lives and conclude they’re very lucky and they’d better not screw it up, so to speak.

I don’t find that instantaneous change of heart in a moment of shock entirely credible as a long-term prospect, but perhaps I’m a cynic.

An urgent post-slap marital root on the kitchen bench that seemed to afford passing satisfaction to him and little if any at all to her, acts as a temporary circuit breaker, and she grudgingly agrees to find ways to capitulate to her in laws’ travel plans.

An aside – I’ve never understood those sex scenes in which the woman is banged hard against some unyielding surface without any foreplay whatsoever, and likely very little skin on skin contact where it matters most, and apparently is left totally satisfied by the encounter. This doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. Yet it is probably the most frequently employed portrayal of heterosexual sex in movies and on the telly. I get how it’s fine for the bloke, but…

Back to The Slap. You just know that the next morning or the next, however long it takes for the post-coital glow to subside, they’ll be back at it, him on his various drugs of choice, and her on her overburdened, aggrieved and resentful trip. This is the warp and woof of the marriage. Brief interludes of sex and drug induced relief punctuating vast expanses of chronic, unaddressed ill-feeling.

Mrs Chook, I’m sorry to say, slept through the slap, not the entire program but the actual swipe. Who did it, she muttered, rousing herself from her slumbers, who did the slap? Christ, I told her I can’t believe that of all the bits you could have happily slept through you chose the central event around which all else revolves. Shut up, she said. I’m tired, she said. I’ve been talking to phone people all day trying to get your bloody smart phone organized since you jacked up and said you were effing over it.

An aside: my daughter-in-law persuaded me onto Skype. I did it straight away before I could frighten myself out of it. It was so easy! Last night I talked to the new baby as he lurched about in a milk coma while his mother held him up to the camera and told him I’m his grandma. I still have to get the smart phone, but they’ve let me off Facebook. Compromise and negotiation: this is what gets you a happy family life.

Back to The Slap. I usually refuse to fill in bits people miss when they fall asleep on account of it gets tedious and they should just go to bed and let me record it for them. But I made an exception in this case, as it was pivotal. Mrs Chook said I was being uncharacteristically pleasant, but I let that pass on account of her generous attention to my smart phone difficulties.

It was not OK for that bloke to slap Hugo, nobody’s going to get an argument from me on that. At the same time I totally understand what led him to do it. Whenever somebody inflicts pain on us it’s instinctive to lash out, and the kid served up what must have been a very painful kick to the bloke’s shins. In what looked like a completely reflexive reaction, he delivered a hard retaliatory slap. Not premeditated. Totally reactive. Totally useless. Wrong. Understandable.

So what are the moral lessons we are to take from this first episode of what looks to be shaping up as a middle class morality tale? Well, there seems to be an inference that if you breast feed a child longer than the culture feels is necessary, you’ll end up with a brat everybody hates, and even if that isn’t why everybody hates him, it won’t help.

The second moral seems to be that an undisciplined child can wreak havoc far beyond his immediate family, and so middle class people have a moral obligation to properly discipline their children. Apart from anything else it’s just good manners as nobody wants their party ruined by a fractious, willfully disobedient, destructive escapee from South Park.

The third moral I took from the first episode was that it doesn’t matter how grubby your middle class marriage is, you have to find ways to make it tolerable for yourself because the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate. Even if that means having an affair, and everybody knows that marriages frequently survive affairs, and that affairs can often be, in the long-term, quite good for a marriage if not for the cast-off lovers who are dumped in favour of maintaining the institution.

The fourth moral I took was that human beings are frail and fragile, and we generally expect too much of them, whether it’s ourselves or somebody else.

I thought the acting was pretty good, the story interesting, and I’m not troubled by foul language. The smoking has copped a bit of criticism but people still smoke, and it does go to establishing character. The cigarettes were an important symbolic connection between Hector and the much younger woman he wanted to root, I think, and anyways, you can’t censor everything unsavoury and unhealthy out of stories or you’ll have no story left, unless it’s the Wiggles, or Mr Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck.

I’m going to keep watching.

Leaky boats and marshmallow pies

10 Jul

Johnny in the sky with rainbows

It was with a sense of “did this really happen” that I watched Leaky Boat on ABC TV on July 7. On ABCTV blog you’ll find a timeline of the events of 2001 from the “Tampa” to the “Children Overboard” affairs covered by this documentary, in case you’ve been on Mars for the last ten years, or overseas where they don’t have meltdowns over a few asylum seekers like we do.

Immediately following the doco there was a Q&A “leaky boat” special, with the usual suspects holding their usual positions. Because I’m bored witless by listening to the same old same old from absolutely everybody on this topic, I decided to pretend I was an intergalactic traveller who’d fetched up in Australia just in time to watch these programs. Of course I had an intergalactic knowingness that allowed me to immediately cotton on to what most of it was about. When I got bogged down, I asked the dog. If he told me without detectable bias I let him lie in front of the fire.

My task was to objectively observe the human talking heads and because I was extra terrestrial, I had no difficulty at all being objective.

I tuned in to everybody’s vibes before I tuned into their words. I have to say straight up that I didn’t take to anybody on an energy level. My antennae (disguised so no human could see them) vibrated something shocking when they picked up the mutual animosity, ill will, one-upmanship and totally negative emotion fairly radiating through the television screen. I found it intensely upsetting to be in the presence of such bad feeling, especially when Raye Coleby (of SBS Go Back to Where you Came From fame) started in on a couple of re-settled Muslim refugees about how they didn’t deserve to be safe in Australia because thousands upon thousands of other asylum seekers are trapped in hellish camps, especially in Africa, without the financial means some lucky Muslims have to get themselves out.

Apparently, the dog explained when I murmured a question into his silky ear, this argument is what’s known as the queue question, and the boat arrivals keep jumping it which everybody knows is bloody bad manners and apparently not a good start in a country where good manners are more important than anything else at all. (Really? Is that really true? Is the dog dissing me?)

The fact that a queue is also a Chinese pigtail is of absolutely no relevance here at all, the dog said when I asked.

Wait a minute, I thought, as I watched Coleby become more and more emotional over her Africans, and more and more aggressive towards the Muslims around her.  There’s no queue to get into Australia, not as we understand queues where I come from. A queue that isn’t a Chinese pigtail is when everybody lines up in an orderly fashion to get something somebody else is distributing. That never happens in refugee camps in Africa or anywhere else. People make an application, Australia chooses who it wants. That’s not a queue it’s a lottery. Doesn’t matter how well mannered you are in a lottery.

So what’s Coleby on about?

Then the dog showed me how to send a tweet. My tweet said: “Is that the “real” Scott Morrison?”  because I thought he might be an extra terrestrial like me, standing in for a human. Well, not like me because I come from a peaceful people and he got right in David Marr’s personal space and embarked on an offensive interrogatory attack that a lesser man than Marr might have clocked him for.

Why nobody threw their shoes at Scott is a mystery to me.

My tweet didn’t appear on the screen and for that I blame the dog who should have told me to say something more intelligent like the other tweeters did.

I have since checked my Twitter account and found that I have ten followers, including one who wrote about me in my human form: “She is a woman of strong opinions with a sparse Twitter following.” The dog just shrugged about that. It’s my own fault, he gave me to understand. You have to nurture your Twitter account, feed it, give it time and attention: it doesn’t just happen all by itself.

But I digress. From my lofty alien perspective I find the public arguments over boat arrivals have become so predictable as to be meaningless. I know exactly who is going to say what, and the tone in which they will say it. It’s like saying a word, any word, over and over again to yourself until it becomes incomprehensible. Both sides of the debate carry great burdens of animosity towards one another. Emotions are high, indeed the entire debate has been so appropriated by high emotion that there’s hardly anything else left in it. Anybody who tries to be rational and reasonable is outside of the parameters and won’t get a look in.

I don’t know what can be done about this, because  from the galactic perspective it looks like it’s becoming a kind of mutual masturbatory opportunity for sado-masochists to hurl and receive nasties, and is achieving nothing at all for people who arrive by boat.

It is, however, a sign of our extraordinary privilege that we can expend so much emotion abusing one another about a situation that is not likely to affect any of us. Who in the ABC’s audience at home and in the studio is likely to suffer even a smidgin of disadvantage from a few thousand boat arrivals being re-settled in this country?

Personally, being an intrepid cosmic traveller, I’m always interested to hear another traveller’s tales. I don’t get nearly as bored watching refugees tell their stories as I’m starting to get watching talking heads of all persuasions talking about refugee’s stories. I realise there’s a whole pro and anti boat people industry out there and my perspective will not be popular but I don’t care. I found Leaky Boat fascinating. It was good to see Arne Rinnan again. I found Go Back to Where you Came From fascinating because it humanized everybody involved.

But the talking heads, whether I agree with them or not, I’m over them. Let the people speak. Then I’ll hear.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river, the dog whispered in the firelight, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies…

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore, waiting to take you away,

Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you’re gone…

That dog. He’s a bloody poet.

Really though, in all honesty I have to admit that when I’m back on earth in my usual form, minus antennae and universal perspective, I will probably just get stuck back into the brawl like I always have. I will jeer and sneer and give the finger with the best of them. I will gasp in outraged horror at something else Scott Morrison says, and I will continue to berate the Gillard government for it’s moral decline into unspeakably horrible plans to transport everybody to Malaysia where they may well be caned without first being stunned.

And why? Because I have to. Because even when it gets tiring and bogged down and you think it’s going nowhere you can’t stop. Because people who arrive in boats are my fellow humans and from that comes everything else, and when I can’t remember that any longer, I might as well sew up my lips,stuff up my ears, and close my kaleidescope eyes.

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