Posted by: hellonhairylegs | November 21, 2008

Thoughts on the Movie Australia

1. I’m going to have to field annoying questions from foreigners for years.

2. From the preview I saw it has at least some pseudo-feminist points. Joy.

3. When will Baz Lurhman portray something other than a white man and a white woman falling in love?

4. Maybe there is a reason that people no longer make movies “like this” if indeed this movie will be any different from the usual crap.

5. Tourism?



  1. This is one of those movies that I really have no desire to see in and of itself, but I’m kind of curious to see it anyway, just to see what all the fuss is about.

    Oh how I long for the days of the early 90s, when Australian film was cool, quirky, feminist, and queer-friendly.

  2. Ditto about seeing the movie. I wish I could have seen those days of progressiveness. Any good movies from that time that are still around?

  3. Well, the classics are Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, of course. Muriel is a great feminist movie, and there is plenty of lesbian subtext between Muriel and Rhonda. Priscilla is not entirely unproblematic– there is some less-than-great stuff in there from a feminist perspective, and there’s even some implicit transphobia there, directed at the woman who is post-op transsexual, but it nonetheless encourages interrogation of the gender binary, and it contributed to a sense that I had in the early 90s that being queer-positive was an integral Australian value– there was a real sense of celebration there– I could sense it even in my conservative backwards high school. And then that sentiment disappeared in the late 90s (O HAI JOHN HOWARD).

    Then there’s The Sum of Us, an early Russell Crowe movie– the script is a little clunky at times, and the acting can be a little over-the-top at points– but it’s a sweet story about a gay man and his dad who love each other to pieces, and it’s interwoven with their memories of their grandmother/mother and her long term relationship with another woman– this is actually a really heartbreaking story that examines the way that the women were ultimately completely screwed over by heterosexual male privilege. This movie also tackles the issue of disability (as does Muriel’s Wedding). And finally, I have to recommend Strictly Ballroom, which is less explicitly feminist/queer-positive than the others, but is still a very cool movie.

    Don’t get me wrong, the 90s weren’t a complete utopia of feminist queer-positivity (and indeed, Priscilla and The Sum of Us both acknowledge that homophobia and transphobia were/are very active in Australian society), but there was a real sense there that we were really moving forward, and that was something to be really proud of– a source of national pride for everyone.

  4. I dislike the portrayal of women in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. The portrayal of the ?Fillipina? woman was terribly misogynist and not to mentioned racist. Although the movie did have some good things to say, all of the main characters were men and although it questioned masculinity and homophobia to a certain extent, lesbophobia, women-hatred and racism were left completely unquestioned. In fact, I would argue it perpetuated both woman-hatred and racism. (Despite this I do like the movie, it used to be a favourite, until my feminism got a little more radical).

    Strictly Ballroom feminist??? I found it horrific!!

    I personally think The Sum of Us is a really silly movie about white male bonding. But I dislike ‘queer’ movies in general. I much prefer a feminist and/or anti-racist film to a ‘queer’ film. I’ve only watched two lesbian films that I consider to be worth seeing, neither of them are Aussie films: Fire by Deepa Mehta and Fucking Amal/Show Me Love by Lukas Moodysson.

    I do agree that Muriel’s Wedding is very good though.

    My personal favourite Australian movies include Radiance. Made by Rachel Perkins, daughter of Charles Perkins, the Aboriginal rights activist. Rachel is an incredible woman, very politically astute and her feminist sensibilities are spot on. Radiance/em> is about three Aboriginal sisters coming together after their mother has died.

    Her other movie, One Night the Moon is not about women, but it is very well made and a brilliant commentary about racism.

    Serenades is another incredible movie made by a brilliant woman. An Iranian by birth, Mojgan Khadem left Iran when she was ten as her mother was in the women’s movement and her life was in danger. Serenades is about an Aboriginal/Afgan girl who is betrothed by her father (Afgan) to an old disgusting man. It is such a beautiful movie with strong feminist messages.

    Other movies that I find compelling for various reasons, including their portrayal of women:

    The Goddess of 1967: a movie made by Clara Law, a Chinese woman. The movie is quite beautiful, tells the story of a blind (white Australian) woman who persuades a Japanese man to drive her to her chidhood home.

    Beneath Clouds: Made by Ivan Sen this movie has a really complex and interesting female protagonist. Lena is a light-skinned aboriginal girl and she meet Vaughn a fellow aboriginal on her way to Sydney.

    Hey, Hey it’s Esther Blueburger is a bit of a strange movie, but it is written and directed by a woman and it shows a strong relationship between two highschool girls. It isn’t unequivocally feminist but I enjoyed the girls’ friendship.

    Alexandra’s Project: This is a really full on movie made by a man that I don’t like very much: Rolf de Heer. But it is a fantastic feminist revenge fantasy.

  5. Oh, and on topic. I hate Australia already and I haven’t even seen it. Part of me wants to go watch it and do a review of it (a la Joss Whedon), but the other part of me thinks that that would be an awful waste of two and a half hours.

  6. Allecto– I should have been clearer in my original post that I meant these films were “quirky, cool, feminist OR queer-friendly”, rather than implying that they were all of the above.

    I quite agree that Priscilla is highly problematic for all the reasons you mention. And I absolutely wouldn’t say that Strictly Ballroom is feminist, but it’s part of a group of Australian films that I really enjoyed at the time.

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