The representation of our society on Australian television shows is unrealistic at best. At worst our white bread media is just outright racist. Professor Andrew Jakubowicz (UTS) has discussed on his blog the way in which Australian media avoids portraying anyone ‘visibly different’ on our screens.
We are perhaps the worst country in the ‘western world’ when it comes to representing non-Anglo characters. Most of the time those of non-Anglo descent aren’t represented at all, and often when they are represented it is in a highly ‘token-ised’ role – think Packed to the Rafters character Nick Carbo Karandonis (portrayed by George Houvardas), who Colin Vickery (Herald Sun) has stated “is such a stereotypical Greek that he could be straight out of Acropolis Now“.
However, some people have praised Australia’s reality television programs for moving into the modern era and including more representations of our multicultural society in their contestants. Cooking shows such as Masterchef (with greek judge George Calombaris and famous malaysian-born contestant Poh Ling Yeow) and My Kitchen Rules have opted for more cross-cultural casting in recent years. Popular talent shows such as Australian Idol and So You Think You Can Dance have also included many contestants of varying ethnic backgrounds, with The Voice Australia having two out of four non-Anglo judges.
All of these shows are considered popular and high rating, so why aren’t other programs following their good example? Most Australian soaps include very few non-Anglo characters, and it can be seen that nearly all of the extras in these shows are white – overwhelmingly in the case of policemen and doctors. This is also the case with prime time news, where the news reporters (especially on the desk) are unequivocally anglo.
So why are viewers accepting of the ‘visibly different’ in some areas, and not others?
In class this week when we aimed to come up with the ways in which Australia is multicultural, and the ways in which it shares in the cultures of others, only two examples came up. Food and entertainment.
It could be theorised that Australians are all for ‘multiculturalism’ … when it comes to eating the cuisine of another culture, or watching their cultural performances and arts. But that is the extent to which the majority of our country wishes to partake in multiculturalism. We don’t want hear about your beliefs and values, or see you practising your religion. We don’t want to learn about the history of where you come from, or how you see the world.
But please, make sure we can still get chinese food on Friday nights, and take the occasional “belly-dancing” class.