Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm definitely senile, I find myself almost agreeing with Germs!

Germs pans Baz's "Australia".

Once upon a time in a land, far, far away
By twisting history, garbling geography and glossing over the appalling exploitation of Aboriginal workers, Baz Luhrmann's film Australia bears more relation to fairytale than fact, argues Germaine Greer
Greer says:
Drovers are not ranch-hands, as some American reviewers of the film have assumed, but independent contractors. A drover charged with taking 2,000 head from a station in the Kimberley, Western Australia, to Darwin, in the Northern Territory, would have recruited sufficient riders from the neighbouring Aboriginal camps to be sure of keeping the mob under control. The women would not have shaved their heads so as to pass for men, as Australia's script asserts; they would simply have worn men's clothing, and bound their breasts with strips of calico, less for modesty than for comfort. In a rare flash of reality, as Drover (Jackman's character) is driving Lady Sarah Ashley - an Englishwoman played by Nicole Kidman, who has travelled to Australia to track down her wayward husband and inspect her property - an Aboriginal girl jumps on the running board of the truck and gives him a kiss. Any red-blooded man would find her more attractive than stitched-up Lady Sarah, and Drover doesn't appear at that stage to be an exception. Some white drivers of the road-trains that are now used to shift cattle across Australia still consider themselves entitled to sexual favours from underage Aboriginal girls.
Read Germaine's piece in the Guardian here.

I'd appreciate any input on the information on Aboriginal life in the olden days given by Germs. (I know a bit about it, but not really enough to comment on all of it.)

Now. Should I retract my earlier criticisms of Germs?

Nah. One swallow does not Spring make.

(or whatever the hell that truism is)

UPDATE: Oh, this is crap, the bold bit:
No attempt would have been made to educate Nullah or his mates. With his own people he would have spoken "language"; with whitefellas, pidgin, nowadays called kriol, a rudimentary language specially devised by the colonialists for top-down communication. Unforgivably, Luhrmann has Nullah express himself in a cutesified stage version of pidgin. Nullah has no community beyond his mother and his grandfather and uncle, King George. He loses his mother, in an astonishingly contrived piece of business, so that he can follow the higher destiny of bringing two white folks together in their shared love of him. If white Australians had shown parental feeling towards mixed-race children, generations of them would not have had to be removed from Aboriginal communities by successive governments. Lady Sarah is no more likely to raise Nullah herself than she is to do her own housework, which is done for her by an older Aboriginal woman given the contemptuous whitefella name of Bandy Legs. Though Bandy rode alongside Mrs Boss when they drove the cattle to Darwin and did at least as well as she, it's back to the kitchen sink after that.
I'd like to point out to those who are unaware that after the government ruled that Aboriginal stockmen and station hands had to be paid a wage and not charged for accommocation and food is about when the whole Aboriginal social disaster started. Suddenly they were unemployed with nowhere to live. Sure, conditions were not ideal, but there was the steadying influence of a place to live, food to eat and (sorry to say it this way, not PC at all), the civilising and steadying influence of (most of) the western station owners/managers.

This is good:

Australia cost the Fox Corporation about $90m (£59m), minus a hefty tax rebate. The other $40m was contributed by the Australian Tourism Export Council, in the sanguine expectation that the film would do for Australian tourism what Schindler's List did for Kazimierz, the Jewish district of Krakow. Kimberley station owners were trying to cash in long before the film was finished. A mere A$2,950 (£1,290)will get you the Bindoola Experience Package, three nights at Home Valley Station, which was used for a cattle droving sequence. Other Gibb River Road resorts are following suit, all using the slogan "The Kimberley is the Star of Australia". However Carlton Hill Station, where the Faraway Downs homestead was built, is owned and operated by the Consolidated Agricultural Company and not open to the public. There is no desert between the Kimberley and Darwin, and no region in Australia called the Kuroman. Oh, and if you drive cattle through a desert they'll be in pretty poor condition when they get where they're going, if they get there at all. And they won't be droughtmasters, a breed of cattle that had yet to be developed in 1939. And Drover wouldn't be using an Oral B toothbrush.
Update III:
There's a reason for this (bolded), can you gues?
As well as money, a good deal of hope was invested in the stolen child's story as a narrative of reconciliation. The mixed-race boy connects his two inheritances, the white and the black, loves and respects Drover and Mrs Boss, and his grandfather King George, equally. How he will reconcile these irreconcilables is beyond the scope of any movie. Racism did not disappear when Drover made the publican let Magarri drink at the bar, or even when he made sure he was given a glass instead of a tin mug. Aborigines were still being served their drinks in plastic cups in the 1980s. Throughout the film alcohol is presented as enhancing every kind of human pursuit. The two alcoholics in the film are presented as sympathetic characters, and getting to drink with whitefellas has the status of a privilege. Langton has been agitating for the removal of alcohol from Aboriginal communities for more than 20 years, and yet cannot see that depicting access to alcohol as a privilege in a movie is pernicious. Luhrmann could have censored the alcohol motif; he certainly censored nicotine. Nobody in the film smokes, which quite obscures the crucial role played by tobacco in the enslavement of Australian Aborigines.
Yes, it's the same reason that you are no longer allowed to have glasses or glass containers at sporting matches.


bruce said...

"If white Australians had shown parental feeling towards mixed-race children..."

She means the absent white fathers. It's not an unreasonable point in what I take to be her overall complaint about a droving being seen by some as a way to sleep with lots of women on the road without responsibility. (But 50 years ago even milkmen were thought to have the same 'perks'!).

Still it's a gross oversimplification.

bruce said...

To a great extent the problem with Feminists including Greer is that their arguments are just those of old-fashioned Victorian prudes: women are always innocent angels, men wicked devils. If women have problems it's because wicked men tricked them.

Take that idea out of their arguments and you have a much more complex, more accurate picture.

Some aboriginal women were victims of their own relatives, or of some white men. But the majority received the best treatment available.

Some aboriginal men were ripped off by the system (I've heard a good case that WWII aboriginal soldiers did not get fair treatment after the war, when white men got given land they were ignored) but this has been corrected over time.

(I've no doubt it worked both ways too, and some white people were ripped off by aborigines.)

bruce said...

Here's a beautiful film which pulls no punches:

"Jila (Haines) is born to an Aboriginal mother and an Afghan father (who wins the sexual favour in bartering with the young woman's father) and spends her childhood influenced by both traditional tribal life and by her association with the Lutheran mission. When her mother dies, the child is reared by her father in strict Muslim tradition. When he wants to arrange her marriage to a Mullah, she rebels, and clings to the hope of being rescued by Johann (Aden Young), the young German her own age, with whom she went to mission school."