Author Archive

‘I now pronounce you…’

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Before the advent of modernism at the turn of the 20th Century, narratives usually ended with an engagement, a wedding, or a death. The protagonists of the relatively new novel form would find themselves paired off at the altar, or suffering their own demise. This narrative move demonstrates the power of marriage as a kind of full stop, a solution, a smoothing-over, the point that a relationship should be headed, even if it may fail on the way. It’s significant that although writers have since cast aside marriage as the standard form of plot resolution, marriage itself still remains a potent cultural force in the 21st century.

I want to make it clear that I’m talking about a Western cultural understanding of marriage, which over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries has become a predominantly secular affair, where subjects are able to freely choose their own spouses, and virginity and chastity are no longer prerequisites. This is based on current marriage trends, although there will always be specificities and areas of difference. It’s also important to recognise that the concept of marriage has an array of different meanings and traditions in other cultures, both secular and religious, which are far too vast for me to even attempt to discuss here.

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Valley of the Dolls

Friday, October 19th, 2012

I’ll admit that I giggled when Miley cut her hair and her twitter fan said she looked butch. I laughed when Britney went loco and shaved it all off. Hair seems to be the number one method of rebellion for the Disney starlets, this host of young women who grow up in front of the camera with overly white smiles and innocent girlish good-looks (often dimples), and then completely implode in the most public way possible.  Yes, of course, these girls seek out stardom, and there will always be young kids who will do anything to get on TV or have their fame moment online, particularly now in this image-saturated techno age. And there will always be parents who will push their child from the moment they can walk to be a triple singing-dancing-acting threat. But what really intrigues/confuses me is this idea of the spectacle itself, the way in which there is an intense focus placed on these young women as they mature from kids to teenagers to young adults:  it’s a coming-of-age that comes with a side of anti-depressants and multiple rehab trips – but it serves as global entertainment – whether it’s taking place on the Disney set, or through leaked grainy mobile bra pics and indiscretions at the Chateau Marmont.

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The Boys from Oz

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Australians have a history of distrust with the suburban space. It’s one that I think is far more ingrained than the ongoing American preoccupation with the suburbs. The abjection, otherness, decay and concealed violence of the suburban space, and the affect this space has on the Australian male, is an important part of the Australian imaginary. This is evident with the continuous repetition of these themes, particularly criminality and violence, in a whole host of recent films:  Wish You Were Here (2012), Snowtown (2011), Animal Kingdom (2010), Somersault (2004), The Boys (1998) and Head On (1998).

I’ve chosen to talk about The Boys and Animal Kingdom because I think that they offer a distinct and unique portrayal of masculinity: one that is on the borderline, in between the public and private, criminality and legality, contained in an uncanny domestic space. The everyday suburban space is ruptured, undone and exposed as an unsettling site for a stifling and childlike male development, categorised by violence and the need to return to the maternal. This is the common trope in Australian domestic cinema ‘which finds expression in a distorted reflection akin to a hall of mirrors; each person staring back is undoubtedly familiar, but is in some way simultaneously emphasised, concealed and misshapen.’ (Thomas and Gillard, Metro Magazine, 2003)

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