Saxing the Label

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports that a new BBC Channel 4 reality tv series will show footage of couples having sex (in a tasteful way and for educational purposes, of course), news.com.au brings us the tantalising tidbit that Gretel Killeen has dumped Saxon. The wonderful blog Ausculture (headline – “we suck so you don’t have to”) may seize the chance to revive their Graxon campaign, which kept me enthralled and amused during BB4’s run.

Australian reality tv has actually featured far less sex and coupling than some of the overseas originals. Much to the frustration of the producers of Big Brother Uncut.

I’ve often wondered if Australian reality tv says anything about us as a culture. Aside from the obvious – our real estate obsession. On shows like Survivor and BB, contestants have seemed more concerned with group belonging than the rampant competitive individualism of the American counterparts. And the Australian sense of humour has been on full display.

But things seem to have taken a nastier turn recently. Earlier episodes of Australian Idol were often exercises in voyeuristic and sadistic humiliation, and Gretel morphed at some point from mother hen to sarcastic “it’s all about me” celebrity. Do these trends in reality tv reflect something changing in our mores? I wonder…

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

If anyone’s wondering about the fast pace of my blogging recently, yes, I have exams to mark!

Peter Murphy
2022 years ago

How many left, Mark? Not that we’re complaining – we just want to know when the well will run dry. Top marks for creative procrastination!

Jess
2022 years ago

Awww, shucks. You’ve made me blush!

Perhaps our Graxon Campaign CAN be remodelled! We can start a media campaign to get ’em back together! Lord knows it was all about the media anyways!

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

No probs, Jess – being a long term BB addict, the discovery of Ausculture was a wonderful revelation, and I’ve happily kept reading along post BB madness…

Peter, have actually started. But thanks! I might be inspired to do a post on the best five terms made up in random order and vaguely relevant to the subject in response to the question – “According to Young, what are the five faces of oppression?”. You have to admire the ingenuity of the 90% of students who haven’t done the readings!

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

Oz idol was always into humiliation – a kind of celebration of the culture of the school bully. Watch Oz Idol and you can see Dicko say what you get into trouble saying if the teachers hear you.

I really hate that – and constant repetition and self referential playbacks.

Otherwise, its a great show (That’s not a sarcastic comment – it really has so much going for it that its a pity it has those bad features.)

For me Casey winning was as thrilling as Nicky Winmar lifting his St Kilda jumper and pointing to his body to tell the Collingwood hecklers that they were going to have to cope with the colour of his skin.

Amanda
2022 years ago

On shows like Survivor and BB, contestants have seemed more concerned with group belonging than the rampant competitive individualism of the American counterparts.

Did you mean Survivor, Mark? It is American. The Block perhaps?

Anyway on Survivor (to which I am pretty addicted, couldn’t really get into BB) on one hand they all talk about “playing the game” to justify (rightly IMHO) lying, cheating, manipulating etc but there is an equal or even stronger thread of trust being of the ultimate importance and betrayal a great sin. Even in series 9 or whatever we are into now where surely everyone knows how it works, not being straight with someone will bring righteous wrath upon you. Even if it is strategically sound. Rupert got the audience vote for $1 million after All Stars, not because he was a tactical genius and played the game well but because he was the cuddly everyman. They also get extremely emotional about belonging to their tribe.

So it is individualistic and competitive on that level but also reinforces those social mores, even when you’re “playing the game.”

I quite like Australian Idol but I go surfing when they show all the bad (intentionally or otherwise) prospective contestants. Makes me squirm, in a bad way.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Amanda, I was thinking of the Australian version of Survivor.

Nicholas, the most cringeworthy moment of Australian Idol was when a young woman chose to sing the Kasey Chambers song “You’re Not Pretty Enough” and Dicko grimaced throughout her performance and then launched into a tirade beginning “Not only are you not pretty enough…”, reducing her to tears.

Amanda
2022 years ago

Aust version of Survivor? Must have missed that one.

The “Not Pretty Enough” girl got the last laugh though becoming one of the “Unforgettables” who had their own mini competition.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I think it was in about 2001 or 2002, Amanda.

Glad to hear about the “Not Pretty Enough” girl!

Amanda
2022 years ago

Ah, OK. Those were my Lost Moscow Years.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Moscow was probably more interesting than watching ‘Australian Survivor’ – it was a bit of a disappointment probably because the contestants weren’t “nasty enough”!

Robert
2022 years ago

Mark Bahnisch a Big Brother fan? Wonders never cease!

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Yep, Rob – and a totally anti-Fryzie one! Still puzzling over whether the Monica intrusion was a set up. Extensive info in the archives over at Jess’ place – http://www.austculture.com!