Thursday, 22 September 2011

Comedy of manners actually goes easy on Gillard

At Home With Julia has its supporters and its detractors. The ABC comedy has copped flak from those who say such a program would never have been made about a male prime minister and these people tend to fly off the handle pretty sharply when they criticise the show. Supporters guffaw, snicker and chortle happily. What noone has said in my proximity is that the show - especially in episodes one and two - goes really easy on the prime minister, who turns out to be a bit clueless, a career politician, and well-liked by everyone. And so I chose this image to accompany my post. It shows Gillard making a triumphant entrace to her scheduled appearance as Tim Mathieson's mannequin at a school hall in front of a crowd of Muslim voters. The triumph stems from the fact that she has negotiated suburban Canberra effectively even, at one stage, taking advantage of an offer of clothing from a dead-set bogan chick who felt sorry seeing her running around the burbs dressed in a pink dressing gown. Due to funding cuts Gillard had got locked in the bathroom at the Lodge and had escaped by climbing out the window.

In those first two episodes it's Mathieson who is the stand-up guy as Gillard blithely puts her career first whenever a conflict appears between spending time with her boyfriend and looking after government business. The highlight of this charade comes when the three Independents come to dinner at the Lodge and start making unreasonable demands of the cook. Mathieson eventually cracks and tells off the three men. Gillard just keeps going, making sure her guests are happy - at Matthieson's expense. They are happy with her - as is everyone else, even the girl who gives Gillard a set of clothes from her own closet.

Episode three offers a bit of a change and features Gillard and Mathieson doing the nasty on the rug in the office at Parliament House. Instead of using a sheet they cover themselves with the flag from behind Gillard's desk. As if this scene were a bit much for the average punter to take, in this episode Gillard ends up alone cleaning dog piss off her leg after Mathieson leaves. "I'll call you," are his last words before exiting. But the reason for his disappointment is poor mobile phone reception - Mathieson thought Gillard said 'Yes' to a proposal of marriage and Gillard thought Mathieson said 'Yes' to an offer of a cushy government sinecure.

I think the reason the program got made is not due to disrespect for a woman in a position of high office. Rather, it's a reflection of the surprise felt by Australians that they had done something so audacious. Electing a single woman to lead the country turned out to be headline news in the US and the UK. The show is not an attempt to pull Gillard down a peg or two. Instead it is a piece of self-criticism aimed at the electorate itself, an attempt to play down the importance of the fact with a bit of familiar laughter. More like the admiring nudges given to a stand-out performer at a school prize-giving than an attack on Gillard's self respect.

As for the Liberals getting hot about sex in the prime ministerial chambers, they will do anything to have a crack at the ABC. It's run by socialists, after all.

No comments: