Categories
Pop Culture

Australian drama slammed for racism

Image: iStock

CW: racism

Former actors from Australian hit drama, Neighbours have opened up about experiences of racism and homophobia.

Earlier this month, Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt made allegations of racism, homophobia and misogyny. They alleged that terms like “lil monkey” and “ni**er” were used. However, Herald Sun’s Rita Panahi claims that word was said by a person of colour quoting rap lyrics.

Wyatt has also accused cast of homophobia.

Sharon Johal, who had played Dipi Rebecchi, joined the chorus, claiming that she was a victim of “direct and indirect racism”.

In a lengthy statement given to Guardian Australia, Johal claimed she tried to “deny, bury and ultimately survive” racial abuse from unnamed colleagues.

She accused show’s production company, Fremantle of not taking real action to prevent further abuse.

Clanton claimed that when she called out yhe cast member for using the offensive word, another colleague would defend the accused. Allegedly, Clanton was also told to ‘take it somewhere else’ and that other cast members were getting ‘uncomfortable’.

The Guardian Australia reported that an unnamed cast member was removed after some racism incidents. The alleged offender was ordered to attend cultural sensitivity training.

 

Neighbours and diversity

When I first read about these accusations, I was shocked. In the past ten years (roughly), Neighbours has had a number of LGBTQ+ characters. And, unlike Home and Away, they didn’t have a gay character for one or two episodes.

Over the years, Neighbours has explored multiple issues facing LGBTQ and ethnic minority communities. In 2018, Neighbours featured the marriage of David Tenaka (Takaya Honda) and Aaron Brennan (Matt Wilson).

Neighbours has also had a number of people of colour. Episodes have explored issues like sexuality in Japanese culture, the Australia Day debate and Indian spirituality and meditation.

They have also fearured their first ever transgender character, Mackenzie Hargreaves. She’s been played by Georgie Stone. Stone became the youngest transgendender person in Australia to be granted the right to start puberty blockers.

Personally, as someone who watches Neighbours regularly, I find these allegations really disappointing. I mean, what’s the point? Have minorities just been used?

Enough virtue signalling. Time for proper action

If the allegations are true, I think there is something we can learn from the Neighbours controversy. It’s easy to fulfill a quota; have one or a few token people of colour, LGBTQ+ characters, employees, etc.

It’s another thing to combat discrimination. Every work place, including in the entertainment industry, should have zero tolerance for discrimination. Written policies should be in place stating what is and isn’t acceptable.

I also think that all allegations should be at least investigated before it becomes a major issue. No allegation of any form of abuse or discrimination should just be dismissed or downplayed. After an investigation, appropriate action should take place.

If your in Australia and this has brought up any issues for you, you can contact Lifeline: 13 11 14.

If you feel like you’ve been a victim of racism, you can contact the Australian Rights Commission.

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Cultural appropriation: a war no one can win

US funk, soul and pop singer, Bruno Mars was caught up in a cultural appropriation controversy earlier this year after he was accused of ‘appropriating’ African music. (Does this sound familiar? Wasn’t Elvis Presley condemned for a similar thing sixty or so years ago?). African American celebrities ended up coming to his aid.

Mars’ mother is Filipino and his father is Puerto Rican and Jewish.

To me, this proves that nobody can win the new aawar of cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is:

…the act of using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing you understand and respect this culture.

From further reading I’ve done, I think cultural appropriation is about power, especially the power that the British had for decades over African and indigenous peoples (Aboriginal Australians,  Native Americans, etc).

As I said above, this has become an unwinable culture war. It is seen as nothing more by many people as an encroachment of free speech and expression.

Representations

A frankly absurd new rule I’ve been hearing and reading about is don’t write about something about a minority that you aren’t part of. Now, this is encroachment of free speech and expression. People should be able to write about and from any perspective that they like! As long it doesn’t aim to portray negative stereotypes, (unless in the form of satire or black comedy), why shouldn’t they? Should I be able to write a novel about a Syrian refugee, even though I’m not one? Yes! But I’ll make sure that I researched the topic, made sure I didn’t undermine their experiences or stereotype them.

Writing and the arts in general often require a level of research, sometimes extensive. At times, actors work in certain fields to get real – life experience on what it’s like to do that job.

Then, there are representations of minority groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community. Sure, some shows have done a fairly poor job of it. One thing that has annoyed me in the past is when a character is allegedly LGBTQ+, but are in a sams – sex relationship only briefly and their same – sex relationship, or alleged attraction is never spokwn of again. Then, there are shows that porttay lesbian or bi women, but seem to appeal to straight men.

One show has done things differently is Channel Eleven’s Neighbours. In 2010, teenager Chris Pappas, (played by James Mason), came out as gay.

Since then, Neighbours has had other LGB characters: Steph Scully (Carla Bonner), who has dated men and women on the show and jas been outed as bisexual and David Tanaka (Takaya Honda) and Aaron Brenner (Matt Wilson), a gay couple.

Screenshot of David and Aaron from Neighbours

 

None of the actors (to my knowledge), are LGB, but the way Neighbours portray the LGB community I think should be commended.

Eight years since Pappas came out, many of Neighbours’ fans are eagerly waiting tor the marriage of Brennan and Tanaka, with comedian Magda Szubanski set to play their celebrant.

Negative stereotypes can be harmful. It’s important not to dehumanise others. However, people should be able to express themselves and write, act or other things without being  seen as nefarious.

What do you think of cultural appropriation and media representation of minorities in general? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.