The Hunting

Every now and then we are gifted with a piece of art that forces us to confront our biggest fears and society’s greatest misgivings and this is exactly what the Australian mini-series The Hunting has done. This four-part drama which aired on SBS last Thursday, follows the release of nude photos in two Adelaide high schools and the irreversible impact this has on the students, families, and educators. Closer Productions, a collective of accomplished Adelaide-based filmmakers, present an exploration of sexuality and its intersections with gender and culture, offering a complex and genuine portrayal of adolescent life in Australia.  Creators Sophie Hyde and Matthew Cormac, and directors Hyde and Ana Kokkinos have produced a compelling and intuitive series that doesn’t shy away from explicit themes.

In the opening scene we meet Zoe and Andy, played by Luca Sardelis and Alex Cusack respectively. Cybersex is the catalyst for the dramas that arise between these characters – betrayal and a breakdown of trust. Zoe and Andy stand as accurate, in-depth representations of how adolescents explore their sexuality, and the different pressure experienced as a result of masculinity and femininity. Alongside Zoe and Andy, we see Kavitha Anandasiyam play Amandip, a young Indian teenager, and Yazeed Daher play Nassim, a Lebanese teenage boy. Together these characters spark an exploration into the impact culture has on the sexual development of adolescents. Through the character of Amandip, audiences see how conflicting expectations between ethnic home life and wider Australian society generates a fear that leads to secrets, and secrets which create a gulf between parents and their children. Like many young people, Amandip is living two separate lives, both of which she understands, respects and wants to be a part of.

These young adults should be highly commended for their mature, layered performances; such brave and captivating portrayals show the reality of adolescent life in the 21st century.  Mirroring these teenage couples is a sexual relationship which develops between two teachers, played by Jessica De Gouw and Sam Reid. This relationship proves significant as it reflects how the gender constructions and sexual insecurities acquired in adolescence are carried into adulthood: present in the bedroom, the workplace, and nights spent at a bar swiping through Tinder.

The parental representation in The Hunting is diverse. There is everything from a progressive lesbian couple to conservative migrant parents to those who have a grave disconnect from the reality of their children’s lives. Because of these vast representations, every parent will find a way into this series. This production may also serve as a wakeup call, as it demonstrates how society as a collective has provided insufficient education around sex and sexuality to teenagers. There are gaps – no, potholes – in in the way we conceptualise and discuss sex, sexual identity, and relationships with our young people: these holes form when no institution, whether it be school or home, takes responsibility for thorough and wholistic sexual education. The result? Teenagers enter the infinite and unregulated world of the internet because they are naturally curious.

The Hunting doesn’t throw a blanket over all adolescents. It doesn’t paint them all as basic, angsty individuals, but as complex and inquisitive beings.  This show also doesn’t suggest that parents further discipline their children, regulate their behaviour, or keep their teenagers on a shorter leash. Instead, this show exposes the need to guide, educate, and form open, honest connections with young people in order to empower them to make smart decisions. This needs to be done in schools and at home. There is a need to educate about the power of their bodies and the effects of their actions in this virtual and tangible world that is often unforgiving. This education can’t be done with a whiteboard or a slideshow or by taking notes. This requires two-way conversations that are constructive, comprehensive, and tolerant.

I would like to finish by saying that I wish The Hunting existed when I was in my adolescence: a show that didn’t skip over the darker conflicts of teenage life and didn’t bury its head in the sand in regard to how teenagers interact with each other. I say this not only because I, like many, relate to the young people in this series, but because I believe it would have educated parents and teachers on the need to more effectively relate to young people; it would have started important conversations; and it would have been a means of showing the teenage experience without demonising the teenager.

Catch up on the first episode on SBS On Demand and tune in for Episode 2 on SBS Thursday 8:30pm.


Words by Michelle Wakim

The Secret History

The Secret History, published in 1992, is the debut novel of Donna Tartt. It’s written from the point of view of Richard Papen, the main character.

At the start of the story, Richard leaves his hometown in California to attend Hampden College, a college for wealthy, elite young adults. Having studied Ancient Greek in high school and loved it, he tries to enrol in the Ancient Greek class at Hampden but is told that it’s unlikely he’ll be accepted. This is because there’s only one Classics teacher who only accepts a limited number of students (five) for the Ancient Greek class, and the class is already full. But Richard manages to persuade the teacher, whose name is Julian Morrow, to let him join the class. Richard quickly finds that Julian is trying to breed intellectual elitism into his students.

Richard very quickly becomes fascinated by his classmates, who are each eccentric in their own unique way. They are also removed from the rest of the school population, and also have bizarre and slightly dangerous reputations, like the Greek scholars they’re trying to emulate. Richard becomes fascinated by two of the other students in particular: Henry Winter, an intelligent student who is the unofficial leader of the group; and Edward “Bunny” Corcoran, whose obnoxious and crass behaviour often causes tension. When Bunny discovers that the group (minus he and Richard) has murdered a stranger in their intellectual pursuits and strangeness gone wild, it’s Henry who proposes the they should kill him to keep him quiet.

And kill him they do.

Bunny’s murder is mentioned right at the start of the novel, so it’s not a typical whodunit story. It’s in fact an inverted detective story that delves into the reasons why Richard, Henry, and the other students kill Bunny, and how they deal the consequences.

The Secret History reminded me a lot of The Catcher in the Rye, mainly because Richard resembled, in my mind, Holden Caulfield. He’s not very trustworthy, often telling lies and creating excuses – traits that Holden possesses. But Richard does have a moral compass, shown when he experiences shock and guilt in his part of Bunny’s murder.

Richard and the other students also take drugs, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, and often don’t sleep unless they are incredibly sleep-deprived or have taken sleeping pills. Richard and Bunny are the only ones who are not rich and/or receiving trust fund payments.

You might think that I have a rather low opinion of The Secret History. But I actually have a high opinion of it. It’s really well-written. Tartt has a very conversational style, which I like. The dialogue is realistic as well, and there are good, lengthy descriptions of places, which I like. And even though most of the things Richard and the others do are questionable, they are fundamentally unique, each with their own personal history – they’re not just two-dimensional characters.

4/5


Words by Callum J. Jones

Photo by Dogancan Ozturan on Unsplash

IMG_0080Creative, honest, and reliable, Callum J. Jones loves writing fiction and non-fiction. In his spare time, he likes to read, watch movies and TV shows, and go on walks.

You can follow him on Facebook (@callum.j.jones.writer) and Twitter