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

‘Infinity Problem’- By Danielle Kate

there’s an infinity problem.

spherical in it’s physical essence yet it is everyone that has a

bitter longing for superficial happiness, tears glisten like glitter

love me, paint me on a golden pedestal worship me as you fall

in endless pits of misery. continuous misery of human inadequacy but

devote your soul to me and take the distorted reflection into your hands

see the reflection of society burning a hole in your mind. eyes dance around you

from your very own hands and you take the knife of plastic, and mimic the

images of a damaged world. paint over me and create your own masterpiece

of an eternal loneliness of perfect imperfection of loss, of failings, of being flawed.

whisper the hated words as you love me, hate me, try to be me.

spin around down the hole of despair of never being satisfied, always wanting more

never being enough – continuous misery.

plaster me on your walls.

stare up and worship me.

 


Words by Danielle Kate

Danielle Kate is a caffeine-dependent life form who occasionally writes and does art. You can catch more of her @daniellekstafford on Instagram.

Photo by Sid Verma on Unsplash

 

socially [un]acceptable

Laura Desmond is challenging the barriers of “acceptable” assault in her one-woman show, socially [un]acceptable. In a performance which is not for the faint of heart, but is definitely something everyone should hear, Desmond recounts personal experiences of sexual assault and the misguided “societal norms” that allowed these events to take place. She asks the question many people have asked, but still remains prevalent in today’s society: How many times do you have to say no for someone to accept that you don’t consent? What else signals a lack of consent – crying, body language, physically moving yourself? She examines the power of guilt and the mistaken yet common notion of “owing someone”, as well as the need for ongoing consent within a long-term relationship. The primary focus of her show is to shine a light on the normalisation and social acceptance of these murky-territory assaults – the circumstances where you didn’t necessarily scream “NO!” and run away; where you knew the person who assaulted you; or where your choices were taken away from you.

Desmond’s performance is raw, powerful and thought-provoking; it is something that will get you talking and stay with you long after the end of her act. She gets angry, she gets sad, and she gets hopeful for the future: that her own daughter won’t have to do a one-woman show to illustrate consent one day. She’s ready to do her part to revolutionise “socially acceptable” assault – are you?

 


Words by Kirsty van der Veer

Four stars

socially [un]acceptable is playing at the Bally at Gluttony February 23-24, February 26-March 3. Tickets available here.

Israel’s Eurovision Win is Problematic But So is Attacking a Musician

There’s no denying that this year’s Eurovision winner is a controversial one. While some fans argue that politics have no place in the annual song contest, others have voiced their outrage that a nation currently committing human rights atrocities is now slated to host the competition in 2019. The conflict between the Israeli government and the State of Palestine is an important international issue and one that should not be brushed over, even when it comes to something like a glitzy, light-hearted song contest.

Eurovision is definitely not free from politics. Examples like Finnish singer Kristia Siegfrid kissing one of her female dancers in 2013 to protest a lack of same-sex marriage legislation, to Armenian group Genealogy calling for international recognition of the Armenian genocide in their song entry in 2015, show that Eurovision is no stranger to political performance.This year was no exception when it came to politically themed songs. French entrant Madame Monsieur’s song ‘Mercy’ told the story of a refugee child born on a humanitarian ship. Italian duo Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro sang an anti-war song about international wars and terrorism. And Danish viking acapella group Rasmussen sang about non-violence and Magnus Erlendsson, a viking who refused to fight in battle. Other politically charged moments included the depiction of a gay couple dancing in Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s song ‘Together’ (Ireland), and Lea Sirk’s empowering song ‘Hvala, ne!’ (Slovenia). Even the winning song ‘Toy’ advocated to stop bullying. Oh, and let’s not forget the protestor who got up on stage during the final and snatched the microphone from UK singer SuRie.

Political and social issues are the bread and butter of arts and culture. We create art that reflects our beliefs and concerns about the world around us. We cannot separate music, or any art form, from world politics or social issues. So what does this mean for this year’s winning contestant and, more importantly, what should we – the viewers – think about this?

I’m going to take a page out of fellow Adelaide writer Taeghan Buggy’s book and say that we, as consumers of art and media, have an ethical responsibility. In the same way that we should call out sexual abuse in media, we should also voice our concerns about the social and political implications of Eurovision. Already there is a fair amount of debate about who should be allowed, and who should be disqualified, from participating in the contest. Russia was banned from Eurovision in 2017 and many people have a lot to say about letting Australia and Israel compete despite not being part of Europe.

Israel’s participation is problematic on two levels. The lesser is that Israel is not a part of Europe, but we can easily overlook this. But the second, harder to swallow issue, is that Israel is a nation with terms like ‘apartheid’, ‘militancy’ and even ‘genocide’ attached to its reputation. And not without due cause. If Eurovision was willing to bar Russia from entering the competition last year because of its problematic relationship with the then host nation, Ukraine, wouldn’t it be equally appropriate to bar Israel from competing at all considering its own issues?

Where do we draw the line for who can and cannot compete? Should nations engaged in conflicts either on an international or internal level be barred from the competition? Or should we, as many fans argue, leave politics at the door and just enjoy some good music?

There is no easy answer to this and in many ways I am something of a fence-sitter. On the one hand, I do believe that nations that are perpetrating acts of violence and persecution should be held accountable by the media, including popular media like Eurovision. But on the other hand I don’t think that we should judge artists by the actions of their government. Eurovision holds an important place in the European arts world and all musicians should have the right to perform. I also think that our feelings about certain nations should not be used as fuel for abuse towards artists from that country.

Israel’s contestant Netta has had a lot of abuse thrown at her through social media since the very moment she was named the winner of Eurovision 2018. Following the #Eurovision tag on Twitter this morning it was clear that three main types of insult were made against Netta. The first, and most prevalent, was that she represented a nation with a deplorable human rights record and was, therefore, unworthy of winning Eurovision.

The second, and also predictable, response was calling Netta out for her appearance. A great deal of hostility surrounded Netta’s weight and general appearance, which was at odds with most of the other female contestants. She’s a bigger woman and at the very end of the voting she was neck and neck for the title with the ‘conventionally’ attractive Eleni Foureira from Cyprus. Naturally, plenty of Eurovision fans started calling Netta every fat-shaming term in the book, from ‘cow’ to ‘fat bitch’ and all the variations in-between. The last form of insult was calling her ‘chicken girl’ or posting pictures of plump chickens to represent her – a jab at her clucking sounds throughout her song.

While I personally find Israel’s win problematic because of the atrocities taking place against the State of Palestine I am never for attacking Netta as an artist and a human being. There is no moment in any circumstance where fat-shaming should be considered acceptable. Personal attacks on any artist, any human being, is incredibly distasteful. Not only that, but it does nothing to bolster an argument. If anything, it does the opposite. So, by all means get riled up about Israel hosting next year, start a discussion on whether or not Eurovision should allow a problematic country to not only compete but host, but don’t degrade your legitimate arguments with juvenile attacks on Netta’s appearance.

In many ways I can see the appeal of having Netta as the winner of Eurovision because she doesn’t fit into the traditional mould of a female Eurovision performer. She stands out not only because she isn’t conventionally attractive (read– thin), but because she has a strong stage presence that relies on her strength of character, her no-bullshit attitude and a playful demeanour rather than cheap stock-and-standard sex appeal.

I won’t say that Netta herself isn’t problematic– the arguments about appropriating Japanese culture are definitely worth voicing – but on the whole I think we can safely say that she does not warrant the slew of venom aimed at her by the media.

She represented Israel – doesn’t that make her complicit to the country’s current problems? If she was opposed to Israel’s current social and political stance towards the State of Palestine wouldn’t she refuse to compete under Israel’s banner? I won’t purport to know enough about Netta to know the ins and outs of her political leanings. For all I know she might be a supporter of Israel’s militant behaviour. But whether she is or not has no bearing in my feelings about Israel’s win.

A musician is not a government body. Musicians and artists are not the ones on the forefront of violent or military action. We should not direct our anger at a singular musician, regardless of whatever her views might be. We should be angry about the lawmakers who make apartheid and militancy possible.

We can celebrate Netta’s win because she has earned her trophy. She gave a strong performance (though clucking is perhaps not to my taste) and won the popular vote. There’s no use squabbling about how the whole thing might be rigged, or how the voting system is a mess. At the end of the day Netta has won Eurovision and there’s nothing we fans can do about it.

Does that mean we should just be happy about Eurovision going to Israel next year? Of course not. The host country has a lot to answer for and we have every right to boycott the competition if we wish. But let Netta have her victory, not as a representative of Israel but as a musician who has worked hard to perform on the stage of Europe’s biggest music competition. As human beings we owe her that much at least.


Photo: Andres Putting via Eurovision.tv

Words by Lisandra Linde

Lisandra Linde is an Adelaide-based writer of fantasy and creative nonfiction. She tweets at @KrestianLullaby

The Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay

 

The Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay is an exhibit I have been excited to see ever since it was announced late last year. Having studied the impressionists in high school and hearing that familiar names and works would be in little old Adelaide was such an exciting prospect. And unlike a lot of the things I studied in school, they made an impression on me. Familiar names such as Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Morisot, Renoir, and Cézanne had my heart in a flutter. All artists whose work I never expected to have the opportunity to see, particularly not here in Adelaide.

The Colours of Impressionism is a major exhibition, one of the biggest to come to the Art Gallery of South Australia, featuring 65 paintings from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The exhibition tells the story of the evolution of colour throughout the French Impressionist movement of the 19th century.

The French Impressionist movement is one of the most famous artistic movements as it shows the turn from traditional art (which valued realism) towards modern art. Impressionism was revolutionary and led artists to question whether the purpose of art was to produce true and accurate depictions or to produce something which could be enjoyed by all.

When I am in an art gallery I always opt to wander rather than have a guided tour as I enjoy the freedom in lingering by each piece as long as I like. Seeing this exhibition was no different. It was exciting to see so many pieces that were both familiar and others which were not.

For someone unfamiliar with the movement, the display is quite comprehensive and explains everything you need to know about the works you are viewing and the movement they encompass. Information on the movement and the pieces is printed on the walls. You don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy the exhibit.

Impressionism is about capturing the effect of light. This means that the same scene might have been painted on various occasions at different points in the day. It is characterised by small, visible brush strokes and paintings that capture nature and the every-day, giving it a sense of realism. I mentioned earlier that the movement was revolutionary. During this period the range of colours and pigments available for paint was expanding, encouraging artists to experiment in new ways and produce new works focused on colour instead of conforming to the Academy.

The exhibition’s focus on colour is well represented from room to room. It began with the dark, sombre tones which carried over from realism, and moved towards the bright, neons of neo-impressionism and modernist movements such as fauvism.

I would highly recommend checking out the exhibition if you’re in the city, particularly if you have an interest in art-history. The beauty of impressionism is that is breaks away from the idea that art must be entirely realistic. Impressionism provides an impression of a scene or moment without adhering to the strictures of realism.
The exhibit will be showing at the Art Gallery of South Australia until July 29th 2018 and tickets can be purchased at both gallery or online.

 

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Our Giddy Aunts: Queer Readings of Mentors in Children’s Fantasy Fiction

With the recent revelation that Dumbledore, our favourite gay wizard, won’t be all that gay in the next Fantastic Beasts movie, I think it’s fair to say that the tide has finally turned; J. K. Rowling’s table-scrap representation is no longer enough. Readers are no longer satisfied with post publication declarations that an unaddressed, unimportant character might have been Jewish or something. This is not effective or accurate representation.

The thing we should keep in mind, however, is that J. K. Rowling wasn’t brave or unique in codifying Dumbledore’s queerness. She was just tapping into an unconscious trope that has been in children’s fantasy fiction since the very beginning.

Explicit queerness in children’s fiction is relatively new. The conscious and unconscious link of homosexuality and sex is an old and tough link to break, and is even tougher to get past a gatekeeping adult public. Children are not in charge of what gets published; adults are. It is these gatekeepers that are as capable as being whipped into a panic – like the one that saw the demise of the Safe Schools program – that decide whether or not queer characters see any representation in children’s fiction. Forgetting, of course, that children’s fiction is all about characters just like the bullied queer kids of real life. Children’s fiction is all about the ‘other’.

Children’s fantasy is filled with ‘others’, like Ged from Earthsea, Morrigan Crow from the Nevermoor series, or the inescapable example Harry Potter. Then there are those who might be completely of the ‘normal’, but find themselves feeling like ‘others’ because they’re in an entirely new world, such as the queer icon Dorothy in Oz, the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Alice of Alice in Wonderland.

It’s not uncommon for children to feel this way about themselves – approximately 1 in 4 children reported being bullied at school in 2009. This is particularly key for children who may be struggling with sexuality or gender, feeling different for a reason poorly explored in the fiction around them.

Even without bullying, growing up is difficult, and the process of changing from child into adult is a metamorphosis that overwhelms even the best of us. It is here that books become a key in figuring ourselves out through sympathy and empathy, relating our feelings of ‘otherness’ with those on the page.

These ‘others’ find themselves in places and situations that are impossible to the uninitiated. They require guidance and teaching to understand their otherness. In real life we have our parents to fulfil these roles. But it’s usually the case in fiction that these characters that give guidance don’t have the familial attachment of ‘parent’. They are the tertiary adults, who fulfil the role of parent without the prejudice and judgement that entails.

Perhaps it’s just that writers have bad relationships with their parents, but rarely – if ever – does the most important guidance required to see these characters through to the end of the narrative come from parents. It might be because the characters are orphans, or the parents are absent – both of these tropes are mainstays of the genre. Fiction for children lends itself well to wise older characters, because children’s fiction is filled with outsiders needing guidance, yet it seems that when parents are present, children don’t go on adventures.

Who does this leave? Teachers. Old women. Grandparents. Distant relatives. In many cultures, they all fall under the same word. It may have fallen out of fashion now, but that categorisation applies in English too – in short, we’re talking about aunts and uncles, informal or otherwise.

What better word is there for the adults that assume the role of parent in the absence of parent? There are honorary aunts and uncles abound in the real world. Why not in imagined worlds?

The word ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ does not denote responsibility per se, but it does open the possibility of care. An aunt or an uncle is usually a temporary presence, but with opinions and power the same as any parent. In real life, as in fiction, an orphaned child might find themselves with an aunt or uncle.

The concept of gay aunts and uncles is not a particular new or interesting idea. It is a prevailing theory as to why homosexuality hasn’t been bred out of any population. In fiction, their presence mirrors the real world. If queer people exist to support the lives of children, then more than a few of the children supported in fiction get a little help from their queer aunts and uncles.

Children’s fiction is – for obvious reasons – devoid of sex. The only evidence that anyone has sex in the sanitised world of children’s fiction is the children themselves. This is not to say that the world of children’s fiction is devoid of sexuality – adults may be partnered, children may (and often do) have love interests, and male/female pairings are often implied by proximity.

If there’s any more egregious display of enforced sexuality, it’s in old fashioned children’s fiction. It creates love interests by convenience and proximity by pairing the nearest boy (of similar age) to the nearest girl. It’s not just something applied to the children in children’s fiction, either, but adult framed love isn’t integral to children’s fiction. Indeed, love interests aren’t key to children’s fiction at all. Alice, for example, had no need for love interests.

However, in a world where characters have enforced romantic inclinations, what happens where there is an absence of romance? What happens when a character that could easily have a heterosexual partnering – and has a convenient and proximate heterosexual partner – has none? Why are perfectly loveable characters single?

This happens frequently in children’s fiction because it’s not necessary to explore adult feelings. But adults reading children’s fiction can’t help but wonder about the inner lives of characters. Who does Dumbledore love?

The absence of relationships is as questionable as the presence of them, because for a long time, representation of any queer characters – happy ones, anyway – was illegal.

The absence of relationships isn’t the only evidence, of possible queerness. The circumstantial evidence is as varied as it is flimsy, but it’s no less flimsy than a knowing glance between two Valkyries in 2017’s Thor Ragnarok. Queer people have been forced to see representation where there’s questionable evidence and word of God for decades. Who would have known that Mrs. Danvers was apparently a lesbian without this handy Wikipedia article?

Fiction is filled with flamboyant bachelor uncles, and interesting albeit reserved bachelorette aunts. Flamboyance and extravagance are stereotypes now, but in previous years they could be seen as cultural markers. Dumbledore was extravagant and weird. What is flamboyant if not a bird that catches fire? Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci and Howl, though both textually heterosexual, were both flamboyant and extravagant in an era when the term metrosexual was uninvented. In the Nevermoor series from Jessica Townsend, we have the extravagant flouter of rules, Jupiter North. These are, of course, male stereotypes. The female stereotypes are little murkier.

The maiden aunt trope is one based in reality, and one that is replicated in many children’s narratives. When healthcare for women started becoming a Thing, so was Incredibly Deadly War, leaving many women widowed or without husband. How many of these women were happy to do without we will never know, but their presence has endured in fiction, even outside of the realm of children’s fiction. The Austen novels are nothing without their maiden aunts.

Of course, many of these women – in real life at least – lead unpartnered lives as wholesome heterosexuals. But there are innumerable queer women who would have found this arrangement invigorating, either because they preferred the same sex or preferred no partnership whatsoever. The maiden aunt could be seen as a miserable character, or they could just as easily be fulfilled and happy without a man.

Outsiders in their own worlds, they provide an anchor for ‘others’. These flamboyant uncles or interesting aunts provide a glimpse into the future for characters that are otherwise incapable of imagining a future as an ‘other’.

In real life, the adults we see as children are the adults we believe we can become. The most normal of which are usually our parents, and possibly our grandparents. If our families are large, we might see a deviation from the parental norm through our extended relatives – our aunts and uncle, our cousins and niblings, adults that don’t need to exist in a nuclear family unit to be happy and healthy adults.

When J. K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay in 2007, there was a short silence and then burst of applause at Carnegie Hall. Applause for representation? Or an acknowledgement of something that has always been there?


Words by Mark Tripodi

Mark is a writer and comedian. He is a host on Radio Adelaide’s Pride and Prejudice and The Range. He also hosts The Piecast.

‘We Are Born, Then Manufactured’- Poems by Leeza von Alpen

We are born, then manufactured

how peculiar it is

that magazines tell me

how I should be a woman

when I was not born

with crossed legs

and hairless arms

and cherry lips

and peculiar still

is that these magazines

never think to mention

how much money

we would all save

(and corporations would lose)

if we all decided

not to starve ourselves

to fatten another’s wallet

if we all decided

we were our own

definition of beautiful

yes

how peculiar

it is to me

that we are born

and then manufactured

and made to be

each other’s

competition

rather than sisters;

how peculiar still

it is to me

that in the animal kingdom

males attract the females

with bright colours

and dances

and the females

are with choice

but in our world

these decisions are reversed

despite that we

are still animals

when it comes to

clawing at our

imperfections

and to be found appealing

I must paint myself

and preen myself

to even get a second glance

because when people look

at you

they do not see

your beautiful mind

or your hard work

or your won battles

or your laughter;

they see skin and

they do not see a soul

and this is what

they are told

to look for

and I will forever find it peculiar

that magazines tell me

how I should,

as a woman,

dress in my own skin.

____

I’ll wear the words on my skin

 

I’ll wear the words on my skin

in my honeyed smile

through the gentle graze

of my fingertips

against your skin;

tracing the veins on your wrist

in a meek attempt

to hint at hand-holding.

in my creased eyes

and open arms.

I’ll wear the words on my skin

because I tremble at the thought

of voicing the phrase aloud too often;

of wearing out the syllables;

fraying its fabric,

like my favourite jumper

holey and faded

from being worn countless times;

so I’ll wear them on my skin

like peaceful war paint

to show that I’ll fight for you

oh, yes

I’ll wear them until

I wear them out

because what we do

speaks louder

than anything

we could ever say

  I love you —

 


Words by Leeza von Alpen

Leeza HeadshotLeeza is a writer and poet (both written and slam), and an English and History high school teacher. In her spare time, she treks through rainforests and star watches. She loves paperbacks, Hayao Miyazaki movies with milkless tea, and puns. You can follow her on Twitter@leezajayde and Instagram @leezajaydepoetry