Australian art, and Americans who don't understand it
November 24, 2020 6:19 AM   Subscribe

The Uncanny Valley of Culture "This article contains spoilers for Necrobarista (2020) and The Dressmaker (2015). The Dressmaker is kind of a banger of a movie so I recommend checking it out if you got the time. Necrobarista is pretty good too, but I’m biased on that one." "Hello! Today we’re gonna talk about the stifling effects of American cultural imperialism on popular media across the world, and why creators in colonial countries feel creatively asphyxiated. Strap in."

I'm very American, so there may be a good bit I missed from the article. It seemed to me like a straightforward, reasonable complaint.

I've seen The Dressmaker and thought it was pretty good, but it didn't make a big impression on me.

Back in the 90s, I was reading rec.arts.sf.written, and I came to the conclusion that if someone seemed like a troll but didn't feel like a troll, they were Australian. It seemed as though they insulted people as a way of saying hello. There were also Australians who seemed very formal and polite. Maybe they were kidding, maybe they just didn't fit in their mainstream culture.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz (47 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's an interesting point, but it's hard to reconcile it with the view from Canada, where our most successful cultural exports to America tend to be ones where things get a little weird -- Trailer Park Boys, Letterkenny, even Schitt's Creek. The more straightforward American-like media doesn't seem to find as much love and attention. Maybe Australia is too weird or Canada just isn't weird enough?
posted by jacquilynne at 6:42 AM on November 24, 2020 [7 favorites]


Very interesting, as someone who moved to the US about ten years ago from an English-speaking country that nonetheless reads as "foreign" to Americans (India). The influence of American culture was strong there, but we also imported a lot of British humor / sarcasm. Particularly, this tweet linked in the article stood out to me - somewhere along the way I stopped interpreting those statements like the British people do and started interpreting them more like the Americans (much more literally). Mostly because Americans would generally react with befuddlement or sincere confusion when I got sarcastic with them. Ack, I think I preferred my sarcastic version.
posted by peacheater at 6:52 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


Yeah I was all set to empathize with being smothered by American culture (because in Canada we’re fucking CHOKING on it) but they lost me right at the start:

In the critical sphere, it was controversial, but American reviewers in particular — an overrepresented category — hated it.
“Quirky overkill,” said Rolling Stone’s critic. “Wonkily uneven,” wrote The Star.


The Star? The Toronto Star?
I feel like you don’t get to be all precious about Americans not understanding you if you don’t even care who the not-Americans are.
posted by chococat at 6:56 AM on November 24, 2020 [23 favorites]


The list of British vs American interpretations was funny, and I'm sure there are sayings that ae cultually specific that everyone knows is sarcastic (same for "Bless your heart" from the Southern US). However, I do think that its really just the ability to pick out sarcasm, which can be very very hard if it's someone from a different culture.
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:02 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


I watched The Dressmaker on Amazon, and though I liked it, I was a bit disappointed by how it turned out. This was not because of culture. It was because Amazon marketed it as a romantic comedy. I thought maybe I'd forgotten, so I just rewatched the trailer. Yup. Upbeat music, shots of Liam Hemsworth and Kate Winslet looking longingly at each other, quirky one-liners. I imagine if you went into a Wes Anderson movie expecting it to be a slasher film, you would also be disappointed, regardless of your nationality.
posted by pangolin party at 7:15 AM on November 24, 2020 [6 favorites]


I spent most of my childhood living in various parts of California, and something that I always found striking was how conversational dynamics shifted when Americans weren’t at the table.

America is large enough that these effects are felt between Americans.

I'm from New England, and we have a lot of the same sarcasm spoken of in this article. I moved to Los Angeles for about 2 years, and I repeatedly butted against people taking my (to me, very obvious) sarcasm as literal, and looking at me agog. I felt just as culturally different to Californians as I ever would to a Brit or an Aussie.
posted by explosion at 7:19 AM on November 24, 2020 [7 favorites]


Humor is context-dependent, so I guess I'm not surprised that a very Australian comedy by the author's own admission was not appreciated by people who don't understand the context.

Same with the video game reference. Like, I can see why non-Australians would misinterpret the postal code as a year (I would have made the same assumption). I suspect more than just Americans misinterpret it, too, but since we're such an overrepresented category, our reactions take on outsized importance. Honestly, the postal code as a way of establishing place strikes me as the sort of detail that is really going to only be understood and appreciated by a very specific group of people. If you're seeking understanding outside that group, you need to present detail that is more likely to be understood by a large audience who isn't familiar with the specifics of your particular cultural context. Like, maybe present the information on the outside of an envelope, so it is clear it is an address, not a date?

I'm reminded of the phrase "America and Great Britain: two countries separated by a common language".

Some things translate and some things don't. That isn't right or wrong. It just is.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 7:20 AM on November 24, 2020 [7 favorites]


explosion, yes! There is an informality to West Coast attitudes that, to my midwestern sensibility feels very forced and inauthentic. Or the self-centered aggression of a stereotypical New Yorker. Or the veneer of judging hospitality of white Southerners. Or. Or. Or.

That American culture is hegemonic is unquestionable but even within that hegemony is a great deal of variety.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 7:24 AM on November 24, 2020


That Brit/American chart reminded me of conversation in Japan, where if a businessman says "That's an interesting idea," he is probably thinking "When pigs fly." It's politeness, not sarcasm, that prompts his comment, but, still...

In my family and my circle of friends, sarcasm and irony reign supreme. I probably don't belong in America, if this article is to be trusted.
posted by kozad at 7:27 AM on November 24, 2020


The postal code thing looks like a year to me because there's no street address. I know there are estates and farms and such in Australia that just have a name and a postal code, but I would have assumed that an urban address would have street name and number to go with it. Then the whole thing would read as an address and not just a location and date. Location name / date is common in title cards.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:27 AM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


By "Americans", the article presumably doesn't mean literally people accultured within the United States, but rather international English-speaking audiences who can emulate a superficial Americanness as part of the bargain of accessing entertainment, in the way that anyone in the Anglosphere, whether they're from far north Queensland or the English Midlands or elsewhere, knows that high schools have rows of lockers and are associated with a significant event called the high school prom, or that "the feds" are the police (to the point that the word is used in British inner-city youth slang despite Britain not having anything recognisable as a federal system).
posted by acb at 7:31 AM on November 24, 2020 [6 favorites]


These are good observations, even if the writer lumps Canada, the US and Great Britain all together. Even outside of the dichotomy he draws, it's a sound point (I think)

If you’ve always lived inside the American cultural bubble, it can be hard to conceptualize the difficulties of creating media outside of that. When you’re part of the dominant culture, all media falls into one of two categories. It’s either Familiar — made for you, an English-speaking American, or people like you — or it’s steadfastly Foreign, made for people very much unlike you.

My quibble is that he is equating 'success' with 'success in the US.' If you watch not Us-ian TV or Film or listen to not US-ian music, you can find all the aesthetic satisfaction and diversion you might hope to find in a US production - sometimes even more. Here in Germany there are two groups that only exist (I think) in Germany but - if they were singing in english, would be very popular, "Deichkind" and "AnnenMayKantereit" Similarly there are movies that rarely make it to the US market that are every bit as satisfying, if you don't expect "Star Wars" .

What's a little complicated is that US entertainment is very refined, and at times there's no room in the conversation for not-US work. The interesting thing is how Netflix's voracious appetite for new series' has put this a bit on its head - series pop up that have nothing to do with the norms of how stories are told in US media. Like "Russian Doll" come on - that was brilliant and completely incomprehensible from a things that are totally Us-ian point of view. Formally it didn't fit, thematically it was too raw.

I find this healthy. Strange is good.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:32 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


The postal code thing looks like a year to me because there's no street address. I know there are estates and farms and such in Australia that just have a name and a postal code, but I would have assumed that an urban address would have street name and number to go with it

Australia did change its toll-free phone number prefix from 0800 or something to 1800 a few decades ago, with the effect (whether it was intended or otherwise) that our toll-free phone numbers now look authentically American. Perhaps if the cultural-export industry is worth enough, we can slap another digit onto our postcodes.
posted by acb at 7:33 AM on November 24, 2020


I'm sympathetic to a lot of this, though I don't know enough about video games to have an opinion about some of it. But, it's also true weird US films get treated very badly too. Boring, homogeneous media and distributors and critics who lack imagination are a problem for all English-speaking viewers. (Putting on my jerk hat: that nearly every bar in Australia, at least the south and east, is playing the shittiest American rock music at all times makes me a bit skeptical that cultural uniqueness adheres to national borders quite as precisely as one might imagine.)
posted by eotvos at 7:39 AM on November 24, 2020


The article gets a bit polemic at times, but I think the main point they're trying to make is that if you're creating something in English, at the end of the day the most influential judges of your work are going to be American, who will view it through an American lens. And it's likely that even people in your own culture are going to defer to the judgement of said Americans. For example, a bad review in the New York Times will probably have a negative effect on your local audience, even if a local newspaper said it was good. That's cultural imperialism at work. (Note that this is specific to things that use the English language.)
posted by destrius at 7:41 AM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


The postal code thing looks like a year to me because there's no street address.

What throws me is they put the post code after the country name:
The Terminal
Carlton, Victoria
Australia 3053
Nobody does that. They’ve gone and made it weird, and unless you’re very familiar with VIC postcodes, that 4 digit number could be anything, including a year.
A normal address puts it after the state:
The Terminal
Carlton, Victoria 3053
Australia
posted by zamboni at 7:42 AM on November 24, 2020 [8 favorites]


Or the veneer of judging hospitality of white Southerners.

Stricly speaking, you are not supposed to ask for anything, but if asked, you are also not supposed to refuse. It's all tone of voice and discreet facial cues and exhausting. I know this is not the thread for it, but the best thing about Covid is that the epic subtextual psychodrama that is my extended Virginia family Thanksgiving will be postponed until at least next year.
posted by thivaia at 7:46 AM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


My quibble is that he is equating 'success' with 'success in the US.'

That's perhaps fair from a perspective outside the US, though I'd suggest there is something really ugly about only US understandable productions becoming world wide hits, but its deeply disturbing and frustrating from my perspective within the US. Hell, it doesn't even take a story being from a different country to make it feel alien or ignorable to US audiences, if it comes from a part of the culture that's not regularly represented by big budget media, then it's liable to be considered "wrong" or uninteresting.

That's a major hurdle for anyone outside the dominant culture trying to tell a story that isn't the generic white norm. There are way too many people patting themselves on the back for there being PoC in superhero movies and the like, as if that's enough representation, inviting the minority neighbors over to play your games, but never even thinking of going to see what they might find enjoyable that you didn't know about. The problem ain't just Hollywood productions but lazy ass audiences too.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:50 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I don't want to derail the thread to being about internal US problems, just was pointing out how far the issue extends. The author's point is important enough without bringing in that extra baggage and it would only go against the essay to do so. So please carry on with non-US talk.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:15 AM on November 24, 2020


Yah, I sort of appreciate where the author is coming from, but mostly it drives me further to wish that people would stop throwing around national borders as good approximations of cultural borders.

I'm from Toronto, Canada. Now even within Canada, there's distinctions between English culture and French culture... oh yah and indigenous culture! But anyway, as a European Canadian I then have a certain relationship with American culture, but then as a member of the commonwealth I have a relationship with British culture as well. Maybe Australians have more of connection with Britain... except my mother's parents were English, and so what about a Chinese-Australian? Who wins?

Anyway, I'm also from a big city, and I've felt more at home in e.g. Berlin than I have in small towns. Except for that one small town I lived in (hi Field, BC!) where I really got along and there were lots of French Canadians.

And as a scientist, I pretty much feel at home anywhere in the world if I'm surrounded by scientists (except it gets a bit stifling when you're always on the same page, doesn't it?). Oh and as a father of two there's connections that I have that transcend geography and class, and I can watch films from e.g. Iran (A Separation) that affect me pretty viscerally. But of course, maybe I don't really *get* it... like the real *Iranian* meaning. Or maybe that movie isn't *really* Iranian, because it was a prestige drama for international audiences. Who cares.

So anyway, focusing so much on American this or Australian that wouldn't be worse than bad nomenclature if didn't also feed into nationalism and the commodification of culture. Maybe next time we feel inclined to say "I'm x, and this is why..." we should ask if x is not an identity that we have adopted due to the machinations of political and corporate powers that are happy to have us serve as tools of their design.
posted by Alex404 at 8:23 AM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


The 1950 Arthur Philips essay that coined the phrase "Cultural Cringe", linked at the bottom of the original post, is an interesting read. Philips makes some of the same points, more eloquently, but the context is English-language literature and the stultifying culture is England, not America (although with a shout-out to Moby Dick).

It does strike me that this is a situation that many cultural art movements have faced as they grapple with a larger and more established tradition. I feel like early American writers felt themselves to be in this place to one degree or another, at least until Walt Whitman blew the doors off the joint. Perhaps the distinction comes down to a certain American innate self-confidence in the quality of American culture. I've often seen personal self-confidence as a stereotypical quality of Australian culture (I'm not saying there is such a quality, just that's how I read the stereotypes, which maybe get coded as "brash" or something). On reflection, though, I'm not sure that "belief in the inherent merit, quality, and superiority of my own culture" is something that I associate with stereotypes of Australians in the same way that I definitely do with stereotypes of Americans.

This is a classic 19th-century Russian preoccupation as well, where writers like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are constantly setting up comparisons between new-fangled European culture, often represented by St Petersburg, and older, "authentic" Russian culture, often represented by Moscow. Russian literary language itself was arguably only invented earlier in that century by Alexander Pushkin, and part of project of Russian literature (as we see it today; eg the province of a tiny sliver of the populace educated in European traditions) was to figure out a way to negotiate between the two cultures.
posted by whir at 9:19 AM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


In the critical sphere, it was controversial, but American reviewers in particular — an overrepresented category — hated it.
“Quirky overkill,” said Rolling Stone’s critic. “Wonkily uneven,” wrote The Star.

The Star? The Toronto Star?
I feel like you don’t get to be all precious about Americans not understanding you if you don’t even care who the not-Americans are.


I was going to give them the benefit of the doubt - maybe there is an American paper called The Star? - but I googled and found the original review and it is, indeed, the Toronto Star.

Canadians are incensed by this because there is no better way to offend most Canadians than to imply they are just like their biggest neighbour. It's because we are a) really, really similar (truth hurts), but b) also different - kind of like Australians.

(Canadian spelling used unconsciously, of course - but Metafilter's spellcheck reminds me once again that I am not American.)
posted by jb at 9:20 AM on November 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


I'd suggest there is something really ugly about only US understandable productions becoming world wide hits, but its deeply disturbing and frustrating from my perspective within the US. Hell, it doesn't even take a story being from a different country to make it feel alien or ignorable to US audiences, if it comes from a part of the culture that's not regularly represented by big budget media, then it's liable to be considered "wrong" or uninteresting.

Japan probably counts as a culture that is regularly represented by (their own) big budget media, but I was thinking that there are world wide hits - like Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away that are decidedly un-American (and non-European/Anglo) in their world view. I also think about The Triplets of Belleville, which was not exactly a huge hit, but just as popular across the world as I expect a quiet drama set in rural Australia would be. (The Dressmaker doesn't exactly sound like a superhero movie type thing).
posted by jb at 9:30 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


There is an informality to West Coast attitudes that, to my midwestern sensibility feels very forced and inauthentic. Or the self-centered aggression of a stereotypical New Yorker. Or the veneer of judging hospitality of white Southerners. Or. Or. Or.

This is particularly funny to me, because I grew up in the South and the Midwest and would say that "polite but blatantly judging" is shared behavior of people from those two regions.

I don't really buy the uncanny valley argument. Shouldn't that also apply to NZ film/tv, which I assume is smaller than the Australian film industry but seems to be more successful in the US? (I'm basing this entirely off NZ being smaller, and my personally having seen way more movies and TV shows from NZ. But it does feel like NZ shows are more strongly represented on Netflix, Amazon prime, etc.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:54 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


I feel like you don’t get to be all precious about Americans not understanding you if you don’t even care who the not-Americans are.

Oh exactly... You get that from Aussies particularly I’ve found. But make the argument that New Zealanders and Australians are essentially the same thing and its game over. Regardless though, there is the old joke - how do you tell an American apart from a Canadian? Call the Canadian an American.

Regarding the rest of the article, as a Canadian in the film industry, I know from American hegemony and Cultural Cringe. Never mind that it can be near impossible to get decent distribution in Canada for Canadian films or the difficulty of finding product easily on streaming services. The simple effort of trying to get (Anglo) Canadians to watch Canadian films? Exhausting... Most filmmakers and distributors who have the most success do so by hiding the fact that their product is Canadian (looking at you Schitt's Creek but you’re fine Murdoch Mysteries) or double down on it and get international acclaim (Guy Maddin or Xavier Dolan). But I do get the frustration about feeling that the cool kids just don't get you or your cultural output (perhaps even more so – as a French Canadian not from Quebec? I got a lot of complicated cultural stuff going on inside my head but I get it). A big part of the problem is that there is just so many of them and so much fewer of us.

My favourite part of the article, partially as I’d love for it to happen and partially because it will never happen in a million years:
But what we really truly need is for tastemakers and critics (particularly American ones) to put more effort into leading the way in championing narratives from other cultures, and to drop the assumptions that all English-speaking countries exist in a kind of bland monoculture: tastemakers’ horizons must be broadened, for everyone’s sake.
Hoping that Americans will suddenly “get” you? Take it from a Canadian... don’t hold your breath. I think your best bet, if that’s your end goal, is create something that functions as a bridge to where you want people to go. In Canada its stuff like Trailer Park Boys, Letterkenny (or their antecedents in SCTV) or Murdoch Mysteries or more broadly things like Schitt’s Creek or those scifi shows (Orphan Black or Killjoys or less successfully Dark Matter) which are often secretly Canadian. I’d argue some Australians kind of already know this. Things like Mystery Road or Top of the Lake or the Miss Fisher's series already do some of the work on this. Expecting American audiences to connect with something uniquely Australian (say old examples like Aunty Jack or Barry Mackenzie) without preparing the ground is a big ask.

I can’t help thinking, as well, that with the author's discussion about Australians’ “cryptolect” of gallows humour ignores how widespread that is in a lot of Commonwealth countries (we even had Askme previously on that subject).

Canadian issues aside, regarding the issue with the Dressmaker and its reception in non-Australia... despite the reviews I believe Dressmaker did not bad for a small Aussie film and found an audience in North America. It had a physical release, now out of print, from a small label. It has a recognisable star in Kate Winslet and intriguing plot. I don’t think it had any wide distro here in Canada but I know it did decent business in educational (libraries and such). Expecting it to be bigger is a stretch.

Incidentally aren't "banger" and "y'all" American slang? Which is funny considering Australians have such extensive slang to take from and its an article about American cultural imperialism. Was that the point? Maybe?
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:06 AM on November 24, 2020 [12 favorites]


I stopped trying to get my American friends into Latin American comics and graphic novels. Same when I was in London.

It was not just that they did not get the humor (I get the lack of context), but that they would label masterpieces as amateurish and badly made. Can Americansplaining be a term? I had so many Americans explain to me how the stories were badly structures, the characters badly developed, the punchlines in the wrong place, the layout all wrong.

I wondered why the same people could accept for example Japanese comics, the article made it clear with the uncanny valley graph. Pobre México, tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos.

From my limited experience working in a kitchen in London, the coworkers who really enjoyed the Latin American cartoons and comics were from Scotland, Mongolia, Bulgaria, and Australia. The English were a lost cause.
posted by Dr. Curare at 10:44 AM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


Will you all hate me if I take this opportunity to promote "M'entends-tu?" (trans. "Can You Hear Me?").

I started a thread on this, and if we are talking content that eschews the hegemonic impulse then check out this wonderful series from Quebec.. The portrayal of woman and their friendships is pretty amazing in my opinion. And clearly I am like that person you know who gets excited about a show and wants everyone else to know about it.
posted by elkevelvet at 10:47 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


Americans: understand Banished, are confused by Bruce.
posted by bartleby at 11:23 AM on November 24, 2020


Growing up in the UK, I did wonder why Beverly Hills in the 903rd century would be so similar to the 1990s.
posted by PJMcPrettypants at 11:49 AM on November 24, 2020 [16 favorites]


Understanding Comics goes into detail about Japanese comics having a wider range of types of panels and a different narrative structure than American comics.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 12:45 PM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


This article made me feel old: when I was a kid (the 70s) the cultural cringe was not seen as something which the dominant culture had done to Australians, but a torture which we inflicted upon ourselves, out of deference and provincial embarrassment. (And, yes, to me, the cringe will always be relative to the UK).

It was primarily about how we interpret our own art, not how the metropolis interprets ours.
posted by mikelynch at 2:18 PM on November 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


I agree with most of what they say, American cultural imperialism (especially film) does tend to suck up all of the attentions; but it also seems like they're just grumbling about how a subtle non-mainstream artwork that they made/were-involved-in is misunderstood/not-more-popular.
posted by ovvl at 2:35 PM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


Now I really wanna see how well Corner Gas would do on Australian TV.
posted by bartleby at 3:01 PM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


Now I really wanna see how well Corner Gas would do on Australian TV.

SBS is there for you.
posted by zamboni at 3:33 PM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


really the problem is Australian media treating American success as the only form of success that matters, a natural sequel to the previous century's vibe that English success was the only form of success that mattered.
posted by chiquitita at 4:22 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


I've spent most of this year writing. Freelance, just bits and pieces here and there all over the Anglosphere.

Much of that has also been spent jumping between Euro English, American, and Australian English. Writing for the poly lingual European market is pretty average. It's as bland and neutral as possible, because your readers are bringing a lot to the table from their parent culture. I have to strip all the Aussie idioms and local turns of phrase down to the purest metal of the language. It could be a Pole or a Spaniard or a Lithuanian reading my work, someone with a very limited amount of exposure to Australian culture, so it must be as plainly put as possible. Just pure English.

For the American audiences though, I have to pander. I have to convert to "American" spelling, to start with. It's a basic code switch that underlays everything I do for an American client. I have to change my measurements, the way I write dates. An astonishing amount of my vocabulary has to change. Even my grammar! I had one dude bitch and whine at me about my sentence structures being unacceptable because they weren't formulaic enough. Mixing in short sentences and long, ambling ones was something beyond what he could manage. He's an outlier, but now that I've had it graphically pointed out to me I can pick if a piece of writing is done by an American native English speaker.

Even in my private writing, places like Metafilter and the like, I have a more moderate voice that has the colloquialisms shaved off. I find myself having to pop in American terms because I would otherwise derail with explanations otherwise, I have to be clearer and rely less of subtext and if I want to go hard with the sark I have to label it, and given the medium that last bit is fine. It's harder when speaking, or on film.

American culture is its own beast. It's a beast with 328 million people. The reason Australian cinema gauges success against how well it does in the States is purely a numbers game- if you want to make enough money to be able to do another film, you have to be able to crack the US, and that's all there is to it. The domestic market is an audience of less than ten percent the American one. It's not a matter of of cringe. We have to pander to survive. We do better for local TV, but once you try to have a crack at film you can't be too foreign. The expectation is that everywhere English speaking is like the US. Maybe it's like the South, maybe the East Coast, but we are not allowed too much of our own latitude or the beat misses its mark.

Global media is becoming more Americanised. It's not even the matter of big studio control or small publishers or whatever. It's just the sheer weight of 328 million people, most of whom are online, largely unaware that they even have a lot of their own cultural quirks. The eternal September is one thing, the rest of the Anglosphere has to deal with that and the way that crashes against their own local cultures too.

It's almost like music with parts played a little too high for American audiences to register. They hear enough that the gaps stand out more. It makes sense to me. I think it's less noticeable in Kiwi exports because there's less taking the piss, and when they do there's a sense of gentleness about it that just isn't there in Australian culture. We can be quite vicious as a default.

While I haven't seen the film in question, the general premise rings true to me as someone who is currently producing cultural material for Americans as a means of survival. I can be quaint, in the right places, to the right audiences, but if I am too local it doesn't read as Australian, but as wrong. Like little red lines under my local spelling, but on a broader scale. The word registers but parsed as being incorrect, in a way that an obviously French or Japanese word does not. The reader knows to translate other tongues. When it's unfamiliar English, it just reads as wrong.

(Also who in the fuck puts the postcode before the State? Example of how its done. Even handwritten mail uses envelopes come with the boxes already on them, at the end, just like the example given from Necrobarista. Guidelines from Auspost here.)
posted by Jilder at 4:48 PM on November 24, 2020 [13 favorites]


I wonder if

The Terminal,
Carlton, Victoria
Australia
3053
would have caused less confusion? Perhaps with the little amber boxes from a blank envelope around each of the postcode numbers, gently pulsing. It certainly would've been an immediate source of recognition and delight to local players.
posted by MarchHare at 4:51 PM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


the little amber boxes from a blank envelope

For those playing along at home, since 1990, Australian envelopes often have preprinted postcode squares to make life easier on sorter OCR readers.
posted by zamboni at 5:39 PM on November 24, 2020


really the problem is Australian media treating American success as the only form of success that matters

Is part of the solution for Australia to make more space for Australian productions? Do you think the Canadian media model, how it makes space and subsidy for local productions? Would that be useful for Australia?
posted by eustatic at 8:32 AM on November 25, 2020


What I can't figure out, why the author thinks that the nytimes represents American culture, when more than half the country despises that paper's pretension and elitist viewpoint.

Is that the joke?
posted by eustatic at 8:44 AM on November 25, 2020


The fact that so many us-ians and Canadians are missing the point of this piece about Americans not understanding Australian media is just so spectacular I have to assume y'all are doing it on purpose! congratulation!
posted by applesauce at 4:12 PM on November 25, 2020 [4 favorites]


Well, do go ahead and explain it to us then.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:18 PM on November 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


Loved The Dressmaker, and yep it's deffo a Western.
posted by Coaticass at 12:36 AM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


I loved The Dressmaker. I watched it right on the verge of leaving a really terrible academic program and it felt very cathartic. It's about culture clash in a way - someone who has travelled overseas, had a different sense of self worth after escaping the Australian 'tall poppy' syndrome, and then returns to the same area and attitudes they grew up with. It is not a rom com, I don't think it's a Western. Perhaps a tragedy?
Australia does have content quotas and two public TV channels; the current argument is whether we should be holding online content like Netflix to the same quotas.
posted by quercus23 at 1:37 AM on November 26, 2020


Yep, another fan of The Dressmaker here. It was so poorly marketed that people (including me before I watched it) thought it was a rom-com when it's actually pretty brutal. Its just that for Australians, darkness doesn't rule out funny moments bursting like a sparkler or a blister. I feel like it's just on the other side of magical realism than Russian Doll: it's oddly unreal in order to get at a bigger reality, but doesn't have anything magical or sci-fi about it.

My only criticism of it is that the only queer character feels cliched to me. I don't know if this is because of the writing, directing, acting or my own lack of historical context for what's realistic in that time and place.

As for Necrobarista: if you buy envelopes in bulk, or prepaid packages, they all have the yellow boxes for the postcode away from and after the country. That's how they can automate so much of the mail sorting these days. Putting it after the state is old-fashioned! I'm guessing the author of the post is young enough he's never seen it done any other way.
posted by harriet vane at 5:21 AM on November 26, 2020


Count me as another one who thought Necrobarista was in the future, but I don't think it was because of the post code.

It's just that it describes an Australia where necromancy is done with blinking machines are there are robots with sapience built by a wonderchild inventor.

That's not the Australia I know of, though I've never actually traveled there myself
posted by ymgve at 7:36 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


That's assuming that necromancy progresses linearly with time.
posted by acb at 9:34 AM on November 28, 2020


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