Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” Just beneath the small minds, exists the people of Channel Ten’s new “dramality” show, The Shire; tiny, tiny minds who only discuss themselves.
The show features a dozen or so rich young white kids living it up on Sydney’s beaches. The introductory voiceover, by a young man who would have been conscripted during wartime (a time I strangely began to long for over the course of this endless half hour) advises that these are “real people, and this is the real drama of their lives”. Considering I have seen more drama at a Buddhist monk’s birthday party, it made me long for a bit of divine intervention – say, a predator drone. But the dramality formula (just swap the “dram” for a “ban” if you’re unsure what it means) allows plenty of time to reflect on this great leap backwards in Australian culture.
For these people, their lives are the epitome of John Howard’s “relaxed and comfortable”: it’s all wide shots of perfect Sydney skies, roaring surf and carefree living. The girls talk about the plastic surgery they’ve had and/or are having, the boys talk about the girls they’ve had/and or are having and no one has an original opinion, idea or thought about anything. These narcissistic & shallow pools of banality enjoy consumption above all else, and The Shire invites us to join in the fun – to watch them consume things in between ad breaks for things we might also like to consume ourselves. It’s the Human Centipede: Capitalist edition.
The idea, I think, is that this is the carefree life we all dream of: being young, rich, white kids standing above all the old, fat, boring saps like the rest of us like they’re the pinnacle of western civilisation. But instead of showing something to admire or aspire to, we just get a perfect view up their skirts at their surguried, waxed and fake tanned clackers. Take Beckaa, for example. Yes, her name is spelled with two As at the end – her parents must have known that was the only way they’d ever see an A next to her name on a school report. She has just returned from Dubai where she spent $15,000 in a month on clothes and shoes and a new nose. She is greeted by an older man in a limo and I have trouble distinguishing whether he is her boyfriend or her father, until they are holding hands and she calls him Daddy… which apparently means the latter. He’s the one footing her credit card bill.
In fact, only one of these Barbie people seems to have a job at all – Sophie, who works at “fat blasting” the legs of perfectly skinny women (sorry, no, no idea what that is, I was googling pies at the time) – her big dream is to make everyone in the Shire “skinnier”. Otherwise it’s all navel gazing, plastic surgery and partying. We meet Rif Raf, an aspiring rapper living in his mother’s mansion, drinking out of a Versace tea set. He busts out a not-quite rhyme by his mum’s pool: “My name is Rif-Raf, ain’t you heard? I’ll leave you physically, mentally and emotionally disturbed – bitch.” Which, to his credit, does just what he said it would, Adam Yauch’s grave spinning reaching warp speed notwithstanding. Another young man later mocks one of his mates for “looking like a door to door salesman”, because god forbid someone on this program even dare to look like they have a job. If that were my son, I’d have him chained to a prison gang picking up garbage on the side of a freeway so fast he’d be using his Gucci man bag to store the rubbish.
This triumph of surface over substance suggests the end point of pursuing the carefree Australian dream at all costs is somewhere between total narcissism and actual sociopathy. None of these people care for anyone except themselves. Vernessa (yes, really spelled like the stuff that’s on newborns and no, I don’t know why) points at her unmoving botoxed forehead and says, “See, I can’t even look angry!” like it’s the best thing that ever happened to her. She believes she’s perfect, and she is, sort of: perfectly empty. She could fill her body with all the botox in the world but she would still be less interesting than food poisoning. She doesn’t want to. Instead we get so much tedious quacking vanity spewing forth from her duck-lipped face that I want to throw a piece of bread at her in the hope she’ll shut up and eat it.
Apparently the show was set in Sydney’s Shire area because of the colourful personalities of the people in the area – which you could be mistaken for disbelieving, considering there are no people of colour nor anyone with a personality spotted anywhere in this half hour. When some other girl I don’t care about the name of says to her ex-boyfriend “I want you”, she sounds like she’s choosing a bottle of dishwashing detergent rather than the love of her life. This is what happens when people are given everything and give nothing back – these awful people whom I would so happily swap for a boatload of refugees any day of the week. This is Australia: relaxed and comfortable. Time for a new Australian dream, I reckon.