Australian commentator: movies don’t depict the suburbs

A writer in The Daily Telegraph suggests that Australian films have not told the stories of typical, suburban life:

Yet it’s not the working class who are neglected.

In fact, according to our films, these are the only people who inhabit Australia.

For all the frustration that exists among moviegoers as to an over-representation of bleak morality tales, it’s this unspoken class warfare that goes unchecked.

From salt-of-the-earth drovers to down-on-their-luck-gangsters, we’re traditionally very fond of our battlers. It’s the prospect of venturing near a McMansion, 4WD or flat-screen TV that seems to paralyse our finest scriptwriters.

The aspirations of families in tree-lined suburbia all too rarely catch the eye of local filmmakers. Perhaps it’s all a bit common.

We pride ourselves on telling real tales, but we don’t want to get too real…

We have been too busy wallowing in the down-and-out to delve into where and how most of us actually live.

An interesting take. I have had the impression that Australia is more suburban than other industrialized nations but it is difficult to find data to back this up. (I spent about 25 minutes searching the Australian Bureau of Statistics website and it appears that at least part of the issue is how the Bureau defines suburbs. While the American Census Bureau essentially says suburbs are the spaces between central cities and rural areas, it appears that Australia tends not to make these clear distinctions. There may be Inner Sydney and North Sydney and Outer South Western Sydney but they are all part of Sydney.) We do know that in late 2009, the average new Australian home was bigger than the average new American home.

More broadly, this doesn’t seem to have been a problem in American media and entertainment. Whether we look at novels or TV shows or movies, the suburbs are a common setting. We could argue about whether these depictions of suburban life are accurate. There is a long history of suburban stories serving as suburban critique: the characters are often portrayed as being unfulfilled, shallow, and unsophisticated. Additionally,  the “typical” TV sitcom or movie family tends not to be that typical: their homes are fairly large, money or subsistence issues rarely come up, and the family always end up in wacky situations.

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