There is a mythical place created in Australian TV drama where country people band together in a flood or storm, or meet at the pub or local country show. City people blow in and upset the equilibrium or finally gain acceptance when they too have been through some drama in the town.
In this mythical place there’s heroic farmers, and firefighters, balanced down to earth country kids who think on their feet, a country vet – and out there conservationists who depending on the era of television are either supported or another ripple to that small country town – all to be neatly dealt with in an episode or two. Rangers are more often kindly seen as they caretake rather than tie themselves to trees – or so the episodes show.
Sometimes small country towns are coastal, with fishing folk and surfers – and caravan parks other times they are farming, with pigs and cows and dramas at the local hospital and police station. Other times the outback is the back drop and doctors fly all over the place to take us to meet many varied country people and give us a slice of their life. You can buy the series neatly packaged – someone somewhere thinks there’s a market for the stories of country life on dvd.
Sometimes sisters on farms – show that strong women are the backbone of the country when the men depart they go on and they can tackle anything. Yet even in this space Angels can come visiting, and transform the space. Surreal in the real.
Sometimes the towns are narrow minded, unwelcoming and suffer trauma to get a deeper understanding of themselves.
We all watch these mythical places, but how true to our lives are these soap operas and Aussie dramas, and how melodramatic can country life really be.
Stereotypes are based on something basic in the need of human beings to make sense of the world – stock characters make life easier for the storyteller. Yet somewhere out there is the wonder of the country spirit and stereotypes change, reform and retypings happen to fit the day and age.
It does exist, and it can be found and reinvented – in the country people who make the new welcome – who give opportunities to participate and contribute – and who are like the ‘salt of the earth’ and have a loyalty ‘true blue’ when you take the time to get to know who they are.
And so now the tapestry of country spirit begins to acknowledge more and more of the richness in Oz – and tv shows begin to find themselves in the Torres Straits – delving deeper and deeper into the interiors of a complex Australian identity made up of so many spaces most will only ever now through storytellers.
Storytellers can never avoid the power of the myth of the country spirit, and yet they can understand, imagine, repackage and reinvent it. Yet beyond the storyteller is the lived life, the reality of country spirit – and when you’ve seen it in action, you’ll never forget it.
Just for fun – how many Australian Dramas about Country living can you name ?
I’ll post a list tomorrow!
(c) June Perkins