Over the last couple of months, the cast of Modern Family have been frequent features in news reports across Australia, due to their filming of an episode at some of our most iconic locations.
The madcap antics of Jay Pritchett and his eccentric family have been hugely popular with Australian audiences who have enjoyed the sharp writing and wit that is exuded in every episode. The hype created in the lead up publicity had viewers readily anticipating how Australia would feature in the popular show.
But what viewers were left with from Sunday’s airing was a distinctly bitter taste created by the resoundingly clichéd and stereotypical interpretation of what the world (or America at least) perceives to be the ‘true Australia’.
From the beginning, there were cliché’s aplenty including references to being on the bottom of the globe and upside down, fighting kangaroos, gorgeous Bondi surfers and beach dwellers, bikie gangs, aboriginal guides, and many more. Couple this with a variety of terrible accents and the episode failed to hit the mark with Australian audiences.
Understandably, the episode has polarised fans of the show – some who believe the tongue-in-cheek approach is integral to the very core of the show, while others believe it was a poor portrayal of Australia and its people. Where the two groups seem to agree is that it was one of the worst episodes ever produced of the show.
What the show did not touch on is that Australia has a rich culture that has developed independently of its historical roots and defines us as our own nation. Not only that, but our economy has remained relatively strong whilst the world has suffered at the hands of a recession, we’ve also maintained a low rate of debt and our Triple A credit status.
I’m not a natural born Aussie – my father is from Melbourne and I was born in England. But he was so proud of Australian culture and his heritage that he ensured that my sisters and I were brought up to remember our family roots, which included following every Collingwood game (I never said he had good taste in teams).
I’ve been a citizen of Australia for over ten years and thoroughly love the culture and spirit of the Australian people. Our dry, self-deprecating humour is one of our most endearing qualities, whilst our no-nonsense approach to political and social issues is revered across the world. And despite the fact that we openly embrace other cultures we are fiercely protective of our cultural identity, something that other countries – particularly the UK – has lost over the years.
Maybe it’s asking too much for them to have fit all this into a 30 minute episode, particularly as it’s a comedy, but to have the entire piece a nonstop barrage of tired cliché’s is insulting.
But let’s look at it from another perspective. Essentially, the episode was one big publicity campaign for Australian tourism that encompassed some of our greatest national treasures including; the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Hayman Island – all of which looked truly inspiring.
When the show was screened in the US it was watched by over 9 million viewers. Qantas, which was not so subtly featured in the show as one of the biggest sponsors, has reported a 25% increase in the number of enquiries of American’s looking to come to Australia.
Whilst the ego of the Australian public may be a little bruised, the financial repercussions could be massive for the Australian economy and haven’t we built a reputation as a nation that is capable at laughing at ourselves? Whether you agree or not an old proverb comes to mind – ‘He who laughs last, laughs best!’ Hopefully, we’ll be laughing last…all the way to the bank.
Lee Hall, InsideOut PR