There has been scathing criticism in the media today of the ABC’s political satire, At Home With Julia, and not least on account of a certain sex scene involving the characterisations of the First Couple, the Prime Minister’s office, and an Australian flag.
Frankly, some people need to take a load off, and lighten up a bit.
At Home With Julia — a four-episode satirical parody of what life might be like at The Lodge when the doors close — has, in the two weeks it has screened, won its timeslot both times; 1.07 million viewers the first week, and about 850,000 the second.
It’s a light-hearted, comical (and fictitious) look at, primarily, the dynamic between the Prime Minister and her de facto husband Tim Mathieson (variously presented as T-bone, T-shirt, T-Rex and so forth).
An almighty brouhaha has erupted today in advance of tomorrow night’s screening, which apparently features a sex scene between the Prime Minister and “T-bone,” and this occurs on the floor of the Prime Ministerial office with the participants covered with an Australian flag.
Ever since At Home With Julia commenced screening a fortnight ago, there has been persistent and ever-louder complaint from the usual quarters: ALP politicians, journalists sympathetic to the ALP, and other Labor-aligned sycophants and vested interests careful to make the right outraged noises.
Indeed, ten days ago I sent Therese Rein — Kevin Rudd’s wife — a tweet that she should lighten up, in response to some infuriated outburst she’d had over this programme.
Today, however, some Coalition MPs have leapt into the fray, and I just have to scratch my head.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?
This is a comedy, a parody, a satire. Is it necessary to take it so seriously?
In the case of the Coalition MPs who are fuming over tomorrow night’s episode, I would say: let it go.
There’s a difference between being a Conservative and being a humourless prick.
Indeed, it’s entirely possible to be a Conservative and not be a prude. I should know.
I don’t think the material covered — whilst questions of taste are an individual judgement — is disrespectful to the Office of Prime Minister.
There’s no violence, no criminal damage, and remember this is meant to be a look inside — even if a fictitious one.
Bronwyn Bishop summed it up beautifully this afternoon, in saying that whilst some people might find At Home With Julia to be in poor taste, they could always change the channel.
And that’s the point: we live in a free country where people have choices (and, increasingly, Foxtel). If they don’t want to watch what’s on the ABC there are plenty of alternatives.
Some members of the Coalition apparently wish to use this programme as a justification to review the ABC’s funding. Well, boys and girls, you may or may not be right, but at the end of the day, a satirical comedy (irrespective of its merits or otherwise) about your political opponents is hardly, on its own, a justification for such a review.
At Home With Julia may — or may not — be in poor taste, but it isn’t obscene, it isn’t treason, it isn’t seditious and it isn’t subversive. Bishop was right: far worse was rendered against John Howard; it just didn’t include (thankfully) any sex scenes. The Liberals didn’t squawk then over that, and they shouldn’t do so now.
And as for the Labor/general leftists who are also fuming, just remember that it was you people who laughed the loudest whenever fun was made of John Howard, his ministers, or anyone remotely connected with the Liberal and National Parties.
All of you, on both sides of the fence.
There has to be room for a laugh, and there has to be room for us as Australians to poke fun at ourselves — irrespective of the level in society we are at.
After all, humour is one of our national characteristics.
I just think people ought to take a big breath. There’s no doubt that At Home With Julia isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; some people probably do find it offensive.
But there’s the option to watch something else, or at the very least, not to watch the ABC for half an hour.
And irrespective of which of those options one might take, it’s reasonable to accept that other people might want to watch something you don’t necessarily choose to.
For the record, I think At Home With Julia is hilarious — and it has nothing to do with my political allegiances.
I simply think it’s a quick, clever and cutting parody; of course the scenarios are ridiculous, but they’re meant to be.
The terrier called Bill Shorten and the incessant yabbering voice down the phone line that was “Bob Katter” are brilliant examples of what’s great about it.
And the real Bob Katter Jr playfully threatened to sue because he wasn’t invited to play himself in the programme.
Here’s a thought though: in real life — certainly as presented to millions of Australians every day, who will never meet her — Julia Gillard behaves like a cartoon cut-out.
Someone devoid of anything remotely natural or authentic.
At Home With Julia, ironically enough, does more to humanise Gillard by poking fun at her than she could ever achieve by behaving the way she does, daily, in front of a camera.
I think the ruckus over this programme is a storm in a tea cup.
What do other people think?