Helen Razer’s Reality Recap : The Shire
Broadly speaking, the consumption of Reality TV provokes three distinct reactions. Well, four if we count violent gastroenteritis. Otherwise, there are first those baffled by the form who say things like “I don’t know WHY you’d waste precious brain cells on nonsense like that.” Second, there are level-headed people who pay this modern twaddle little mind. Then, there are the fanatics who prepare themed snacks, commit the cast’s name to memory and emit a “shushing” sound all in the minutes before a new Reality debuts.
These people are my kin. Last night, we watched The Shire.
Across the nation, a gauche but not uncritical community enjoyed the debut of this “dramality” series that sparked debate long before its first air date. Speaking on the behalf of my outcast family, I’d like to denounce these cheap, plainly scripted thirty-minutes of spray-tanned waste as THE GREATEST EVER.
Will we be watching next week? WILL WE WHAT? You may as well be asking: is Ramona a crazy robot lady whose eyes could kill a man? You might as well be asking: did Kourtney and Khloé Take Miami? Yes, you can bet your ill-gotten Birkin we’ll be watching. If you’re a fan of the “soft-scripted” reality genre, there is no way in heck you’re going to be tardy for this sun-damaged pardy.
At the time of writing, OzTAM figures are yet to be released for Monday’s fabulous catastrophe. I hope I am among the very first to presage ratings disaster and say to the Important Artists at Shine Productions: dream on you crazy dreamers and don’t let a numbers landslide dissuade you from your craft. Honestly, this was one of the funniest, most awkward and absurd things I’ve seen on the telly since the ABC’s comparable Sylvania Waters .
To say that The Shire is good is not, for a minute to say that it is real. Beckaa (sic), Vernessa (sic) and Mitch are no more representative of a privileged young Australia than the Real Housewives are of, um, real housewives. In sniggering at this program we are not sniggering at anything that actually exists. We are sniggering at television itself.
Let it be plainly said, poking fun at so-called “bogans” is not among my preferred leisure activities. The sort of elitism that chides white people for their lack of education, taste or finesse is, in my view, exactly the sort of bio-waste that also fuels racism. Poking fun at Southern Cross tattoos and chicken tikka tans and vacations in Bali is easy and demands all the intellectual strain of calling someone a “wog”; or worse. For mine, though, the “bogan” is not the object of derision, here. Mostly, it’s the bad acting that’s so darn funny.
Just as we gluttons for gauche love the films Showgirls and Mommie Dearest, we will love The Shire if it continues in its current course of camp. We laugh at these films not because their topics – exotic dancing and child abuse – are intrinsically funny; these things are not funny at all. We laugh because we really can’t believe the outrageous lack of seriousness with which such heavy material is handled. Tina, bring me the axe.
And, so it is with The Shire.
It has been nearly seven years since entitlement, alcohol and media ignorance drove thousands of young white men into a racist frenzy in the real-life Shire. Personally, I can’t make any more sense of that day than I can of advanced calculus. It is perhaps this incident, along with the other social ills of lethargy, narcissism and sun beds, with which we associate the Sutherland Shire.
Like all the very best Kardashian camp, The Shire gives us a chance to wriggle momentarily free from the yoke of seriousness and laugh. And, goodness knowsAnd, goodness knows, it is so important to laugh in the face of seriousness every so often. This is not to diminish, for a minute, the horrors on which The Shire explores both explicitly and inadvertently. From the revulsion some young women seem to have for their own bodies to xenophobia; this “reality” program cannot help but reference a raft of real problems.
But, like Showgirls, it does so with such inelegance that it acts as a sort of safety valve.
Because these terrible young semi-actors are plodding their way so badly through a soft script that feels as though it were written in crayon on the back of a Hog’s Breath Café menu, it’s easy to laugh. Tina bring me the axe. Nomi, you have beautiful tits. Like the WORST lines of dialogue from the WORST movies ever, Mitch and Gabby’s stilted party chat strips all the terror from the things we cannot normally bear to consider.
Hahahaha. Did you SEE the doomed lovers? You know when Count Vronsky sees Anna Karenina at the train station in the snow? This is nothing like that.
Residents of the Shire may well feel they are being misrepresented in this orgy of Botox and self-involvement. But, really, we’re all being misrepresented. As a species, yo. Of course, I feel for those in this postal region who now, thanks to the magic of television, make Frankston look like Paris of the Belle Epoque. But, in the end, we all know that this is not real.
But it is hilarious.
Helen Razer is an occasional broadcaster, frequent writer and incessant yabber-pants. Follow her on twitter @HelenRazer or at Bad Hostess