INTRODUCTION- It is possible to develop a good understanding of Australian culture by exploring Australian icons in Australian literature, film and painting. This understanding can be explored through the three texts: ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, the satirical film produced by P. J. Hogan in 1994, Sidney Nolan’s 1947 Ned Kelly series of paintings which was inspired by the mythology and historical story of Ned Kelly, and ‘Kath and Kim’ the comedic television series, produced in 2003, which represents contemporary Australian suburban life.
Three major themes which permeate the Australian cultural environment can be explored through these three texts. The first theme being the concept of equality and the ‘Aussie Battler’ which can be seen from a historical perspective in the Ned Kelly series and then from a contemporary suburban perspective in ‘Kath and Kim’ and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’. The second theme being that of the environment and how it has changed over time, this can be seen through the contrast of Ned Kelly’s harsh rural environment and the emotional and psychological environment of ‘Kath and Kim’ and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’.
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Lifestyles and aspirations make for the third and final theme where the physical advantages of a modern lifestyle are contrasted with the historical disadvantages of the earlier Australian settlement. These three texts highlight and shape our understanding of Australian culture through their use of characterisation, techniques and settings. BODY 1 (aussie battler) The first theme being the concept of equality and the ‘Aussie Battler’ which can be seen from a historical perspective in the Ned Kelly series and then from a contemporary suburban perspective in ‘Kath and Kim’ and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’.
Different aspects of the idea of equality and the ‘Aussie battler’ are shown in the three different texts. These ideas are explored in the Ned Kelly series, depicted by Sidney Nolan through the physical environment that Ned Kelly survived in. Through the three compositions, ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, ‘Kath and Kim’, and in the Sidney Nolan- The Kelly artwork series, the responder learns that the Aussie battler has changed over time.
For example, in the Sidney Nolan paintings, we see the character of Ned Kelly looking defiant in a courtroom, where the judge and the police have all the power, battling against a corrupt authority. Whereas in ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, the stereotype of the character, Muriel, lives in a suburban environment and does not have to cope with the harsh physical environment as Ned Kelly had to, but instead she had to cope with social and family issues. This can be seen in the scene where her ‘friends’ exclude her from their plans, and because of this her confidence gets eroded; she is battling on an emotional level.
From the comedic series ‘Kath and Kim’, the characters of Kath and Kim also do not have to cope with harsh environment, instead their battles are in more of a social and emotional survival level. This is portrayed through the character of Kath, who is a single mother who had to support and raise her self-indulgent daughter, Kim. BODY 2 (ENVIRONMENT) The origin of Australian culture lie in the bush. Australia’s perception of Australian icons has been especially convey and brought through the environment and landscape of Australia, and how it has changed over time.
It is no longer the harsh environment that Ned Kelly had lived in, instead it is a suburban environment. As shown through the settings of each of these texts: The suburban areas of Melbourne is Kath and Kim, where in the opening high angled shot, the camera pans over a sea of rooves showing communal living in a suburban area. This scene is similar to the one In ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ where we see a wide angle shot of the sign saying ‘Welcome to Porpoise Spit’, which is a small town in which Muriel grew up, and wished to desperately get out of.
These two suburban environments contrast with the actual harsh landscape that Ned Kelly had survived in as depicted through Sidney Nolan’s paintings. We see a hot, harsh environment, with the figure of Ned Kelly separate from society with his black armour, almost as if he was shielding himself from society, only one human being OR we see Ned Kelly isolated in his environment, you can see this through the his black armour and bare surrounding; he only has his horse, a weapon, and the skies to look ahead, showing his connection to the bush.
With the social and economic changes that have occurred throughout the world, this has brought about changes in society. The change in the suburban setting of ‘Kath and Kim’ and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ show that they no longer have to face the challenges of the rural environment, with all the social and psychological issues that arise from living in this environment. BODY 3(LIFESTYLES AND ASPIRATIONS)
Lifestyles and aspirations, the third and final them, as conveyed in Sidney Nolan’s paintings, show how Ned Kelly is running the authorities, this conveys to the reader that before the contemporary society that we live In now, disadvantaged individuals were treated more harshly whereas now these disadvantaged groups in society have greater access to funds and to a better lifestyle.
For example the characters/ OR stereotypical characters of Kath and Kim have a high standard of living, but are not necessarily satisfied with their lifestyle, as well as the stereotype of Muriel is not seriously economically advantaged, but is not happy as she lacks parental guidance which resulted in her lack of confidence. Muriel’s main aspiration is to be accepted by society. In ‘Kath and Kim’, we see that their accents are exaggerated, this shows their socio-economic class in society as well as their level of education.
They are well-meaning but not very aware, this is especially shown through the character of Kath. CONCLUSION Through the Australian icons portrayed through these three texts, ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, ‘Kath and Kim’, and Sidney Nolan’s paintings – The Kelly Series, The reader learns about Australian culture, through the ideas such as the ‘Aussie Battler’, the lifestyles and aspirations of these characters and the environment in which they survived/ lived.