Greg Bruce and Zanna Gillespie review The Australian Dream
Insightfulness of commentators / bloggers: 1
Usefulness of commentators / bloggers: 1
Relevance of commentators / bloggers: 1
There's a man in this documentary, introduced as a "commentator and blogger", whose every calmly expressed offensive opinion drips with his ignorance of his racial privilege, whose place in this movie is at once baffling and infuriating, whose voice I wish had been erased.
How ironic that a white man should be given a voice in a documentary about a people who have spent more than 200 years having their voices silenced by white men. Everyone else in the movie bears some relevance to the story of AFL legend and racial abuse victim Adam Goodes. There are other players, coaches, relatives and team owners and then there is the commentator and blogger: the ugly sore on the face of society.
Commentator and blogger: Could there be any less useful, less meaningful words in the English language? There is a commonly held belief that the media are obliged to present both sides of a story but this idea presupposes that there is no such thing as objective truth. A good test for whether you are obliged to present both sides of the story is your ability to find a more credible source for each than "commentator and blogger".
Their raison d'etre is to get attention. They may believe what they say, but belief is incidental. Their careers, livelihoods and egos don't depend on belief - or truth for that matter.
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Starting in 2013, after Adam Goodes called out a 13-year-old crowd member who called him an ape, he was booed into retirement. A debate arose in Australia, still going, as to whether the booing was racist. Australia is a broken country.
In the movie, the commentator and blogger claims he is being asked to feel guilty for something he is not responsible for - that sad old strawman argument so beloved of white narcissists. But no indigenous person, nor anyone else, cares either about the blogger's guilt or any of his other feelings. We are all entitled to our feelings. The question is which of us gets the platform to express them.
I know nothing about AFL but I do enjoy the little men on the sidelines with their short shorts and precise and impassioned arm choreography. That was the only opinion I had about the sport going into The Australian Dream. I really didn't want to watch this film. I was vaguely familiar with the Adam Goodes story - I knew it was going to make me angry and probably fill me with despair about the lack of human decency in the world. It did both those things, but I'm glad I watched it.
I don't remember much of what I read as a child but I do remember my aunt and uncle in Australia sending me a novel about the stolen generation - it may have been Sally Morgan's My Place. No doubt I was disappointed it wasn't a toy but I read it and was deeply troubled by it. It left a lasting impression on me and I only read it - I didn't live it. Those feelings came back tenfold, as the mother of a 5-year-old, hearing Goodes' mother describe her experience at the same age of crying "Mum, Mum, Mum" from under a bed after having been snatched from her mother and taken to a boarding school where she would have the aborigine beaten out of her. I was a blubbering mess.
Goodes' story is important. The "I'm not racist, I just don't like him" or "Don't blame me for something my ancestors did" or worse "It's in the past, get over it" mentality is rife and not just in Australia. Watching this documentary is like spending an hour and 40 minutes in a racist comments section on Facebook. It's a painful but necessary watch, especially for white people: Confronting our own racism isn't nearly as hard as living with the trauma of it every day.
The Australian Dream is in cinemas from September 10