Filmism.net Dispatch November 20, 2012

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When will Hollywood get over caricatures?

I know, when hell freezes over.

Rise of the Guardians, out this week, is an unexpectedly entertaining movie. But there's one bit of it that just irks me. I'm not a reactionary and I'm not a stick in the mud, but I find the character of the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman)... not offensive, exactly, just tired.

He has an Australian accent, you see, carries twin boomerangs and wields a broad strine accent peppered with the liberal use of words like 'crikey' and 'bloody'. I wouldn't have been surprised to hear a 'bonza' or a 'ridgey didge' in there somewhere too.

First of all, I get the appeal. Ever since Paul Hogan told Americans we'd put an extra shrimp on the barbie for them, they've loved Australians for that goofy crocodile-hunting persona – look at the success of Steve Irwin in America (where he was much more popular than he ever was at home). Even nowadays, most Americans with more than three teeth who don't live in a log cabin or swamp know it's only a broad exaggeration. But they still love it.

When Matt Groening set an episode of The Simpsons in Australia (voiced by American voice actors doing abysmal Australian accents), he went as far as half-jokingly apologising for tired old tropes like kangaroos bouncing down main streets.

I'm sure I'm not alone. Rise of the Guardians depicts Santa Claus as a huge Cossack covered in tattoos and I'll bet educated, sophisticated cinemagoers from Moscow or St Petersburg will roll their eyes and groan at the gruff accent and beard just as much as I did every time the bunny calls someone 'mate'.

What makes it even more ridiculous is giving the Bunny distinctly American phrases like 'say what?' and 'dodged a bullet', neither of which come from the same place as the lazy-vowelled ocker speech we hear from the rest of the character.

But do we blame Dreamworks Animation for subscribing to stupid mythologies like the one Australians live in the bush and kill their food? The film-going (ie American) public for lapping it up? Hugh Jackman for taking a paycheque in return for perpetuating it?

I say we blame Jackman. He's an Australian sophisticate who knows what Australians are really like, and until 2010 he was a producer with a film company (Seed Productions). He broke it up to concentrate on acting so he was in a position to make movies that portrayed his countrymen more realistically. Plus, I don't want to pick a fight with Jeffrey Katzenberg, that guy has a scary smile.

If you want good depictions of Australians in the movies, by all means look at the top line productions like Strictly Ballroom, Rabbit Proof Fence, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Candy, but there's a host of underground/alternative views like Romper Stomper, The Bank, Gettin' Square, Look Both Ways, Wolf Creek, The Square, 2:37 and The Loved Ones, all of which are ace. The irony is that many of these films (and more) have done so well in America.

So as my friends in the northern hemisphere might say, 'go figure...' One of us might say 'fair dinkum, stone the crows out the back of the jumbuck billabong ya flamin' galah' just to amuse them, but not me. I just did this story about the coolest weapons in the movies to take my mind off the whole thing.

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