One of my favorite classes that I’ve taken while abroad has been my Australian Pop Culture lecture. Although we focus on the presence of pop culture in all forms of media, entertainment, advertisement, and politics, we have targeted the underlying themes of Australian stereotypes that double as the motives for most of these forms. I find this lecture fascinating, because as we investigate artifacts of pop culture and delve into what constitutes each piece, I notice that I have held many of these Australian stereotypes without realizing it. For example, in class today we watched an Old Spice commercial directed towards the Australian audience. In one of the opening lines, the actor says “I have swum butterfly style through gorilla shark-infested waters to the world’s manliest nation, and pondered the mystique of the world’s manliest men, the Australian men” (Old Spice 2013). The actor speaks of riding kangaroos and is set up with a beach for a backdrop that eventually turns into the Outback. These components of the commercial represent the Americanized stereotypes of Australia- that the men are tough and athletic, that kangaroos roam the streets, and that the beach and the Outback are the biggest sights to see on the continent. The idea that all Australians are active, tan, and surf is one of the most common stereotypes of all. Throughout Australia’s history, there was even a shift of emphasis from the forest, or ‘bush’ as it is called here, to the beach and the culture that surrounds it. Although many Australians enjoy this lifestyle, not every person likes running out to the beach to catch the waves, or laying in the sun. This is a simple stereotype, but it is interesting to analyze the role that it plays in both American and Australian media. The Old Spice commercial also brings up standards of masculinity that have been set by different forms of media since the beginning of Australia’s time.
The commercial specifically targets the ‘manliest men,’ which follows along the theme of the Australian legend. Books, articles, and reviews have all been written about the Australian legend, who is a man that defies authority, is comfortable with the land, and is a dominant male figure in not only folklore, but also in history itself. From Crocodile Dundee to Steve Irwin, the Australian legend has been drilled into the mindset of people around the world that Australian men are rugged, tough, and one with nature. Yesterday, on my way home from school, I was talking with some locals about the Mardi Gras Parade in Sydney, which is called the “Gay Parade” to celebrate the LGBTQ community, and inclusion. On the contrary, one of the locals mentioned how on the Gold Coast, homophobia is still common, and that it carries across most of the nation. I think that the stereotype of the manly man of Australia ties into the history of the Australian Legend, and the portrayal of Aussie men that is still displayed today. I believe that this ties in to the aforementioned presence of homophobia that I was not as aware of, and would not have noticed had I not conversed with the local on the bus.
On the flipside, I have heard a variety of stereotypes that Australians hold of Americans in my time here. Whether it is about obesity due to large restaurant portions, or the endless questions about Trump, or even stances on gun control, Americans seemed to be sectioned off as one group that all holds the same political and personal beliefs. I know that with everything going on in current politics, the stereotypes that Australians have directed towards me were almost expected. I find the most value, however, in the conversations that come after. For example, Australian gun laws are extremely strict, and after one mass shooting in Tasmania, the government went through every house to buy back any form of a gun. Since then, there hasn’t been another mass shooting. Because of this, it is inconceivable to many Australians that the States will continue to have mass shootings without reforming gun control policies. On both sides of stereotypes, I think that there are always reasons why the stereotyping exists, whether those reasons are valid or not. In the end, it is in the conversations that we have with one another where we can grow the most. Slimbach writes, “The very act of moving from one place to another helps create a space where we can bump up against strangeness and reexamine some of the settled assumptions we hold regarding the world—and ourselves” (5). Let’s lift up the settled curtain of stereotypes and fill the space with conversations and newfound knowledge!
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.