Of the so-called Millennial generation, we Xers must hold no conclusive view. They are fatter than us, which is a fact we may maliciously enjoy. They produced Wyatt Roy, which is a fact we may desperately mourn. But, other than their larger waistlines and slicker neoliberalism, these younger persons are much like us older persons and provide no proof of generational difference firmer than those awful chia puddings they buy from supermarkets in large numbers and pretend to enjoy.
All of which is to say: we must not judge them harshly. We’ll leave that to the national broadcaster’s television “youth” network, ABC2, currently getting Millennials completely wrong.
Less a channel than it is a treatment plant specialising in cheap re-use of solid cultural waste, ABC2 has a much lower opinion of “youth” than even my neighbour Jackie, who has turned the hose on them twice this summer. With its primetime focus on deadly fish, swingers and hoarders, ABC2 serves an imaginary demographic preoccupied with sex, death and mental illness. Apparently, they’re just like Sigmund Freud, only much dumber and far less invested in liberating themselves from the prison of the repressed than they are in watching some self-absorbed bint race around China for five minutes and pronounce it “conformist” and “workaholic”.
Last week, everything stirring in the uncomfortable gut of ABC2 was upchucked in the shiny, blond furball of Billie JD Porter. The young and manifestly sassy filmmaker whose stark irreverence brings to mind the genius of Bear Grylls and/or a footstool lets us in on the Secrets of China. Here’s a spoiler: Billie’s secret is that the entire nation of China is a bit shit. It is a bit shit because it does not encourage the kind of liberating individualism that produces persons like Billie JD Porter.
Honestly, this is the most ethnocentric turn in recent years on television, including I’m A Celebrity and those pompous orientalising shows in which Michael Palin bounces around the subcontinent saying syrupy things about the Indian character. I understand that Billie is young, comely and has written Brutally Honest items about her thrilling sex life for VICE. She is also a DJ and a model. These facts are not prophylaxes against the kind of western arrogance that has her confusing Confucianism for mindlessness or Chinese wedding traditions for sexual oppression. When it comes to the most basic relativism, Porter stumbles and is unable to see that she is not the ideal midpoint of all creation. This is her entitlement at 23. But, it is the ABC’s responsibility not to echo racialised ignorance and it seems especially crass that they have taken the decision to do so during celebrations for the lunar new year.
Billie’s memsaab complaint is really no worse than the range of “Gypsy” programming ABC2 has previously elected to air. These “documentaries” on Romani life are so fetishistic, it is difficult to know how to start crapping on them. But, let’s start with the word “Gypsy” which Romani have unambiguously and in near unanimity rejected as a racial slur.
But, like a lot of the dire factual cack on ABC2, these programs are shot through an apparently humanistic lens. For hours each week, a feigned liberal concern for the other masks the fact that these are shitty, mean reality programs that manufacture schadenfreude. I *guess* this is how programmers justify the broadcast of an exploitative sideshow like Tourette’s On the Job which is intended far less to raise awareness of a debilitating neurological disorder than it is to give us all an opportunity to laugh at swearing bozos.
Then, there are the putatively sensitive programs on hoarders, transpeople and swingers which almost uniformly dispose of true sensitivity or even a healthy curiosity for the richness of human experience to say little more than “wow look at these freaks”. Like the worst of the reality genre, the appeal lies in the relief afforded the viewer who is permitted to think that things could be worse.
If these low pits of hate were dug more often in Australian conditions, we could forgive them. At least Joe Hildebrand’s exercise in extreme political naiveté provided local jobs. And 2 has given us the very good Please Like Me and the very funny Dirty Laundry Live, now graduated to the premium channel. But, this meagre hit rate is no real rationale for the continued subsidy of a channel that makes Fox8 look as though it is programmed by John Pilger by contrast.
Millennials are not as prurient, narcissistic and cruel as programmers at ABC2 apparently believe. They are not quite so ready to laugh at afflictions, mock entire nations and squirm at non-normative sexual codes as the schedule would suggest. Then again, few people are that idiotic and mean.
When the ABC tries to mimic what it holds to be commercially viable, it gives us the very worst impulses of both the public and private sectors. We have cheap reality exploitation, far more artfully and honestly provided by Ten, filtered through a faux humanistic prism. At least Celebrity knows it is Satan. Much of the programming on ABC2 is the work of the dark lord masquerading as the angel of light.