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History Now! Seminar: Media Histories Now!
16 May @ 5.30 pm - 7.00 pm
Please join us at History Now! for two excellent papers from emerging media historians, Chelsea Barnett and James Findlay. Between them, we will hear about masculinity and sexuality in Australian cinema in the 1970s (yes, more on the 1970s!) and histories of colonisation and frontier violence on Australian television. Get ready for a multilayered discussion of media representation and reception, of popular historical consciousness and of sex and the single man in the second-wave feminist era.
Chair: Dr Melissa Bellanta (ACU
Chelsea Barnett, ‘The Reluctant Super Stud: Representing the Australian Single Man in Alvin Purple (1973)’
This paper explores the representation of masculinity—specifically through the figure of the single, unmarried man—in the 1973 Australian film Alvin Purple. The most commercially successful Australian film of the decade, Alvin Purple exemplifies the ‘ocker’ style of Australian filmmaking that emerged in, and came to define, the Australian cinematic landscape of the first half of the 1970s. The film’s eponymous protagonist is a ‘reluctant super stud’: involuntarily irresistible to women since his adolescence, Alvin’s ostensible desire to lead a quiet, normal life is thwarted as throngs of women go to extraordinary lengths to sleep with the waterbed-installer. In representing Alvin as constantly under the attack of insatiable women, this paper argues that the film functioned as a response to the challenges brought forth by the Women’s Liberation Movement. Alvin Purple subverted the concerns of second-wave feminists, and transformed the apparently oppressed women of Australia into the oppressors of men. This paper explores this tension and questions its implications in the context of contemporary political and social change.
Dr Chelsea Barnett is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney. A gender and cultural historian, she teaches and researches the history of Australian masculinity, feminist and gender theory, and twentieth-century Australian history, and she is currently researching a cultural history of Australian single men. Her work has been published in leading historical journals, including Australian Historical Studies and History Australia. Her first book, Reel Men: Australian Masculinity in the Movies, 1949-1962, has just been published by Melbourne University Press.
James Findlay, ‘Framing the Frontier: Convicts, Colonisation and the Television Audience’
In 1978 Australian television audiences were taken to the frontier and confronted with their nation’s history of colonisation. Twice. Against the Wind and The Last Tasmanianboth aired on competing commercial networks to huge ratings success. More recently, in 2015 a similar double up occurred, this time convict historical mini series The Secret Riverand Banished aired within months of each other on the ABC and Foxtel respectively.
In both instances competing visions of the colonial past were presented to viewers that either highlighted or downplayed frontier violence. Through focusing on audience reception I will argue that viewers in 1978 and 2015, as well as being entertained, were challenged in different ways to critique the historical narratives being represented. The controversies and discourses that followed the airing of each program shed light on television’s role in shaping and reshaping ideas about colonisation, empire and nationhood to mass audiences in Australia and overseas.
Dr James Findlay is a historian with interests in media history, convict transportation, Indigenous history, and settler colonialism in Australia. He is currently lecturing with the Department of History at the University of Sydney and is an Honorary Associate at the Centre for Media History at Macquarie University. Before undertaking his PhD he worked extensively in film and television for companies and broadcasters including the BBC, ABC, Beyond Television, Screenworld and Film Australia.