Monday, March 26, 2012

And so to a lesson in authenticity ...

(Above: the pond keeps its gentlemen readers informed of the latest trends, thanks to trendy Paul Sheehan).

Speaking of elections, it's now precisely a year since the NSW elections saw Labor routed and Barry O'Farrell elected, and what has changed?

Not much, unless you count the grand announcement of the demolition of that carbuncle, the monorail, and the sight of Barry slavering and quivering with delight at the prospect of James Packer installing a casino at Barangaroo - puppy dog heaven, a lap poodle routine which would have done a NSW Labor party politician proud.

One thing has changed - the number of ministerial bingles has been reduced, with only the singularly inept Souris falling foul of the media in recent times in a relatively minor dingle (Souris fronts media over Star allegations).

But the infrastructure issues the state, and especially Sydney faces, have been met with the usual dilly-dallying, partly because they've been allowed to drag on and on for decades without decisive action. The roads remain clogged, public transport inadequate, and so on and so forth, and in the pond's local area, the only sign of change - a makeover of the railway station - was begun in Labor days as a sop to keep the inner west safe ...

In short, if you expect a miracle from state governments, allow me to sell you my slice of cheese toast which looks very much like it has a portrait of the Christ child on it ...

"They always disappoint", said The Wire, so better not to have the faith in the first place.

Meanwhile, in Queensland, plucky Queenslanders have taken a stand against a government which indulged in asset sales ... by giving an overwhelming mandate to a government which is highly likely to indulge in asset sales ...

Perhaps the best you can say is that only two electorates found it in their heart to give a Bob Katter candidate a guernsey. So much for homophobia as an election strategy.

Meanwhile, all the pundits are in a blather about the relevance of the election to the federal sphere, and if Campbell Newman were Tony Abbott, it might have some point. But Tony Abbott is Tony Abbott, at once the reason for the perilous condition of federal Labor and at the same time for the perilous condition of the federal coalition in opposition.

But stay, enough of this, because surely it's time to catch up on the latest dose of fatuities from the newly returned Paul Sheehan, and he too uses the Queensland election for a little brooding, in Action hero challenge for schools.

It's hard to count the many ways that Sheehan manages to be offensive. First of all he seizes on the latest pop culture trend, Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, and takes one swallow for a summer.

Sheehan clearly knows very little about the history of this particular variant on a popular sci fi genre, which goes back at least to the days when Richard Connell wrote a story The Most Dangerous Game in 1924 for Colliers, which has its very own wiki, and a list of some nineteen movies that have been influenced by it. (wiki here). Australia even contributed the terrible Turkey Shoot to the mix, while the Japanese can claim Battle Royale as a direct precedent, which the toffy nosed Americans got upset about because they hadn't thought of it first.

What does it all mean? Well on a creative level, it's just a wrinkle. Men play killing games, so how do you freshen the concept? Get a teenage girl to play the killing game. They've been working that wrinkle since Shakespeare flung the odd heroine into the odd predicament. (Oh okay the Greeks did it too).

On a critical level, you could take it as a commentary on a future dystopia, and television reality shows, and such like ...

Or you could do it as a Sheehan and see it as a sure sign of females seizing control. Just make sure you do it in a condescending way:

I went to see the next tsunami in popular culture, The Hunger Games, because it gave me a chance to see Jennifer Lawrence again. Lawrence is a heart-tugger.

A heart tugger? Is that the only thing she tugs? Quick, cover up the evidence:

She has a quality which the public craves: authenticity.

Oh she's an authentic heart tugger ...

For the dear absent lord's sake, she's an actress in a well-packaged and sold movie. Wash out your mouth with this inauthentic talk of authenticity.

Never mind, having a couple of girls in action movies - why they might even dare to save the hero, not just once but twice - puts Sheehan in a dither, or is that a tither:

...the new reality is unmistakable: young women are full-blooded action heroes now.
Not just in movies. Not just in sport. They are kicking ass all over the place. It is most striking in the area where we can best measure the performance of girls - schools.

Move over Amazons, move over Boadicea, move over Joan of Arc, there's a new reality. And yes, you've guessed it, Sheehan immediately races off to his new favourite website My School to cite statistics and quote NAPLAN results, without any regard whatsoever to significance or meaning. So that he can come up with this pearler:

Given that the schools ranked 39th and 40th are private boys' schools, it means that 33 of the 38 top-ranked schools in NSW are girls' schools or coeducational.

Which is, when you pause to think about it for a nanosecond, an entirely meaningless non-sequitur in terms of considering boys versus girls versus coeducational schooling. Data in search of a brain.

So bravely on we plunge:

On the day when the Higher School Certificate results are released, it is not macho young males who do the strutting; it is more likely to be girls who have kicked butt.

Yep, from one movie and a hasty ill-mannered consideration of the My Schools site - in a way that many educationists warned the site would be mis-used - and Sheehan ends up with full blown paranoia about girls and women kicking butt.

The end result? It's all gone way too far in this wacky post-feminist world:

Australia now has a woman governor-general, a woman prime minister, has had several woman premiers and a series of women High Court judges.

Shocking. Australia's actually had a woman prime minister and several women premiers.

That would be one Australian female prime minister out of twenty seven. Eek, the women and Jennifer Lawrence are over-running the world, quickly lads, head for the battlements.

Yep, it's that old saw, best expressed by that old Moving Pictures song What about me:

The other broad implication of the superior performance of young women over young men in education is that society needs to address this growing imbalance.

Yep, one Jennifer Lawrence, and the entire concept of the male hero is overthrown.

The result is that favourite meme of the commentariat, which is to explain how hapless young men are being run over by a new flock of females.

But there's none of the harden the fuck up, get out and compete rhetoric, just a lot of mamby pamby cry baby stuff. The harden the fuck up rhetoric is saved for the women:

Politicians Bligh and Gillard may have had a rough weekend, but neither woman ever asked the public to vote for them because they are women, but because they are leaders. As it must be.

Uh huh. So Bligh's just been kicked out and Gillard is on the ropes quite often, and not just because she's adopted Ali's 'rope a dope' tactics with Abbott, and yet here's Sheehan whingeing about what a hard time the lads are having.

As for post-feminism social policy, we have to address the widening faultlines in our schools system based on class and gender.

Uh huh. But of course the post-feminist society has been coming for a very long time, it seems, and you will find - if you can be bothered wasting a nanosecond of your life - that Sheehan has been blathering about social issues and the educational performance of the traditional Australian male since way back when (and in December 2003, according to this paper).

It turns out that Anna Bligh and Jennifer Lawrence are just the most recent decoys, hooks, for a long standing fear campaign.

A corollary to this approach has always been to cultivate the fear of Asian students doing well, and swamping decent Anglo culture ... and Sheehan's been running that scare campaign since the nineteen nineties.

That's what happens when you get a bee in your bonnet, and take on the job of a hammer. Everything looks like a nail, and all the statistics are culled so that the answer is always Jennifer Lawrence = 42.

Sheehan's previous foray into insights into education led to a number of letters to the editor (how quaint, people still write letters to the editor which you can read here).

All Paul Sheehan's article has done is clearly demonstrate the fears of both Department of Education and Catholic education principals that the MySchool data would be used indiscriminately and incorrectly.

Amen to that, and we can now add another one. All Paul Sheehan's latest column has done is prove that Hollywood marketing campaigns for hoary old concepts tarted up in the latest style, using the authentic Jennifer Lawrence, would be used indiscriminately and incorrectly to come to foolish conclusions.

Oh it's only Monday, and already the pond is fearful for the future of the human race ...

(Below: how to explain the concept and meaning of the word authenticity to the average Paul Sheehan reader).


  1. Oh lordy lordy, Submissive Wives and Mothers celebrate Mother's Day with the Sydney Anglicans. If it wasn't so serious what a joke it would be.

    As for the other, the intertubes tell us that Paul Sheehan is a notable alumni of the University of Trinity College and that Trinity college is a college of strong Anglican alignment.
    On the other hand, the list of alumni calls this Sheehan an "entertainment journalist", so it's clearly the wrong journalist. Sheehan is never entertaining ... except in a post-modern ironist way ...


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