Just before I sat down to watch Channel 7’s “non-interview” with Schapelle Corby, I got out my phone and composed a snarky tweet. It read:
“Q: How does this Schapelle Corby Sunday Night tele-saga resemble Princess Diana’s death?
A: Both are car-crash stories involving a Mercedes…”
It was cruel, but I went ahead and posted it anyway. It was favourably recieved and re-tweeted. And that response got me thinking: When did we start getting so nasty?
In the past week there’s been a lot of talk about Twitter trolls and the part they played in the death of Charlotte Dawson, but the callousness is happening outside of the cyber sphere too. One only need to look at the national discourse surrounding asylum seekers. Right now, on the web and in the street, Australia is characterised by a mean streak.
I’m too young to remember, but apparently in this country we used to “cut down the tall poppies”. Now it seems, no one is immune from a new vein of vitriol. Bogans- once an endearing Australian archetype, depicted with affection in comedies such as The Castle and Kath & Kim- have suddenly become maligned. In the weeks since her release, much of the Australian public have slammed Schapelle and the Corby clan by attacking their bogan tendencies. This is ironic because the things most popular in this country- reality TV shows, every code of football, Karl Stefanovic- are incredibly bogan. And to those bemoaning that Schapelle is a criminal who doesn’t deserve a second chance, may I suggest you do your history homework. Seriously, what White Australia needs right now is a subscription to Ancestry.com.
As the notorious Channel 7 interview screened, many on social media went further by making deprecating comments about the physical attributes of both Schapelle and her sister Mercedes. “I hope Mercedes spends her money on elocution lessons and good plastic surgery” tweeted one user. Of Schapelle, another wrote, “10 years in hell? She looks pretty well-fed to me”. It was an unsavoury jibe at her weight. Such thinly-veiled misogyny reminded me of our treatment of another polarising Australian “bogan” woman- Julia Gillard. Comparing a convicted drug smuggler and the first female Prime Minister is like comparing apples and oranges, but it goes to show that making fun of someone’s background, accent or appearance is a sport in this nation right now. We’re all scrambling to out-wit each other and make the cleverest and cruelest punchline.
In all of this, Schapelle has now become an abstract idea, as opposed to an actual human being- a product of our social networks and 24-hour news cycle. She’s the bad telemovie, the Woman’s Day exclusive, the opinion columns and the Facebook meme pages.
I’m hoping that when Schapelle Corby finally does get a chance to speak, we manage to find our sensitivity. In the days since the non-interview screened we’ve learned that Schapelle has tried to kill herself. Charlotte Dawson did the same two years ago. What more do we have to know before we start treating her with some degree of dignity? Innocent or guilty, any reasonable person can concede that she has been through enough. And this realisation- that thoughtfulness is more rewarding than a judgemental comment or the shallow thrill of creating a popular meme- was cause enough to delete my nasty tweet.
Hilary Swank- “toothy athleticism”
Ryan Gosling- “sad-eyed intensity”
Matthew McConaughey- “a profile that belongs on a coin”
Jason Segel- “America’s lumbering puppy-dog heartthrob”
Jennifer Lawrence- “America’s blanket-wrapped, eternal Sunday morning girlfriend”
Last night, waiting to be let into the cinema to watch The Wolf of Wall Street, I noticed a dude there by himself. He was in his early twenties and wearing a singlet that showed off bulging biceps and a tattoo of his surname. If he was embarrassed to be at a busy screening alone then he didn’t show it. If it were me buying a ticket for one I’d be apologetic and keep my eyes on my shoes, but he stood with his chest puffed outwards, sort of like an intimidating animal you might see on a David Attenborough documentary. The sheer volume of snacks that he had procured -a large Coke, a large popcorn, a box of Maltesers and a bottle of water- also seemed to be overtly masculine. They were a psych-up for the film’s three hour running time; a metaphorical war cry before a football match. But halfway through the movie I noticed the guy leaving the cinema. As he lumbered across the row of seats, his stocky silhouette came up against a pair of tits that were being projected on the gigantic screen at the time. He never returned, and I began to concentrate more on him than the movie. This was just like me- I go to the cinema and end up more interested in another patron than the film’s plot. Where do they live? What car do they drive? Are they the type of person who drinks full cream or skim milk? I figured the macho guy left to go and jack off over Margot Robbie because he just couldn’t wait until the end. At least, in my mind, that seemed to be the most plausible reason.