November 23rd, 2011


Housos, Redux

A while back, I linked the first episode of a new show called Housos, which had picked up some flack for representing the poor people of Sydney badly.

Five episodes in, the Paul Fenech created show is going strong on its politically incorrect, loud parody of shows like Neighbours and Home and Away, offering most recently the storyline of a girl taking a bogey board full of drugs to Phuket for the local bikey gang. A previous episode had the local drug dealers putting insulation into the mayor's fake home, a trip to Melbourne, and a pregnant girl in a wheelbarrow, all of it over the top, parts of it lifted from reality, and all of it loud, obnoxious and mostly funny.

However, it is still coping criticism. Most recently, the sitting member for Mt Druitt, Richard Amery, wrote that the concerns of public housing people that they were being unfairly portrayed as valid, and then offered up his reasoning, thus:

The creators of Housos, however, have decided to depict their characters in the suburb of Sunnyvale as typical public-housing residents.

The first episode gave viewers the works: drug taking, indecent language, stolen property and inhaling insecticide to get a Centrelink benefit. This week's episode shows that storyline will be limited (and, hopefully, short-lived) as viewers get a taste of the crudest forms of behaviour that might be representative of a majority of ''yobbos'' but not anywhere near the majority of public-housing tenants.

Perhaps the show should be renamed.

Because, of course, the tone of the show is realistic, nothing bad happens to the people, and 'yobbos' everywhere are doing this.

The choice of the member of Mt Druitt to write a review of the show is a political one by the Sydney Morning Herald, because Mt Druitt itself would be considered one of the worst suburbs in white Sydney. Note how I say white. The demographic of Sydney is a diverse one, and over the years, the media has cut it up and laid out the West in very specific racial areas and the show is keyed into presenting an unreal portrayal of bogans. Avery's use of the term 'yobbos' is an old one, revealing more his age than anything else, but it means essentially the same thing as the word bogan does now.

Still, I would contest that Avery's statement that the behaviour is representative of anyone is false. The show deliberately caricatures the characters in the show, using it to fuel the jokes that often end with the characters being poor, strung out, and in jail. It's hardly a positive one, but that's not the point--Housos is not setting out to present the characters within the show as heroes, or people to be identified with. The humour often arises from the fact that you're laughing at them, not with them, and you should not take it as a truth that is being told to you, a point that most people seem to understand.

You can watch the first five epsidoes here, on SBS on demand.

(Of course, it might be worth noting that before he became a politician, Avery was a cop, and if there's anyone treated worse in Housos than the cops, you'll struggle to find them. I especially liked the bacon and eggs joke.)