Monday, May 28, 2012

Australian Celebrity

Could someone please tell me where the real Australia stars are? I don't mean to cause offence; I'm actually serious. Am I the only one who is disenchanted with the calibre of our current celebrities? 

Thankfully, Tracey Spicer has noticed as well, and written about it for The Hoopla: 

I remember chatting to the wry and witty Chris Noth from Sex & The City a couple of years ago. “I have no idea why I’m here,” he confessed. “Don’t you have any TV stars in your country?”
We have soapie stars, reality tv stars, sports stars, radio stars and a few random celestial bodies. Yep, they're all 'stars' in that they are well known, but are they talented or popular or respected? Do we look up to these people, or simply recognise them? I'm not sure. I just know I'm disappointed when I see Seal on a local TV show. I'm disappointed when I see Dawn French flogging an Australian supermarket chain. I'm entirely mystified when I see the line-up for Dancing With The Stars and other celeb-based shows. 

It's an argument that's been going on since for at least 40 years. Each year through the 60s and 70s, there'd be an International Star to present the Gold Logie: These people were 'genuine' international celebrities: John Wayne, Sammy Davis Jnr, Mohammed Ali, Bea Arthur, Big Bird and TV stars of the day. Even back then, the question was asked: why? Was the promise of a room full of Australian television's most popular personalities frocked up and drinking free booze not enough to attract viewers?

But back to Dawn French and the Coles ads. I'm not just disappointed in Coles and their agency Big Red. I'm disappointed in Dawn French too. I doubt she needs the money, so why? Why would she risk her own reputation to spruik groceries? Perhaps Ms French  thinks Australia is too insignificant and too far away to matter. She may be right.

And isn't there an Aussie celebrity who could carry the campaign? Dawn French is a wonderful comedian and actor, but we have plenty of those here, don't we?

And then there's Seal and Benji. The need to include imported judges certainly didn't start this year on The Voice. The original Australian Idol judging panel included resident Pom Ian Dickson, American born Aussie Marcia Hines and Mark Holden, who spent much of his career in the USA. Various Australian seasons of the series of The X-Factor have included British judges John Reid, Ronan Keating and Mel B, who is now co-hosting Dancing with the Stars. Before that, American-born stage star Evie Hayes was a regular judge on Young Talent Time.

The cultural cringe is a two way process that I'd naively thought had ended in the eighties. In order to be a real star, you have to have made it overseas first: Helen Reddy, Keith Urban, Kylie Minogue, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett... Now, the flipside seems to be that we doubt the ability of our own celebrities to judge our talent.

But perhaps we do need to look at the big international stars to see real celebrity, because what passes here as "celebrity" is often so disappointing. Who are these people? Where are the real celebrities? We know the talent exists in Australia; we run shows to identify it...and yet the "celebrity" who gets her own reality show is Lara Bingle, a woman with no discernible talent other than looking good in a bikini. She makes the Kardashians look like real talent.

And that's the real  question: what do we want from our celebrities? Ultimately  the public is responsible for embracing or rejecting the personalities the media presents. If we don't want Kyle Sandilands on our tellie, we shouldn't watch his show. And we didn't. 

And if we don't want imported talent headlining our talent shows, awards shows and advertising, we need to make better decisions and support our local performers.

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