Global Warming- Have You Thaw-ed About It?

My grandpa is a man of habit. Without fail, come 6:00 am on a weekend visit (when even the resident magpies are only just greeting a new day) the thunderous beat of military marching music compiled from the centuries reverberates down the hallway. This rude awakening, mischievously rousing all sleeping souls to consciousness, is followed by a perfectly cooked cheese soufflé for breakfast, made light and fluffy in an attempt to soften the trauma of reveille. Grandpa is also a man of firm beliefs; the youth of today are lazy, technology (especially the mobile phone) is distracting, and climate change is a political hoax.

While the former two may be considered blatant subjectivity, the last notion holds a more substantiated truth. In a superficial global media environment in which ‘objective truth’ appears to increasingly be an ideal rather than an attainable reality, fair and balanced reporting of such issues is often overshadowed by political and economic agendas. Climate change reporting in Australia certainly follows this trend, reported through the lens of politicians, pundits and commentators who frame the issue as a political conflict rather than a matter that requires an urgent, global-scale response. In an attempt to present an ‘objective’ view on climate change that is in line with journalism ethics of being “honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information” (reading), an ironic conundrum has become apparent in associated media reporting. Over 90% of scientists worldwide agree that climate change is real. And yet the documentary A Burning Question, reveals that the media remains contradictory in its reporting of the issue by utilisinga form of informational bias known as ‘false balance’.

Climate Change- A political tool rather than an urgent issue?

Climate Change- A political tool rather than an urgent issue?

Evidence of climate change is now undeniable. Rather than addressing active responses to the issue, the media is stagnating in itsexploration of authenticity.For this reason it is little wonder that my grandpa, along with many others, remains sceptical of climate change. A balanced media perspective on the issue justifies this scepticism; however this approach needs to altered. Rather than those who hold the power to enact real change using climate change as a political tool for self-promotion and controversy, the media needs to address its pressing implications, such as the imminent effect of climate change on small island states in the Pacific.

While a healthy media should strive to present news with objectivity and balance, the reporting of climate change needs to be converted from a heated debate to a considered response.

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Why isn’t the Koala a Real Bear?

Because it doesn’t have the right koalafications.

Sharing this joke with a group of mates in your local Aussie pub may see you escape shouting the next round of drinks, depending on how well your friends respond to the stereotypical pun. However if the same joke were to be repeated in, say Spain, you might see yourself greeted by the awkward silence of a bewildered crowd… and be lucky to escape the second coming of La Tomatina initiated by the bemused locals.

Comedy and humour are culturally specific. Whilst a person slipping on a banana peel is universally accepted as amusing, the more subtle and unique humour encapsulated within a comedy show from a specific country cannot be so easily translated across cultures. As Susan Purdie explains in her book Comedy: the Mastery of Discourse , comedy finds its niche in breaking rules of language and behaviour.  While all cultures may laugh at the same ‘rule’, such as the slapstick hilarity of the banana peel scenario, in many cases these ‘rules’ are context specific.

Kim's 'hornbag' looks were lost in translation by casting Selma Blair as Kim in the US version.

Kim’s ‘hornbag’ looks were lost in translation by casting Selma Blair as Kim in the US version.

Kath and Kim typifies a failed attempt to export a local Australian comedy series. Many key points of humour in the show fell short of laughs in the ‘copycat’ American version. For example, while self-proclaimed ‘hornbag’ Kim (played by Gina Riley) suffered constant jibes from her mother about her ‘muffin top’ in the Australian series, the irony of this situation was lost in translation by casting slender Selma Blair as Kim in the US version.

However, when the FORMAT of a comedy show, rather than the program in its entirety, is exported and adapted to suit another culture, the result can be very different.

Satirical panel game comedy show Good News Week was a huge success in Australia during both of its two runs between 1996 and 2012. Hosted by comedian Paul McDermott, the show drew its humour from Australian current affairs, topical news issues and important media and political figures.  Here is a typical example of McDermott’s opening monologue, in which he cleverly summarises the news of the week, in this case- Julia Gillard taking over leadership of the Labour Party in 2010.

With jabs and jibes specific to Australian culture, it is little wonder this show was well received, averaging a rating of 7.5/10 over its airtime.

Many people are unaware that Good News Week was originally based on British satirical panel game show Have I Got News for You which remains one of the leading television shows in British comedy to this day. Broadcast for over 40 complete series, the program was the first collective act to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 British Comedy Awards. Once again, this show drew its humour from current affairs, however in this scenario, from issues relevant to Britons.

While comedy and humour remain generally remain unique to a culture, it appears that the FORMAT of comedy is a product that, just as with many cultural forms, adheres to the modern notion of ‘glocalisation’, of fashioning a universal product to local preferences. Perhaps your safest bet in Spain would be a bull joke. They are usually well herd.

Chasing the Roos From the Backyard

From the sunburnt centre scarred by the walk of time to pristine beaches that embrace the coastal fringes, Australia seems like a ‘bloody’ great place to live. While our country may lack documented relics of ancient civilisations, the unique and varied natural beauty of Australia is consistently employed by tourism campaigns in a beckoning call to foreigners.

Such stereotypical advertisements demonstrate how we identify ourselves on an international front. And not just as a country, but also as a people. From an outsider’s perspective, this ad suggests that the typical ‘Ostrayan’ is a surfing, beer drinking, camel-riding, laid back larrikin, unfazed by the casual kangaroo in the backyard or a sneaky shark in the pool. We are an open, friendly and accepting people. It is little wonder that many international students are attracted by the idea of an education in Australia in exchange for the promise of permanent residency in the land of the fair dinkum.

And yet, a recent SBS documentary, A Convenient Education, reveals that life in Australia for international students is a “far cry from the perceived wonderland” promoted in tourism campaigns. Exploitation in the workplace and housing sectors, safety and security concerns and visa issues are highlighted as common difficulties faced by foreign students. As if the language barrier wasn’t enough. Furthermore, findings from a transnational project designed to enhance the Australian experience for international students demonstrated that despite “images of the bushman and Crocodile Dundee…dominating impressions of who Australians are”, many students felt as if Australians did not want to know them and made little effort to understand their culture and countries of origin (Kell, Vogl 2007).

Exacerbated by the racial controversy following a series of attacks on Indian students in 2009, the image of Australia as the ‘lucky country’ is no longer in sync with reality, at least not in relation to international education. Resounding consequences of such crises continue to affect tourism, education and trade, and have cost Australia billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, according to the Beyond the Lost Decade report.

For a country which endeavours to present a picturesque view of diversity and multiculturalism coupled with a relaxed lifestyle, it seems as if the way in which we are perceived by the rest of the world has strayed from the true ‘Straya. In a world of interconnectedness and interdependence promoted by globalisation, we need to seriously consider how we both identify and present ourselves as a country and a people. We are, after all, pitching to a global audience. We need to ensure that our promises align with reality, and that international students and in fact any foreigners, feel as if they are getting a fair shake of the sauce bottle.