PQD – Representation

Just a quickie about representation in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (dir: Stephan Elliott, Australia, 1994) (PQD).

Three main characters represent different faces of LGBT. Remember the CONTEXT… 1994 attitudes to LGBT people and issues was markedly different to todays. As such, the characters of Tick, Adam and Bernadette (Bernice/Ralph) are portrayed slightly differently from how they might be represented today. Also, a 1994 audience would react differently…

ADAM

For a 1994 audience, Adam (Guy Pearce) represents the stereotype of the ‘bitchy queen’. He is young, brash — almost aggressive, in your face, full of life and unashamedly gay. He is also quite immature and acts without thinking. He is cynical and uses people (even family… think about how he manages to get ‘Priscilla’). The justification we are shown in the film (it is implied) is that he was abused by his uncle…

It is Adam who ‘sings’ on the top of Priscilla as she drives across the outback… and the lyrics give an insight into Adam’s hedonistic (Ooooo… Big word… Look it up!) approach to life. Here it is from a production of La Traviata with English subtitles…

BERNADETTE

Bernadette (Terence Stamp) is transgender (male to female). She is portrayed as the mature and smart one (Think Levi-Strauss and binary opposite of Adam, perhaps). While quiet and reflective and hating ‘bloody ABBA’, Bernadette is also the character who appears to find love on the road trip.

Bernadette is the voice of experience. The one who helps get the others out of a pickle as required (mainly Adam!)…  For the 1994 audience, the notion of someone being transgender would be even more unusual than simply being gay… so how do you think the audience would react to this intelligent, witty and funny woman who challenges their preconceptions… and don’t forget, casting Terence Stamp was a masterstroke in making the film sellable outside Australia. Here he is talking (briefly) about Priscilla and the importance of the film to him.

Did you take much persuading to perform in drag for The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert?

It wasn’t something I’d have ever considered really. I thought it was a joke, but a woman friend of mine just happened to be present when I was getting calls from my agent about the script and she pointed out to me in a very incisive way that my fear was out of all proportion to the possible consequences. That’s the thing about fear: you’re only really subject to it as long as you don’t spot it. It’s not easy to realise when you’re turning down things from fear or genuine discernment.

She said, “Look, just say yes and maybe it will go away. And if it doesn’t, you’ll just have to address the fear.” And then she said this wonderful thing: “Terence, this is not a career move, this is a growth move.” So it was a challenge, a challenge I couldn’t resist because [otherwise] my life would have been a lie.

But it wasn’t a fun thing, or anything I was looking forward to. It was, “F*ck me, this is the last thing in the world I want to do: be in f*cking Australia with paparazzi.” It was like a nightmare. But it was only when I got there, and got through the fear, that it became one of the great experiences of my whole career. It was probably the most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life.

from: BFI interview

TICK

Tick (Hugo Weaving) is the heart of the film. The central narrative (Classic Holywood: disruption followed by quest/journey to find resolution/equilibrium) revolves around Tick’s need to travel to Alice Springs to meet his son. The fear he carries is how his son will react to having a gay father.

In terms of representation, Tick is portrayed as being gay, but more importantly for the 1994 audiences, he has a vulnerability that endears him. He is scared and worried about how his son will view him, and this means he becomes more than just a gay stereotype… he becomes a parent and that is something audiences can relate to.

Remember Stephan Elliott is trying to convey a message that LGBT people are people like everyone else. They have hopes and fears just like the rest of us. The genius is that Elliott makes great and clever uses of codes and conventions to convey aspects of Tick’s character (and thus representations)… he is a drag queen, he appears ‘camp’ on the bus, there is the very funny paradox when he is told he is a dad:

On the one hand, we have a drag queen in a ridiculously over-the-top dress/creation which represents the gay/LGBT nature of the character… contrasted with the heterosexual/male norm of lighting a cigar when you become a father… Can anyone say paradox?

Tick is the guide for the audience. He becomes the acceptable representation of ‘gay’. He is funny, caring, has a son, and generally tries to keep out of trouble. Like Bernadette, Tick is quite happy living the quiet life: think of the scene in Coober Pedy when Tick and Bernice are having a civilised discussion over a meal. This would tell an audience that LGBT people have similar hopes and fears and experiences to ‘straight’ people… yet Tick can also unleash an extrovert gay side especially when drink/Adam are involved.

The key scene with regards Tick and representation comes when he is alone with his son at the picnic. He is dressed to try and look like the stereotypical conventional rugged outdoor barbecue and beer loving Aussie man. Yet the humour comes because his clothes look as though they are brand new, and look how uncomfortably he is standing…

Watch the scene, and think what image is he trying to project, why, and how would it be received by (in the film) his son… and more importantly, by the 1994 audience?

If you are on the ball, you’ll realise it would go a long way to helping change the audiences’ opinions of LGBT.


That should be enough to point you in the right direction… I’ll try to add more if time allows, but you need to relax.

If time allows, watch Priscilla one last time tonight, and watch the Panorama on hacking. Other than that, get some sleep!

 

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Role of Media – NotW

I’m pulling together a number of bits and bobs for you, and remember, I’m very happy to see you during study leave if you want to look in. 🙂 If you were timetabled for Media, I should be available… and we have a kettle.

I’ll post some follow up notes tomorrow, but you should take the time to watch this BBC Panorama documentary on the Murdoch/News of the World/phone hacking/’establishment’ links as preparation. As you watch it, you might like to consider the following points:

  • What were Murdoch/News of the World‘s PURPOSE(s) in running the stories they did?
  • When did they ‘step over the line’?
  • How would the illegal hacking affect peoples’ ATTITUDES and BEHAVIOURS?
  • Given how close Brooks and Coulson were to the likes of David Cameron and George Osborne, do you think it was possible for the newspapers they controlled/edited to hold the government of the day to account? (The newspapers act as The Fourth Estate)
  • Which audience NEEDS were the newspapers fulfilling?
  • Did the Press Complaints Commission (Archive of PCC site HEREfail in its duty to regulate the News of the World?

Remember, as well, that some of the historic events outlined in the documentary and the subsequent Leveson Inquiry into the “culture, practices and ethics of the British press” are still ‘live’ and ongoing.

There is much else to consider, but that’s enough to be going on with! More to follow tomorrow. 🙂

 

PQD Key Aspects

Here’s the PQD document we’re currently using in class for revision (PDF). I’ll post a more detailed explanation/application for the exam process for you after we’ve been through it on Wednesday. In the meantime, if you recall how I was pulling apart/teasing out the Broken Hill bar (Shirley) scene, you should consider doing something similar with other important scenes in the film.

Suggestions include:

  • Coober Pedy The drinking club (Adam after taking drugs)
  • The First People (Aborigines) camp
  • Kings Canyon
  • The charades ‘picnic’
  • Opening AND closing sequences
  • Broken Hill (Shirley)
  • Desert opera (Lyrics and explanation of relevance of the aria here Sempre Libera – for info, we only hear the first verse sung by Violetta)

There are, of course plenty of others you could look at. 🙂

Finally, there’s a really useful little synopsis and overview (short, but nothing wrong with that) that hints at the depth of the film. You can find it here: Curator’s Notes.

Almost forgot… click the pic for the full slides for Priscilla.

Click the sun for the notes…

More Handouts

Thanks to those who came in today. I hope you found it as useful as I did. 🙂

Here are a couple of extra handouts that we used/discussed today. You’ve either had these in paper form, or they have been on the blog at the appropriate time, but here they are to give you some more pointers and notes…

CLICK BRAHMS HIPSTER BEARD TO DOWNLOAD

I’ll be around periods 3, 4 and 6 tomorrow if you want to come in. 🙂

Role of Media – May 2017

Media Revision Notes

Key Aspects Booklet and Glossary

Propp Intro

Role of Media – November 2015 PRINT

Ooops! Almost forgot to add this one… It’s a work in progress, so is not complete, but it’ll hopefully point you in the right direction for things we’ve covered.

Role of the Media – UNIT

REVISION HANDOUTS

I’ve been busy with these for you… they are mostly broken down to point you at the correct part of the course/notes and also to point you at what you could say for the tasks.

In no particular order… (Click the link to download. All files are PDFs)

SQA Revision Multiple Egs

Media Revision Notes

2017 – PQD Overview

I will be running a study support/exam prep session tomorrow from 9 -> 1 or 2 depending on demand/need. I’m planning to tackle Q1 periods 1&2, and Q2 (Role of Media) periods 3&4. I’ll also be running a similar session Tuesday periods 3&4 and lunchtime. Basically, if you have questions, come in and ask! 😉