The AGE must have thought At Home With Julia was a doco, because they had an item about it in the News section today. “Slight it certainly was, but not fundamentally unkind – to the Prime Minister at least.” Er, no. Mocking Gillard’s partner doesn’t leave her untouched. Not the way they did it. I switched it on in trepidation, wondering what antidiluvian gender-policing tropes they would serve up. I wasn’t undisappointed. Besides Amanda Bishop’s HILARIOUS take on Gillards voice (She’s got such a FUNNY VOICE HURH HURH HURH – That stuff never palls!), the focus is all on her partner, Tim Mathieson (Phil Lloyd). And it’s all hanging on the side-splitting scenario of Man Living with a woman who’s More Successful than Him ZOMG!! WEARZ TEH PANTZORZ!!111!!
It’s relentless, from the first bar of the cliched piano intro. As the first episode opens, Tim is followed by a bunch of subteen boys who taunt him about his lack of manliness as he puts the bins out. That sets the monotonous pattern from then on as Tim fails again and again to live up to masculine standards. He even visits JG’s workplace with a sandwich. Emasculating! His day continues as a mounting litany of humiliations. Gillard calls him “my little T-pot”. And while the Tim Mathieson character bears most of the weight of the superannuated tropes, as he becomes ever more irritated and frustrated (and as oblique jokes about his manhood are made by the minute) we’re given to understand that JG’s relationship is doomed to failure. A woman simply shouldn’t be under work pressure. Everyone knows it’s the woman who makes the damned sandwich, amirite? Even in the first episode we feel the relationship is so strained it must eventually crack, and then she’ll be all alone with only Bill Shorten the terrier and Bob Katter for company, won’t she? And serve her right for being an emasculating prime minister and destroying her man.
Clearly – still – the idea that men taking the role of partner to a successful woman are pathetic, and they’re pathetic because they are then comparable to a woman, which is terrible, still has great traction. I’m just about to watch Rush: a woman running about in a flak suit with a gun might be frowned on by some conservatives, but no-one sees her as pathetic and laughable. Women taking on mens’ roles might meet with resistance, but it’s because they’re a subordinate moving up. A man taking on (what’s still defined as) a woman’s role is looked on as moving down.
I can’t help but wonder what this meanspirited and patriarchy-fellating little show will do to the real-life relationship. No matter how Mathieson presents himself in his everyday life, he now has the “man emasculated by successful woman” lesson rammed down his throat weekly, and it can’t help but affect how he’s treated by the public when he goes out. I imagine it can’t help but affect the dynamic between the two of them. And if anything happens to their relationship, then the world will be all, “See, there you go, ball buster.”
And I can’t help but wonder how many teenage girls are abandoning plans for a bigger role in the wide world, because you know, it just makes you unloveable and makes your partner miserable.
Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo