8 Sep 2011, Comments (9)

At Home with Julia: didn’t fail to disappoint

Author: Helen

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.

Thanks, ABC.
Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo

Comments (9) »

  • mimbles says:

    I didn’t watch it because I was pretty sure this would be how it was. I think I feel slightly ill.

  • caffeineadddict says:

    Pretty much every time a cheap allusion was made to her sex life in the episode I felt sick (and over the span of 30 minutes, there were a SHITLOAD of them).

    The ‘satire’ label is obviously BS- the show is yet another misogynistic ‘test’ being thrown at JG: if she doesn’t take it like an Aussie trooper and reacts badly to it, many will label her as a humourless bitch- a depiction which (obviously) many would like to perpetuate to (further) alienate her from the voting public. So the thing that distresses me is that effectively they can put whatever they want into the show; JG is effectively gagged from criticising it, which makes the sexism even more entrenched.

    From the two or three reviews I’ve read, the commments tend to take the following paths: Lib supporters thrilled with the show because of the way it humiliates juLIAR and exposes what an ’emasculating’ cow she is; people who think nobody can take a joke anymore; people who completely deny any singling out of JG because she’s a woman and say that all pollies are open to this type of personal ‘exposure’ (apparently this is important for a health democracy, donchyaknow).

  • Jo Tamar says:

    I didn’t watch it – same reasons as mim.

    I also find it frustrating that this is how all het relationships are satirised (at least, all I can think of – I don’t watch a great deal of tv so I don’t claim to be an expert).

    As in: even if the members of the het couple occupy “traditional” roles vis-a-vis “breadwinner” and “homemaker”, the satire involves the woman being the one truly in control, while the man is just a poor weakling who can’t stand up for himself (or look after himself) and needs to escape to the pub for a beer with his mates (and then every now and then, “taking control” and “saving the day”). Which – grrrr, for all the usual reasons.

    So, ABC and Amanda Bishop & co, you missed the chance to be truly groundbreaking by, for example, satirising the relationship while still presenting Gillard and Mathieson as equal partners.

  • I found it unwatchable. One joke that was never funny to begin with. Hit delete by the halfway point. What a wasted opportunity.

  • tigtog says:

    One thing I do like – Craig McLachlan as the hunky gardener in the opening credits and so far we simply haven’t seen him again.

    That’s cameo class, that is. Why can’t the rest of it be as elegant as that?

  • Buncha says:

    Very poor viewing, almost bereft of humor. It.looked like a throwback to the 50’s when film makers were learning the game and writing talent was non-existent. Shame on the ABC for throwing money away with this rubbish. No comparison to quality commercial series like “Packed to the Rafters”.

  • paul walter says:

    Avoided it without much trouble.
    No, not politicised sitcom on Auntie, please.
    I’d imagine most of this readership would remember the ABC’s golden years and look at the current wreck sadly.
    And what devastation the last decade has wrought- ten years ago we had Sigrid Thornton defending her bayside folk against developers, the beginnings of Glasshouse and CNNNN, as well as docos, lots of biting Brit satire and uncompromising drama on aspects of the human condition; good current affairs and no ads.
    Then came Alston, Shier, Conroy and Scott and a period of sustained dumbing down induced by social and poleconomic conservatives incapable of holding up an argument through discourse therefore smashing the discursive mechanism.
    Never mind, if you don’t know, or want to know, about Goldman Sachs, Koch Bros and Murdoch, they won’t trouble you.
    Better you don’t know anyway- more difficult for them and more difficult for you, were you to know the truth.

  • […] N, gimme a ? TITLEMENT! Meanwhile Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony grrrs that At Home with Julia: didn?t fail to disappoint and the Hodyens answer the old question A Minister for Men? Maia counts the The […]

  • Helen says:

    10 years since Seachange? Blimey!

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