Upper Middle Bogan – a sign our cultural cringe is over, or alive and kicking?

August 27, 2013

Image source: CLPR. Courtesy of ABC TV & iView.

Last week heralded the start of Upper Middle Bogan,(http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/upper-middle-bogan/) a new ABC comedy.  The premise is that of a middle class Doctor, 2 kids, adoring husband and middle class neuroticism discovers she is in fact adopted, and that her birth parents are two, well, bogans.  They run a drag-racing team, and have 3 other children, confessing in the first episode to having had their adopted daughter at 15 years old.

However this show is not what it seems, from the premise, and the promotion you watch, you would expect a Kath & Kim, Chris Lilley style parody of Australia’s much loved and maligned ‘bogan’.  What ensues, is more complex, far more balanced, and revealing.

The ‘Bogan’ parents are seen to be the ‘best parents in the world’, they name their race car (the most loved and revered family obsession) after their lost daughter, and they are welcoming, loving, hard-working people.  Likewise, the middle class world is not shown as the superior of the two, there are children fighting, judgmental mothers, and neuroticism to support a non-perfect world.  This is a comedy, so stereotypes run true for comedic effect, but somehow it feels like there is a balance, an egalitarian way of seeing our flaws on either side, and being able to laugh at them. This seems to support some of the themes we’ve identified recently in our work, that we’re moving beyond a certain degree of cultural cringe and reclaiming our roots.

Australian ideals of egalitarianism, a fair go, hard work are all being challenged on a number of fronts.  Corruption is being revealed daily, there is a growing gap between richest and poorest, and we are approaching an election with a feeling of having little choice.  Alongside this, the changes to our economic infrastructure, where white collar jobs feel as at risk as blue collar is starting equalise the way we think about what is a ‘better job’. 

One episode in, and it feels as if this show is going to walk the tightrope beautifully.  Showcasing the true values of family, love and community, with those of being able to laugh at ourselves, from either side of the divide.  It is, still, at the end of the day a comedy, and will no doubt play on the stereotypes further to come.  But so far, it’s indicative of New Australian Values, where we’re prouder of our roots than ever before, and cringing less about our so called ‘Bogan Roots’.