As I have pointed out in previous posts, Australian film is filled with outback ocker stereotypes. But I suppose we must love it considering Crocodile Dundee is the highest grossing Australian film of all time in the Australian box office (Screen Australia 2015) and not to mention our 2nd highest grossing film in the international box office making $174.8m, just under Happy Feet.
So why is it, that if Australian movies are seen to be so stereotypical, why do we love them so much? It is clear the from the Australia box office table that more than half of the films there, are based on classic Australian themes from setting to storyline, from humour to clothing. If these are the certain kinds of films we are producing no wonder why Americans make fun of our “true blue” attitude. But you know what, maybe all this attention is great!
Plenty of Australian films base their settings around iconic Australian landscapes and because of that, have become areas for tourists to visit. The first of those to gain traction was the setting of the 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock, which took place at Mt. Diogenes in Victoria (Middlemost 2015). My dad had mentioned that he had visited the place before purely because of the film but admitted that there’s not much else to do there but look at some rocks and trees. Some of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia have been thanks to a number of films showcasing the outback and in particular Wolf Creek (2005). Loosely based on the backpacker murders of Ivan Milat, the film follows “roo” shooter Mick Taylor and his evil torture of three tourists. The meteorite crater in Wolfe Creek National Park, WA, is where the trio were kidnapped and is now the place which has become so popular with tourists.
Frost (2010) has also credited the success of Crocodile Dundee (1986) as a major player in the heightened amount of American tourists to coming to Australia. O’Regan (1988) also agrees saying that in 1987 our tourism rose faster than any other developed nation.
“A visiting American journalist wants to write a feature story on Dundee and his adventures. Riley is excited because he hopes that such media coverage may be translated into increased tour business, particularly from the lucrative American market. In reality, life imitated art, the success of Crocodile Dundee in the USA stimulated a massive surge in American tourists to Australia”- W Frost (2010)
It was with the film Babe in 1995 that we encountered a “significant shift” in Australian films (Brabazon 2001). The idea with Babe, it that it’s set in a nowhere land and does not rely on classic Australian landscape tropes. As you can see from the American box office table above, Babe is in the top 10 highest Australian grossing films in the American box office so it is clear that this move was important. From the list, you can see how Babe really is a catalyst for the introduction of Australian films like Moulin Rouge, Happy Feet, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Great Gatsby where the outback does not take a leading role.
Although there is still that ocker stereotype that will follow us overseas for a longtime, I think that there are positives that it brings to our country like tourism and even has given us a change in Australian cinema where we can be take more seriously.
Brabazon, T 2001, ‘A pig in space?: Babe and the problem of landscape’, in Craven, Ian (ed.), Australian cinema in the 1990s, F. Cass, London, pp. 149-158
Frost, W 2010, ‘Life Changing Experiences: Film and Tourists in the Australian Outback’, Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 37, no. 3, pp.707–726.
Middlemost, R 2016, ‘Critical Regionalism vs. Regional Tourism- Representing Australian culture’, PowerPoint slides, University of Wollongong, viewed 3rd Feb 16
O’Regan, T 1988, ‘Part IV: ‘Fair Dinkum Fillums’ – the Crocodile Dundee Phenomenon’, Media Information Australia, No. 50, pp.155-175. http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/readingroom/film/Croc.html
Screen Australia 2015, Australian Content: Box Office, Screen Australia, viewed 3rd Feb 16, http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/research/statistics/boxofficeaustraliatop100.aspx