by KATE HUNTER
How can a horrible phrase like, “Rack off, moll,” have the power to make me smile?
Maybe because it’s been replaced by the less benign, “Fuck off, bitch,” which you’re more likely to hear on a school bus these days. This truly is a story of innocence lost.
There’s so much to talk about in Ten’s incarnation of Puberty Blues; the story of two girls from Sydney’s southern beaches first told by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey in their iconic 1979 novel. Bruce Beresford directed 1981’s movie version. It had the molls, the Orchy bottle bongs, and the panel vans, but Kathy Lette complained the movie was sanitized to a degree – leaving out references to miscarriage and abortion. This already seems truer.
So let’s talk about last night’s episode – which I was GLUED TO, like a bikinied arse on a vinyl bench seat.
Your feelings on Puberty Blues will depend on your age and the decade in which you actually hit puberty. If you were there for the seventies, there’ll be a certain amount of nostalgia – the clothes, the music (how great are the opening credits with Dragon’s ‘Are You Old Enough?’) the houses the cars, the smokes and the wine. Coolibah moselle anyone?
But there’s much more to this drama than a Sandman ride down memory lane.
One of the things I loved about last night’s episode was the way it explored what was going on the parents’ lives as well as the kids’. Also, every character has a story – no one is all good or all bad. Such-A-Spunk Gary isn’t simply a misogynistic surfer. He has a sad mum and a charming, cheating dad, and a soul. Gary also has quite a lot of sex, and no shortage of girls to bring him Chiko Rolls afterwards. He’s not the slave to his mate’s approval that the girls seem to be. Interestingly, they admire him for that.
Puberty Blues is great entertainment because it’s both dark and sweet. The sexism, the bullying, the infidelity, the deceit and the teenage awkwardness made it uncomfortable to watch at times. We’ve all been through one or all of those things and I think not a lot has changed since 1979 but the clothes and the drugs of choice. And even they’re coming back (okay, the weed never left). I’m hopeful that girls today aren’t so desperate to be popular and prepared to ‘root’ in the hope there might be love as a payoff, but I don’t think that’s the case.
The sweetness is there in the love and the loyalty Deb and Sue have for each other. Also in their gorgeous, if misplaced, optimism that Cheryl’s sneer was a bit friendlier than it was last time she chucked a Sunny Boy at them. The scene where the girls walk miles to the beach only to be told to move their towels is painful but beautiful. And anyone who ever had a best friend at 13 can relate.
Puberty Blues is a story about a nation growing up. It tells the story of two girls, Debbie and Sue; their innocence lost and experience gained against the backdrop of Australia in the seventies.
Based on the iconic novel Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey, the series will move beyond the original pages and explore the (mis) adventures of these young girls, their families and friends in a more naïve time in Australia’s history.
8:30pm Wednesdays, on Ten.
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Did you watch Puberty Blues last night? Could you relate?