You know how when you’re growing up, you have literally no idea what to… do?
On the one hand, the mass media tells you the most important thing you can be is hot. Growing up today means being bombarded with images of Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, and being told how you look is essentially tantamount to who you are. We establish our identities on social media, and in that space, becoming a woman is necessarily visual.
But there’s also another school of thought. One that says a girl must grow up to be a lady. She must wear skirts of the right length, carry herself with elegance, and have ‘respect’ for herself, although no one can quite explain what that means.
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These competing ideas often seem contradictory (because they are), and impossible to achieve (because, again, they are).
So two Australian sisters, Hannah and Eliza Reilly, have decided to put the absurdity of ‘growing up’ on full display.
The idea for their ABC series Growing up Gracefully came when they rediscovered a 1950s teen advice book by the same name. They decided to explore how, exactly, young women are meant to grow up in 2017, by contrasting the modern narrative with the old-fashioned one. The result is both hilarious and utterly terrifying.
The series examines very important lady topics like looking your best, courtship, hosting a party, sex, and career, as Hannah follows ‘traditional’ advice, and Eliza looks towards more modern resources for guidance.
In the first episode, Hannah decides to learn from the best - none other than June Dally Watkins.
My only knowledge of Dally Watkins comes from an episode of Australia's Next Top Model where her instructions made me... uncomfortable, but according to my mum she's been telling women how to woman for a long, long time. When it comes to telling Hannah how to be a lady, she has literally no reservations. I believe the words "don't be a slut" are actually said out loud.
What is particularly compelling about Hannah and Eliza's brand of humour is that it's so... wry. And refreshing.
The sisters aren't making fun of any one person or any one idea - it's the ridiculousness of it all that makes Growing up Gracefully laugh-out-loud funny. Hannah trying to explain the concept of slut-shaming to June Dally Watkins, or Eliza genuinely attempting to get a hot bikini photo on the beach, or both girls physically participating in a race to see who can 'woman' better is the type of comedy that will have a particular bracket of women feeling like their experiences are worth making a TV show about.
Listen to the latest episode of The Binge. Post continues after audio.
For me, this show is a big deal. So many of our iconic Australian comedies have been created and led by men, inadvertently missing those themes that are so familiar to girls and women.
What we laugh at says a lot. And laughing at the ridiculousness of the messages women receive goes a long way towards taking the power away from them.
You can watch Growing up Gracefully on Wednesday's at 9.30pm on ABC. You can also catch up on the series so far on ABC iView.