Did you watch Channel Nine’s Here Come The Habibs last week? Will you watch it again tonight?
You racist, you.
At least, that’s what a large section of Australia had already decided about Habibs before it even screened last Tuesday night.
A prime-time, commercial comedy show with a multi-cultural cast that deals with racial stereotypes? Waaaaay too dangerous.
Petitions were started, hair was set alight and the creators and director were called upon to justify themselves at every turn.
But then it aired. And a lot of people watched it. More than a million, in fact. And nothing terrible happened, other than a few jokes falling a little flat.
Rosie Waterland has feels about Here Come The Habibs. And so she and Sarah-Jane Collins decided to take it on in on mamamia’s TV podcast, The Binge. Things get kind of… honest.
The Habibs is the story of a western Sydney (read: battlers) Australian-Lebanese family who win Lotto and move to a big mansion in a swanky part of town. The neighbours are unimpressed and suspicious. Hilarity ensues (well, not if you ask Rosie).
As SJ rightly points out on The Binge, it’s basically The Beverly Hillbillies, Oz-style.
But is it offensive?
Rosie and SJ talk to Lebanese blogger Amne Alrifai about her thoughts on The Habibs, and, far from feeling like the sky might fall now there are Lebanese jokes in prime time, she thought there was plenty of positive things to say about the show.
“I had to roll my eyes (when I heard about it),” she says. “I was completely convinced it was going to be the most horrific thing on TV this year.”
“I expected the show would have Fou Fou randomly slaughtering cows in the front yard to make sure they were halal.
“But in the first few minutes, all I could see was my family.”
And the awkward white neighbours were also pretty familar, Amne says.
“The mother is basically everything I was terrified of growing up if I came across a rich white person.”
Watch the trailer here. Post continues below.
The key is tone, argues Amne, and knowing what’s on the table for humour.
“Let’s say they made a joke about honour killings for example? That would be completely out of place and people would complain,. but making a joke about lemons and randomly breaking out into song and dance is fine. It’s not racist, in fact it’s rather true to life. My dad breaks out into belly dances at home all the time…”
As to whether the show will have a positive impact on the way mainstream Australia views diversity, Amne’s not so sure.
“There are racist people everywhere and they are not waiting for a TV show about Lebanese people being great, because they don’t care… It’s a show in prime time depicting people from a different background.
“People want to see diversity… It’s a comedy, and people are supposed to laugh.
“There are a bunch of young people born to migrant families who are constantly seeing themselves on TV depicted as almost destined to becoming radicalised if we don’t save them. So comparatively, this was quite good. Young ethnic people will be able to watch this and laugh at it, rather than feel defensive and feel like who they are as a person is being challenged.”
Here Come The Habibs is on Channel Nine tonight at 8.30pm.
Also on The Binge this week: Girls. The new season of Gen Y’s most iconic show premieres this weekend. But is anyone still watching?
Subscribe to The Binge in iTunes and know straight away when a new episode drops.
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