Romper Stomper, Stan’s most controversial TV series is also its most watched.
People are hightailing it to the streaming service to watch the series, which follows the escalating conflict between fictitious alt-right and alt-left groups in Melbourne.
The Stan original series has become the most successful in Stan’s history, recording more viewing in its first 24 hours than any previous premiere. The critically acclaimed drama was also binged heavily with a record number of Stan customers watching all six episodes on New Year’s Day.
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In a way, the series holds up a mirror to the current state of race relations in Melbourne and the underlying racial tensions which are constantly threatening to erupt on the city’s streets.
But if you go into Romper Stomper searching for answers, or for some kind of resolution, you will be left disatisfied.
The series offers little in the way of explaining the motivations behind extremism and it stops short at offering any kind of solution to the brewing tensions.
The Stan series is a remake and serialisation of the 1992 movie of the same name and its original creator, Geoffrey Wright, picks up the story 25 years on.
The 90’s movie focused on Hando (Russell Crowe) and his gang of disenfranchised skinheads who violently targeted Melbourne’s Asian immigrants, specifically the Vietnamese community.
This group was a subculture and they existed on the fringes of society. Their motivations for attacking minority groups were clear – but not justified – they were unemployed, broke, alienated from society, and they blamed all of this on the influx of immigrants.
In the Stan series, we’re introduced to a very different Melbourne.
It’s 2017 and alt-right and alt-left groups are violently clashing on the streets. These kind of sub-cultures and extremist views are no longer hiding the shadows, they’re mainstream.
They’re the focus of current affair shows, talk back radio and Twitter feuds. They’re a part of every day life.
To its detriment, the six-part series mostly focuses on the fictional far-right nationalist group called Patriot Blue. The group is led by Blake (Lachy Hulme) a middle-aged, middle class, Anglo Australian who runs his own business and lives in a large waterfront property.
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Much like its real-life counterpart, Reclaim Australia, Patriot Blue is anti-immigration, specifically anti-Muslim immigration. The group attends public events and protests immigrant laws, while intimidating and sometimes violently attacking the Muslim community.
At these events they’re usually met with fierce opposition from a group of university students who call themselves Antifasc, a fictional version of Antifa, the international anti-fascist group currently taking root in a number of western countries.
Most of the series is about the brewing tensions between these two groups and the violent acts they’re both prepared to commit to prove their loyalty to their perspective causes. There is very little focus on the actual Muslim community they’re fighting over.
Under the guidance of Kane (Toby Wallace) a new Patriot Blue member, the group begins to conduct “night patrols”, where they walk the streets of Melbourne and eradicate anyone who doesn’t fit into their version of Australia – immigrants, meth lab operators, pimps, graffiti artists.
From there things just escalate into a bloody, violent mess.
The series then ends with no resolution and no real hope, as the Patriot Blue turn into an alt-right version of the very “terrorists” they believe they’re protecting Australia from.
When the final credits roll, the audience is just left wondering why.
Why do the Patriot Blue believe their comfortable, middle class lives are under threat from the Muslim community? Why do the Antifasc believe they can speak and act on behalf of the Muslim community? Why has the media just stood back and fueled the flames of the racial tension?
While the original movie shined a spotlight on a sub culture we weren’t familiar with, the series tells the story of a conflict we know all too well – and offers no real solutions.
Without answers to any of these questions, is Romper Stomper just doing more harm than good?
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