Something very exciting is happening in 2016.
No, we’re not all losing 5 kgs. No, this isn’t the year we’re all getting a promotion.
But this year finally, for the first time (at least in my memory) mainstream Australian TV is portraying Asian-Australian family life.
Here’s the catch: it’s not all about the Asian experience. It’s about the Australian experience.
To you, it might seem like quite a menial thing to be so excited about. So let me tell you why it’s so significant to me.
I was born in Australia, so I’ve always thought of myself as an ordinary Australian. Yet everything on TV, in magazines and on the movie screens have always told me otherwise. According to the media, my family can only be illegal immigrants, a family of immigrant doctors or (and obviously the most plausible) North Korean spies.
The key to all of these portrayals is not the profession or the status of the families, but the fact that families like mine are always considered the outsiders and too different. How many immigrant-Australian families have been the main characters in a show? How many have been portrayed as your ordinary Australian family?
Today, Australian families with immigrant heritage are the vast majority of our society so it’s about time a show like The Family Law (based on Benjamin Law’s fabulous book of the same title) came onto our screens.
We often overlook the white-washing of Australian TV and it is very dangerous. Not just because it potentially fosters subconscious racism, but also for the children of immigrant parents like me.
We grow up never seeing families that reflect our own homes. And in never seeing our own families reflected, many either completely isolate themselves from the rest of the community because they feel isolated, or, they try as best as possible to remove the “ethnic” aspects of their lives from view.
More than 40 per cent of Australians have at least one parent born overseas, and almost a quarter of us were born overseas.
So isn’t it really time to witness families that are made up of different cultures and backgrounds? For Australian TV to explore different customs, different responses to familiar situations, and in turn, viewing all Australian families as typical and ordinary Australian families.
Because I’m sick of my family being referred to as a Korean family and not an Australian one. And I’m sick of seeing TV shows exaggerating stereotypes for the sake of stereotypes, not because they’re considered valuable characteristics.
For me, one of the most exciting things about The Family Law is the prospect of seeing an Australian family take off their shoes before going inside the home. Because you have no idea how much I used to hate doing that in front of friends. I would often try to convince my parents to let them wear their shoes inside our home, because THAT’S what NORMAL Aussies do.
And my gracious parents would agree to let me.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been embarrassed to disclose the fact that I would often eat rice with side dishes and soup for breakfast because that’s not what typical, normal, true blue Aussie families do. Except, tens of thousands of Aussies DO do that. We just never see it normalised on our screens.
It took me many years before I felt confident enough to take Korean food to school for lunch, because, despite disliking sandwiches, I always took them to school so that I would look like a “normal” Australian.
And when I finally did pack a Korean lunch, no one was bothered. If anything, people found it interesting.
Why it’s taken until 2016 for mainstream Australian TV to depict the life of a true blue Aussie family that happens to have Asian heritage, I don’t know. Perhaps as a society, we’re just fundamentally uncomfortable about them. Maybe it jars us to think of them as normal Australians.
But let me ask you this: What even is a normal Australian family? Caucasian? Surfers? Always eat Weetbix for breakfast and have a roast for dinner? Or is it simply a family that loves and supports each other and always looks out for each other. A family that, despite making mistakes and sometimes hating each other, at the end of each day comes together.
My little family of three isn’t here illegally, we’e not all doctors and we’re definitely not North Korean spies. Like Ben Law’s family, we can be crazy, messy and different to yours. The Family Law is about the way families are proud of you, and then pissed off at you. The way our parents are always “right” and seem to have a massive bank of incredible life advice.
It’s about the ups and downs of living in Australia, not as Chinese people or immigrants, but as Australians.
And it’s about time we saw some families other than your blonde hair, blue eyed, nuclear family, with different rules and customs, but facing very familiar problems.
It’s so refreshing to think that I will finally watch a TV family that is a bit different to the so-called “typical Aussie family” and one that is probably much more reflective of the wider society.
And that’s why I’m so excited about The Family Law.
Watch the trailer for SBS’s new series, The Family Law.