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.