By JAMILA RIZVI
What’s wrong with this picture?
And, no, I don’t mean the fact there is a leather couch on the beach (what’s with that?).
Let me explain…
I was flicking channels while working late in the office last night. I watched a bit of my girl Mia Freedman on The Project, I tuned in for Rudd and Abbott going head-to-head at Rooty Hill and I caught some of the new Aussie drama, Wonderland on Channel 10. The photo above is a promotional shot for the show.
From the little I saw, Wonderland seems like a fairly predictable but harmless Aussie drama. It’s about a bunch of young people living in Coogee in Sydney’s east and I imagine, they will encounter the usual challenges of relationships and friendships that is typical of the genre. Wonderland is engaging, well shot and the central cast includes some impressive and likeable Aussie actors.
All of whom are white.
A fact that did not escape Australian actor Jay Laga’aia (formerly of Home and Away and Water Rats fame). When the show premiered last week, he tweeted the following:
Now, Laga’aia appears to have overlooked half-Chinese Australian actress Emma Lung but his broader point about the lack of cultural diversity in the show rings true. Australian viewers don’t see the multicultural cities and towns that we live in, reflected back to us on screen.
Yet, I imagine that most viewers wouldn’t have noticed this about Wonderland, let alone been bothered by it.
And if I’m entirely honest with you – despite my own mixed race background – I didn’t either.
That’s because watching TV is a passive activity. As viewers, we accept the scenario that is set before of us; we believe the characters and their relationships as they are presented.
We’re in a relaxed and accepting state of mind. We’re not tallying up the gender and race of the cast on our fingers; we’re too busy using them to Tweet during the ad breaks.
Actor, Jay Laga’aia knows a little bit about the casting of ethnically diverse Australians.
In March of last year he labelled the Australian television industry as racist, after he was written out of popular soap Home and Away.
Laga’aia also had a Twitter exchange with fellow Australian actor Firass Dirani (who is of Lebanese descent) about Channel 7’s Winners and Losers.
“People on Winners & Losers in their floral colours and their pastels … I don’t even know people like this…We need to watch ourselves, warts and all; flaws and all”.
To which Laga’aia replied:
“As someone who lost his job on H&A because they couldn’t write two ethnics that weren’t together, I’d like the chance to ply my trade.”
In 2011, there was widespread media coverage – including on this website – applauding Channel 10 for finally writing a culturally diverse family into their suburban drama Neighbours.
But sadly, the Kapoor family’s residency in Ramsey Street was short lived with Sachin Joab, Menik Gooneratne and Coco-Jacinta Cherin all being written out within 12 months of joining the cast full time.
Sachin Joab told Digital Spy, at the time of his character’s exit from the show that: