As Japan is known for its freaky-as subcultures, Australia is known for its political correctness.
Lol jks, I mean its total lack thereof.
Australia is one of those countries where getting a laugh is of utmost priority throughout the course of the day. Aussies will mine a situation for humour the way Durin’s kin mined Moria for mithril – and I’d say their country is just as rich for it. Any opportunity for humour, they take it.
Puns are the rulers of the slogan world.
And prime ministers don’t mind kicking it back and skulling some ale.
Their search for humour is a no holds barred wild west, meaning there are some lines that the rest of the world has drawn which Australia has yet to see fit to put into effect. I can’t even imagine the outcry humour censorship would cause.
“Don’t be a whinger!” would come the ornery response. “Where’s the fun in drawing a line?”
So indeed humour has extended past the border and into the shadowlands where most dare not set a single sarcastic retort, nor even extend a tentative quip.
I’m talking about politically incorrect humour.
I’m talking about Coon Cheese (Tasty!).
I shit you not. This cheese is everywhere. And it’s not even like it means something different in Australian. Everyone here thinks it’s hilarious, and they all stack their sandwiches with some good ol’ coon slices, have a coon melt, or snack on a healthy stack of coon and grapes.
According to the Wikipedia page, the company got its namesake from Edward William Coon – which would be fine and not at all ethically questionable, except for the 2008 anti-racism campaign that was launched against the product. It claimed that Mr. Coon wasn’t an innocent dairy man after all, but rather that his persona was created to market the cheese under a more socially acceptable guise than its original etymology. Research contends (albeit with much contrary evidence) that the actual genesis of nomenclature came from (and here’ s the best part) “a black wraparound in which it was originally sold”.
That said, the cheese is as popular as ever – as its generously stocked shelves show – and if I were to hazard a guess, it would be because of all the humourous publicity surrounding it. I mean, who *wouldn’t* like to buy an offensive cheese, if for no other reason than the fact that cheese is otherwise one of the most placid objects on the planet? It’s like taking the moral high ground and siding with Beyonce that her photo should be removed from the internet.
[EDIT]: Well, maybe the cheese name does take it too far, since it borders the line between gentle ribbing and unnecessarily offensive. Intention is, of course, everything. If it is true that the name came from that original packaging, then yeah, I’d have to agree that it’s not really okay. Were I allowed to hazard an analytical guess, however, I’d say the humour isn’t in any way related to racial intent, but rather is in the prospect that a cheese might have been named something so shamelessly outright ridiculous and offensive from back in the 1930’s. It’s more like Australia’s taking the piss out of itself for the shamelessness of its past than it is trying to be derogatory in its present. Kind of like when you’re reading Victorian literature and come across surprise racism – and you laugh because how could anyone have ever written something so horrible so casually??
[EDIT CONT’D]: That said, I completely understand why an anti-racism campaign would have been launched against it, and if the people the word might be used against feel it perpetuates an idea that is more hurtful at present than it is a country’s self-mockery of the past, then I’d be the first to sign the petition to have it changed. For the moment at least, on the ground level, anyone I’ve talked to while in Australia about it has ignored its name and instead spoken of it with only an enthusiasm and appreciation of it being a tasty cheese.
Looking at Australia’s appropriation of such questionable humour, I say again: intention is everything. I don’t say any of this to excuse actual racism where it’s present. I only mean to say that one of the main ways Australians seem to celebrate life comes from milking a situation for all the laughs they can get. To underscore: this isn’t done maliciously, hatefully, or destructively, but rather appreciatively of anything that will give their guts a rolling good time (with chuckles, that is, not the digestive process). In fact, one of the things they enjoy taking the piss out of most is themselves.
I’ve come across a few people who’ve expressed concern for the outward appearance of racism in Australia, most recently a fellow foreigner in Korea who said he, “hates all Australians because they’re racist” (I’ll just let the irony of that statement saturate your brains for a minute). Normally, I’d’ve just up and walked away –
– but I’d been drinking, and alcohol made me volley back to his wholly unworthy-of-the-oxygen-used-expressing-it comment.
I said: “1) You can’t say all Australians are racist. You just can’t. And 2) a lot of the time if you think they’re making fun of something, it’s probably just because they more widely appreciate the humour available in a given culture, most especially their own. But if someone’s actually being a racist dickhead they’d be the first to tell him to go suck a saggy flapjack tit.”
Perhaps I didn’t manage to slur it out so eloquently as that.
In fact, it probably sounded more like, “Dickhead!!”, but I had the fetus of that thought floating unbirthed in my brain’s amniotic fluid.
Anyway, I don’t mean to excuse an entire country of racism (because it certainly does exist there, as it does in all corners of the world), but it’s like saying Japan’s a “big freak” because it finds stuff like this appealing:
(Seriously, where’s the joy in culture if you can’t get a kick out of its quirky differences?)
Bottom line, you can’t judge a culture for what tickles their funny bone – so long as it is in jest – because it’s just what they find funny. French and Korean comedy doesn’t set my chuckles a-chuckling, but then a lot of French and Koreans don’t like British humour and I lose my shit over it.
And I love that Australia can so unabashedly overlook the increasingly over-sensitized world, undercut political correctness, and bring a situation back down to earth where we can all enjoy a good belly laugh. It’s that laid back feeling of never getting too wound up about anything enough to let it bother you. Which I feel, at the end of the day, is what life’s really about.
There’s no point in wasting time and energy getting your feathers all ruffled – your knickers in a twist – your lid all flipped – when there’re more important things to worry yourself about.
This is the philosophy I’ve gathered is at the heart of Australian humour, and is why I love it – and its umbillical twin, political incorrectness – so dearly. You can almost feel your blood pressure lowering as you start to swing sledgehammers of faux-pas’s against the walls of propriety. Suddenly the whole world becomes hilarious.
And so I will leave you with one of my favourite Australian TV shows, the surrealist YouTube satire of Danger 5, a live action Thunderbirds meets Mighty Boosh meets the special effects of every science fiction and horror B movie ever made. The premise: a team of four special agents and their bartender go up against all odds and try to kill Hitler (who looks like someone’s dad they pulled out of a basement and stuck a moustache on) at the orders of their eagle-headed Colonial. To give a taste, it boasts episode titles such as, “Lizard Soldiers of the Third Reich”, “Hitler’s Golden Murder Palace”, and “Fresh Meat for Hitler’s Sex Kitchen”.
If you like that taste and want to sink your teeth in, here’s a link to episode 1. Season 2 is airing soon!
I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you are blessed with much exposure to Australian humour in the future.
(Oh, and what the hell: one last one – a public service announcement about not skipping school [warning, gore]).
EDIT: [Note: I realize, given the sensitivity of political incorrectness, that this might be a delicate topic for some. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t in any way endorse the excusing of racism/sexism/homophobia, nor the violent, destructive, hurtful, cruel or malicious acts of hate these include. Off-colour humour walks a fine line, and it’s certainly understandable if you don’t find this kind of subject matter funny; I only mean to extend appreciation for this kind of humour when it’s done in (ironically) good taste, ie. without hateful intent, only as a teasing/gentle ribbing, with an open mind and a wink in your eye. I also don’t mean to imply that all Australians find this kind of humour funny – this is a generalization. I hope this disclaimer soothes any unsettled grimaces! Cheers.]