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Cleverman

A 1-post collection

Whoopsy

Turns out that Her Majesty's birthday isn't a public holiday, after all. But I called the little darlings in as sick because we all stayed up way too late. Heheh.

One of the reasons we all stayed up late is two new television shows [the other was the whole concept of today being a holiday] - Preacher and Cleverman.

Both are interesting shows with a premise good enough to latch on to my curiosity, but they are really, really different. And it's not just a difference in nationality and production values, oh no.

It goes deeper than the American Preacher versus the Australian Cleverman.

Cleverman is the first TV show since The Nargun and the Stars to feature Native Australian mythology. As in 'at all'. There's heavier native involvement in this one, and I think this was made by Native Australians. There's certainly a lot of them in the cast and I am very, very happy about that.

Bran Nue Day was the last time I saw anything with a solidly Native Australian cast, to the point where there was (maybe) one whitefella in the entire thing. These are people that have been living in this country longer than recorded history. It's only fair that they get more presence in our media. I could go on about this, but I want to get to the point.

Cleverman takes some common myths amongst Native Australians[I'm assuming, here, because white Australia doesn't get much ready access to Native Australian culture and mythology. For all I know, the Hairy People are a made-up thing] and turns them into a speculative reality. And then they take that reality and use it to magnify the really shitty things that whitefellas have been doing to Native Australians pretty much since Captain Cook took a good look around Botany Bay.

Of course the whitefellas in charge would round up the Hairy People and stick them in third-world conditions. They've done that already to the Native Peoples. Of course whitefellas would classify the Hairy People as "sub-human". They've done already done that to the Native Peoples1. Of course whitefellas would routinely arrest the Hairy People just for existing, disrupt their families and otherwise be arseholes. They've already done that to the Native Peoples.

Whatever atrocity you see happening to the Hairy People? White Australia either already did that, or did something that looks a hell of a lot like it. And it isn't swept under the rug, glossed over, or sugar coated. It's right out there in all its ugly glory.

Including an antihero who has been shown betraying the Hairy People within the first twenty minutes of the first episode. He is in the process of becoming the Cleverman. A living conduit between the Dreaming and what we consider the real world. A leader of his people, a force for peace, and some kind of spirit negotiator.

I've only seen two episodes, but I'm into this one until the end.

Now let's have a look at Preacher by way of comparison. It obviously has a bigger budget. In the first episode, it zips all around the world, back and forth in time, and is otherwise supposed to confuse and titillate.

A cosmic force comes to earth and explodes more than a few heads of churches [including Tom Cruise lol] before settling on our main antihero, a semi-failure of a preacher with a Checkered Past(tm). The cosmic force works through his voice and he can tell people what to do. Alas, his gift tends to be obeyed rather literally.

Both are shows with a supernatural element. Both are shows which involve religious myth.

The difference lies in diversity. Preacher used its first ten minutes to show a host of Africans gathered in a shanty church2 before he is literally struck by the cosmic power [holy spirit?] and then explodes.

After that establishing display, Preacher remains pretty much all white, all the time. Even the romantic-foil dangerous lady, Tulip, passes the Paper Bag test. Native Americans barely get any screen time at all, appropriation of their culture is seen as a benevolent thing, and something that must be upheld. And, tellingly, the Native Americans barely get any lines.

It's all about The White Guy, his Checkered Past(tm) and the Dangerous Lady(tm) who's calling him to adventure. And there's a vampire who's escaping hunters, and I swear I saw a cameo by the guy who played Thick Kevin in The Boat That Rocked.

But I can already see the shape of it. Antihero Preacher and his Dangerous Lady plus the Comic Relief (vampire) realise that the preacher has FANTASTIC POWERS and take their act on the road. Possibly after wreaking absolute havok in the little town in the middle of nowhere. There will be will-they-won't-they plus a generous helping of how-do-they-notice-he's-not-a-vampire.

Mixed, of course, with loads of ludicrous fight scenes and loads of cartoonish gore.

I find it interesting that Tulip's big, badass fight scene against a firkin helicopter and some big, badass dudes with a homemade bazooka3... that was censored when the guys got to roll around in gore and blood and broken bones right there on the screen.

With the guys, you get to see innards, you see buckets of blood. You see spatter and hear broken bones all over the place. When Tulip gets in a fight? You get to see very little gore and an extended shot of two random (white) kids listening to the explosions and gunshots outside of their storm cellar.

That's an unfair imbalance that I hope does not continue throughout the series. But -hey- this is American media. Unfair is just the way it goes.

Odds are that I will get thoroughly sick of Preacher and the shenanigans therein. Odds are also in favour of Cleverman being cancelled because it is so new and strange and scary to white Australia. Catch it while you can.

  1. Point of fact, it wasn't until the latter half of the 20th century that we had to hold a referendum to acknowledge the Native Peoples as human. Sometimes, people of my skin disgust me.

  2. Just... why is Africa always shown as "brown people living in shanty/slums? It is not a monolith. There are some very nice churches in Africa. Stop telling us that the entire nation is a firkin shanty town FFS.

  3. Do NOT try this at home, kids. The creation of tin cans and duct tape was more likely to blow Tulip's head off than a helicopter up.