Huijser, Hendrik (2007) Australian Idol versus Cronulla: whither the postcolonising nation? New Zealand Journal of Media Studies, 10 (2). pp. 131-143. ISSN 1173-0811
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This paper explores two apparently contradictory phenomena which, when taken together, raise some important questions about where Australia is at as a postcolonising nation. Targeting primarily a young generation of Australians, Australian Idol has been a major ratings success, especially in its first three seasons. Given the ethnic diversity of its participants and the fact that this diversity is primarily driven by audience votes (via SMS), a case could be made that this is a reflection of a new generation’s engagement with diversity, and thus an important moment in the postcolonising nation. The diversity of the show’s winners suggests that ethnic diversity could be seen as an increasingly ‘natural’ part of a young generation’s social and cultural environment. The Cronulla riots however, complicate this thesis considerably. While recognising the wide variety of factors that contributed to ‘Cronulla’, a significant number of the rioters were members of a young generation of Australians who also appear to fit the audience profile of Australian Idol; they were highly skilled in their use of SMS for a start…This raises a number of questions: did the Cronulla riots represent a setback in the postcolonising process? To what extent do the role and level of mediation play a part in this? Do mediated versions of diversity (like Australian Idol) accelerate the appearance of postcoloniality, where ‘real’ events (albeit highly mediated in a different sense) paint a more sobering picture? In short, is diversity on TV more acceptable than on the local beach? This paper addresses these questions to arrive at a conclusion about the overall central question: do Australian Idol and ‘Cronulla’ represent opposite sides of the same postcolonising coin, or do they represent the same side?
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