Josh Thomas and Keegan Joyce in 'Please Like Me'. Image credit: Ben Timony
A still from Please Like Me.
Stories & Ideas

Thu 14 Sep 2017

Great queer moments on Australian TV

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Kelly Dingeldei

Writer & Filmmaker

Kelly Dingeldei looks at queer moments that made the small screen.

This article was originally published in 2016, thankfully the context has changed and the moments remain iconic.

As a result of this non-binding and exorbitantly expensive opinion poll, we've been seeing some really shitty media about how hypothetical queer weddings will ruin the lives of innocent children. As a result, I really haven't been enjoying the world outside my bedroom as much lately, a feeling I know is shared by many in the queer community.

In these trying times, I thought it might be nice to take a quick stroll down memory lane and relive some positive queer moments on Australian TV. I humbly present a gaggle of gays, a dissection of dykes, a collective of queers, a ho-down of homos to provide a gentle whisper of comfort in these testing times.

When I go to a wedding, I just wanna relax, and chat to one or two people, online, from the comfort of my own home.

Kate McCartney

In 'Tying the Knot' from season 2 of The Katering Show, the Kates lend their respective hyper-bubbly and hyper-cynical lenses to the absurdity of weddings.

This episode reveals the well-documented frustration of being a woman in that 25-39 marketing bracket where every human, animal and brand is hell bent on forcing marital bliss down our throats. As a lady in my late 20s, I know how to feign delight over the umpteenth wedding invitation from couples who were probably born as boyfriend and girlfriend in cool blue bathrooms with permission from their parents high school principals.

But it also addresses the particular ache of being queer in the white-dress-and-canape economy:

"Now McCartney isn't negative about marriage just because she has a dark cloud hovering above her person. She's also a bi-sex-u-al. Isn't that right McCartney?"

"Yes... thanks McLennan. And it seems insane to me that half of me is allowed to get married, while apparently the other half isn't."

So now we're on the same page about weddings, let's go back to being a closeted teen in the early naughties in a suburban household where Triple M and The Footy Show reigned supreme, and see what the landscape looked like for my people then.

Enter the stealth queer approach of Kath and Kim. I’m sure we knew the suburban caricatures were a joke at our expense, and yet that was how they were able to sneak in to critique and teach us.

In episode 2 entitled Gay, Kim's marriage to Brett is on the rocks, and she moves back in with Kath who is busy with plans for her own "connubials". But she's brought back some pretty wild ideas:

"Don't be stupid Kim. Of course marriage is for you, it's the normal thing to do!"

"Maybe I wanna be different Mum! Explore things!"

All her talk about leading a life and getting a hobby gets Kath suspicious that Kim might be a "hommusexual", leading to this really seminal montage (that I'm pretty sure was not dissimilar to my own mum's exposure to this wild new concept):

Lebanese. Hommusexual. Classic.

But when Kim tries to discuss her fears with Kel, he surprises her with a nonchalant revelation of his own queer past:

"We’ve all been there done that… Kath I was in the navy for 6 years!"

Despite the challenge to Kath Day's world view, over the course of the episode she moves from ignorant fear to acceptance culminating this gratitude for Kel's rainbow past:

"I realise now that the time my fiancé had in the Navy has made him the wonderful lover he is."

I mean if Kath Day nee Knight can get there, hope is not lost for the folk in the deep suburban surrounds of Fountain Gate.

You can watch the whole episode, including all the obligatory "seaman" puns, online here.

While we’re kicking around here in the naughties, if you too are a cynical Brunswick late twenties lesbian who grew up next door to Australia’s first McDonalds and are all over Ru Paul’s Drag Race, you may also have the uncoolest possible answer to the question: "What was the first live gig you ever saw?"

Sigh … It was the Australian Idol top 10 tour, wasn't it. Featuring the one and only Courtney Act. Check out this #Ruveal:

There are obviously lots of troubling things about this clip, not least of all Dicko's opening line and the use of the term "ladyboy". But it’s nearly funny and pretty supportive for the pre-woke era and I'm excited that in 2003 this was allowed to be on the TV in my home. What troubles me is that this was ok in 2003. It was a quirky, fun thing that we didn't really understand but weren't frightened by, and it makes me wonder what happened to make gender play and fluidity so ominous in the intervening years.

Please Like Me is an absolute game changer. It feels like creator, writer and star Josh Thomas is holding me by the face and regurgitating queer sustenance into the pit of my Mi Goring-lined stomach (like I said, housebound). This show is a beautiful and honest and heart wrenching and hilarious and a dead on reflection of my life and friendships.

I'm sorry I wanted you to be able to access all these shows from the webs but this one is so so special I swear to Bey.

Now, considering LGBTQI characters make up 5% of the people we see onscreen, turns out it's pretty hard to identify with a lot of Australian-made content (even though I'm white, cis, able-bodied and middle-class as fuck), but Please Like Me holds a mirror at least to me and I can enjoy laughing at what it's like to be a part of homo relationships, dance floor dating, romantic and not-at-all-fetishised same sex sexy sex, big gay break ups and queer friendships.

There's no better place to get involved than the start, but also hold out for season three when Ella is introduced to the cast because she is phenomenal. I had  a serious moment of clarity when Josh is grossed out by Ella’s armpit hair. First of all, yay body hair on women on TV but they also talk about it, rather than turn a blind eye to something that will be new to many in the audience. There’s a huge lesson to be learnt in allowing people to talk about things they don't understand in a safe way, and this is how we can discuss alternative opinions and stare them in the hairy armpit and actually grow.

Ok so I know we’re coming to a close and I haven't raved about how groundbreaking Number 96 or Wentworth are, but I'm under 30 and l’ve been too busy teaching my dad about memes to fully research the historical context and binge multiple seasons of these important screen texts. Let's all chuck them on our to do list along side Carrie Brownstein and Natasha Lyonne, ey?

Hopefully you’ve learned something, felt something and seen something that will help you see out the next wave of this exhausting plebiscite. To finish, I’m going to let the extremely excellent and super-easy to binge, Everything Is Bad For You summarise why voting yes is a huge DUH.

– Kelly Dingeldei

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