Have you ever watched an Australian film from the 70’s that was so bad, it was actually good? Then you were most likely watching an Ozploitation film. During this time ‘Australia as an institution required a national identity, consisting of images of itself emanating from its own culture and reflecting the characteristics of it’s population’ (Rayner, 2000). And what better way to do so than exploit the hell out our stereotypes. Ozploitation films were genre films, including horror, bikie gangs and sexploitation, and during the 1970’s and 80’s there were over 400 Australian films made. The biggest boom in Australian film history (Middlemost, 2015). This massive boom in the industry is due to the 10BA tax introduced at the time. Long story short, the 10BA meant that filmmakers got a 150% tax deduction, meaning that they were making money. (For the long story, click here). Whilst the era of the 10BA is over and Ozploitation films leave us cringing… the case study of Ozploitation films teach us that the Australian film industry
was is dominated by men.
Trailer for ‘Not Quite Hollywood.’
Male Domination of the Australian Film Industry
If you watch the trailer for Mark Hartley’s 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood, you’ll notice just how masculine Ozploitation films were. The men reinforced ‘the essential Australian male, working-class, sardonic, laconic, loyal to his mates, unimpressed by rank, an improvisor and non-conformist’ (Rayner, 2000, pp. 95).
As you can see in the screenshots above, women are often portrayed as submissive, weak or victimized. In Ozploitation films ‘naked women are subjected to violence and brutal villains tend to demonstrate their power by driving fast or showing off their massive members’ (Fuchs, 2009). This submissive image of women contrasted to the macho man, highlights the inequality between men and women on screen.
Rebecca Giwing remembers working on Sandy Harbut’s biker movie, Stone (1974): “It was as sexist in production as the world that it was portraying,” she says, “The women did as they were told and the blokes seemed to have all the fun.” As explained in Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood, some of the women found it very empowering to be nude and sexual on camera, however as Giwin admits above, that wasn’t always applicable to all.
However, gender inequality doesn’t just affect the actresses in the movies. It affects every women whether they’re in the industry or not. In Monica Davidson’s essay titled ‘Knocking on a Locked Door: Women in Australian Feature Film,’, it reveals that ‘of all Australian feature films made since the 1970s, a staggering 85% have been directed by men’ (Daily Review, 2015). And as you can see in the infographic above, the gap between men and women in the film industry is huge.
The case study of Ozploitation not only highlights the gender inequality during the 70’s and 80’s, but also allows us to question why we are still facing such inequality within the Australian film industry in 2016. It’s important that we demand change because ‘with their powerful influence on shaping the perceptions of large audiences, the media are key players for the gender equality agenda’ (Mlambo-Ngcuka, 2014).
However… there is hope! Screen Australia have recently committed to supporting, financing and encouraging the role that women play in the Australian film industry. Watch below for more information.
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/147555828″>Gender Matters</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user45340041″>Screen Australia</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Daily Review, 2015, ‘Australian film gender imbalance: Shock statistics reveal what’s old is new again’, Daily Review, 29 May, viewed 10 December 2015, http://dailyreview.com.au/australian-film-gender-imbalance-shock-statistics-reveal-whats-old-is-new-again/24701
Fuchs, C 2009, ‘The Wild Untold Story of Ozploitation’, PopMatters, 31 July, viewed 10 December 2015, http://www.popmatters.com/review/109172-not-quite-hollywood-the-wild-untold-story-of-ozploitation/
Middlemost, R 2015, ‘Funding and Policy: A History of Market Failure’, University of Wollongong, Lecture Week 2, delivered 8 December 2015
Mlambo-Ngcuka, P 2014, ‘Study: Film industry encourages sexism’, Women’s Weekly, 24 September, viewed 10 December 2015, http://www.aww.com.au/latest-news/news-stories/easing-weather-helps-to-contain-fierce-victorian-fires-24677
Rayner, J 2000, Contemporary Australian Cinema : An Introduction, Manchester : Manchester University Press, 2000, viewed 21 December 2015
Thomas, D J 2009, ‘Tarantino’s Two Thumbs Up: Ozploitation and the Reframing of the Aussie Genre Film’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, 161, p. 90, Informit Literature & Culture Collection, viewed 15 December 2015