The Outback and Bad Publicity

Is any attention good attention?

We can’t begin to talk about the issue of good vs. bad publicity without mentioning Ms Miley Cyrus. The past few years have seen this star embark on one of the most outrageous and successful publicity campaigns of all times, starting with her infamous performance at the VMA’s with Robin Thicke in 2013. Her performance generated over 306 000 tweets per minute (Robinson, 2013), which were overwhelmingly negative. However, she managed to get an extra 100 000 followers on Twitter and it kick started the following years of raunchy videos and the release of a new album. Mily Cyrus has also used her fame to advocate for youth social issues like Homelessness and mental health through her Happy Hippy Foundation. So whilst the majority of publicity towards Miley Cyrus is negative, in this case, is negative publicity good publicity for her, her fans, her career and her foundation? It would seem so.

miley-cyrus
Miley being Miley. Source

‘Without the outback, Australian cinema might have been interchangeable with any number of other national cinemas. With it, Australian filmmakers have used the landscape to forge an identity that is of the land, while still seeking to understand its enigma’ (Shirley, 2011).

The same issue can be applied to Australian films.  ‘Our national cinema plays a vital role in our cultural heritage and in showing us what it is to be Australian’ (Bowles, 2007). Australian films seem to have an obsession with representing Australian culture and Australia through vast deserts, the outback and an ocker stereotype. This idea of Australia was introduced when Crocodile Dundee was released, promoting these stereotypical ideas (Middlemost, 2015). But the question stands, is this the sort of image we should be promoting to the world (and especially America?). And even though these films and characters are getting attention, is this publicity good publicity?

A classic Australian film with strong emphasis on landscape and the Outback is Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It emphasises the stark contrast in cinematography of the ‘drag queens, heightening the apparent inappropriateness of the figures which occupy the landscape, and to highlight its dominance over them’ (Thomas, 1996).

20 years later and Tracks is released. It’s a biographical film based off of the memoir of Robyn Davidson. This film depicts a strong and independent female lead and her connection with the earth as opposed to the contrasting image of drag queens in the desert. This film made around $500 000 domestically and over $4million worldwide (Box Office Mojo, 2016) illustrating this wild, untamed and nature of the Outback to the rest of the world. The film generated a lot of money in the box office, however there is also a strong correlation with Outback adventure films like Tracks and Wolf Creek and pop- culture tourism. With the promise of a ‘life changing experience’ (Frost, 2010) the above films promote not only Australia but a lifestyle. But as Shirley points out, an issue with emphasising the Outback in films is that it neglects different groups and perspectives of people that live in Australia (Shirley, 2011), ones that would be overlooked by tourists.

tracks
Tracks

Tracks, however, does include very important voices that have often been omitted from Australian films, those of the First Australians and women. Despite the fact that many people roll their eyes at the thought of another film set in the Outback, it has provided Australian films a pivotal role in our nations film success. In conclusion, it seems that any attention and publicity Australian films can generate is good for the industry and many others like tourism. However, to avoid a calamity of a publicity stunt like Miley Cyrus, I believe we should play to our strengths as a film industry whilst steadily challenging what is on screen and what is missing. Regardless I believe landscape and the Outback will always be an iconic character in Australian films.

 

 

References

Bowles, K 2007 ‘Three miles of rough dirt road’ :towards an audience-centred approach to cinema studies in Australia’, Studies in Australasian cinema, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 245 – 260

Box Office Mojo, 2016, ‘Tracks (2014)’, Box Office Mojo, viewed 3 January 2016, http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=tracks2014.htm

Frost, W 2010, ‘Life changing experiences. Film and Tourists in the Australian Outback’, Annals Of Tourism Research, 37, pp. 707-726, ScienceDirect

Robinson P, 2013, ‘Why twerking Miley Cryrus thinks there’s no such thing as bad publicity’, The Guardian, 30 August, viewed 2 January 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/lostinshowbiz/2013/aug/29/twerking-miley-cyrus-no-bad-publicity

Shirley, B 2011, ‘The Outback on Screen’, Screen Australia, National Film and Sound Archive, viewed 4 January 2016, http://www.nfsa.gov.au/research/papers/2011/12/06/outback-screen/

Thomas, AJ 1996, ‘Camping outback: Landscape, masculinity, and performance in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, p. 97

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