• Pauline Hanson vs Pauline Pantsdown (Facebook)
You might not have heard of Simon Hunt, but if you were around in the late 90's, you've almost certainly heard of his alter ego, Pauline Pantsdown. Here, Simon describes the various interesting reactions that his drag-interpretation of Pauline Hanson would solicit as she toured Australia.
By
Simon Hunt

22 Jul 2016 - 6:12 PM  UPDATED 1 Aug 2016 - 9:51 AM

I spent a lot of 1998 dressed as Pauline Hanson, and everyone I met would talk to me about what she meant to them.

The year before, she’d quickly taken legal action against my Pauline Pantsdown song “Back Door Man”, which I’d constructed by rearranging her words and syllables about race into a metaphorical gay supremacist diatribe, while replicating her argumentative style.

The court chose to ignore metaphor, accepting her lawyer’s contention that people would really believe it was Hanson herself claiming to be a “caring potato”.

This time I was ready with a plan, and I launched my second song “I Don’t Like It” on the day that John Howard announced the 1998 federal election.

Hanson was on the ascent, her nascent One Nation party having recently captured 22% of the vote in the Queensland State Election, and she wanted to transfer that success to a national stage.

I’d spent months in the studio wrangling her words into an ever-growing list of complaints, as it seemed to me that she had no solutions to offer those who supported her.

I was trying to be the alternative Wiggles with frequent nudge-winks to the parents.

Seven lawyers advised me not to call her a homosexual man again, but surmised that I could allude to her perceived racism, as this was not something that she would be willing to defend in a courtroom.

So the song alternated between sing-along chants that I aimed at ten year old kids – “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, racist rubbish, racist hate”, – with more direct allusions such as “Please explain – why can’t my blood be coloured white? I should talk to some medical doctors, coloured blood is just not right”.

I was trying to be the alternative Wiggles with frequent nudge-winks to the parents.

Suddenly I had a top ten hit, and was appearing in the same range of media programs as Hanson in that mostly pre-internet world. A shadow or an enhanced simulacrum attempting to combine her media package with oppositional politics.

I changed my name to Pauline Pantsdown, announced that I was running for the Senate, and hit the campaign trail, appearing at political rallies and events. And everyone I met would talk to me about what Pauline Hanson represented to them.


 

Ramon was a Malaysian choreographer I worked with at an awards event. Then in his late thirties, he’d been in Australia for fifteen years and had built a life here.

When we all getting ready in the dressing room before the show, he suddenly said “Over the last year, for the first time I’ve been wondering if I’m really still welcome in this country”.

As I write this now, I quickly search on Facebook to see if he’s still in Australia eighteen years later, and it’s good to see that he is.


 

Chris was a 13-year-old Aboriginal boy who latched onto me at a large Adelaide gay pride event where I was performing.

The resident drag queens carted me around to various amusement rides, and Chris would grasp my hand like a consort, proudly displaying me to his group of friends. “This is Pauline and she’s my good friend!”

He was very feminine, and would pull his long T-shirt down and swish it like a dress. At one moment, he leaned in with mock surprise and said, “My friend says you’re the real Pauline, you’re not are you??”

No, not at all. He suddenly frowned, and was quiet for a moment.

“I had this really bad dream once that she came and hurt my brother and my mother”.


 

I began to see racial patterns in the way that people responded to both Hanson and myself.

Many Caucasian people would love the absurdist elements of my surface slapstick, and revel in the mock “Battle-of-the-Paulines”. They would refer to Hanson as an “international embarrassment,” ultimately worried that she might reflect back on to them.

The responses of Asian and Aboriginal people had a deeper layer about me being a conduit for them to laugh at issues that were not at all funny to them, that I represented a tool for them to fight back against their own perceived powerlessness in the wake of her demonisation of them.

I began to see racial patterns in the way that people responded to both Hanson and myself. 

Those targeted by Hanson suffered real pain in 1998, but some forgot this as years went by, and the former politician was reborn and revived in an evolving B-grade celebrity media career that, it could be argued, was rightfully mine as a former one-hit wonder.

Pauline Hanson and entertainer Todd McKenney perform during a photo call to promote 'Todd McKenney Live' at the Star City in 2005
 

Part of the sudden shock within progressive politics at her recent resurgence can be attributed to our being lulled into a sense of security by her eighteen years of soft-pedal news entertainment media, which has played a major role in the maintenance of her profile.

Now, as in the 90s, opinions on how to “deal” with Hanson are partially predicated by what she means to you, and what plans she has for you. Over the last month, many articles have been written about why we should respectively (or respectfully?) ignore her, engage with her, listen to her or marginalise her.

Ketan Joshi has neatly summarised how these opinions often differ according to whether or not the writers are members of groups targeted by Hanson.

In the wake of consecutive international terror attacks in recent weeks, couple with Hanson’s resurgence, media personality Sonia Kruger’s recent support for stopping Muslim immigration has also attracted considerable response.

While many on the progressive left immediately embraced Waleed Aly’s subsequent call to “send forgiveness viral” and to try understand Kruger’s fear, other voices such as Mohamad Tabbaa and Claudia Maryam Sirdah in Overland criticise Aly’s call as replacing criticism of the source of that fear.

I will also listen when someone targets an ethnic or cultural group, but I’ll always listen first to the people most affected by that discourse.

Many people have urged me to throw on the dress immediately and to re-run 1998 in its entirety, now that Hanson and Pokemon are back. First though I need to see what sort of power she will have, and to spend time listening. 

 

Simon Hunt is a Media Arts Academic at the University of New South Wales and a film and television maker. He also keeps Panstdown alive and well on social media, where she maintains an active presence on Facebook.

 

See more of Pauline, her commentators and the infamous fish and chip shop where it all began in Pauline Hanson: Please Explain! Available to view at SBS On Demand now.

Or watch it right here:

More on Pauline Hanson: Please Explain!
Was Pauline Hanson actually the original ‘Cyber Politician’?
Back before there was Facebook, there was One Nation.
Some advice to Pauline Hanson from a Muslim conservative (Comment)
Pauline Hanson's made her stance on immigration and halal certification very clear, but that's not what bothers the scholar and former Liberal party candidate Irfan Yusuf.
Director Anna Broinowski on the journey behind Pauline Hanson: Please Explain!
The journey 'Pauline Hanson: Please Explain' was over seven years in the making. Here, writer, director and producer Anna Broinowski shares a small glimpse of just what went into the making the revealing new documentary, premiering on SBS on Sunday, 31st July at 8:30pm.