A dreaming story imagined by big city advertising executives recently ended up as some kind of nightmare with themes of; transforming Indigenous men into stereotypical Aussie ‘blokes’ and making light of Kevin Rudd’s sorry speech to the Stolen Generations. Yes, really. The script landed on the desks of Buzzfeed Australia today and has gone viral after the site reported its contents.
Just when you thought the days of Sam Kekovich lambasting the white Australian agenda of Australia Day and being manly and eating meat n’ shit were over and that the “We” in Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA)’s ‘We Love Lamb’ ads was all who make up Australia’s diverse barbeque loving population - their creative agency The Monkeys have managed to get cultural inclusion so wrong yet again. Like a vegetarian sausage snug within curled white bread, I sensed a waft of phoniness within the dialogue of ‘getting together over the meat that doesn’t discriminate’, but gave MLA the benefit of the doubt that they could uphold advertising a product using cultural differences as the driving force, without marginalising groups of people.
But unfortunately the leaked script titled, ‘The First First Fleet’ that is set “60,000(ish) years ago” and tells the story of two Indigenous men, Ian and Stewart was nothing but a meat that keeps associating itself to colonisation.
The script follows Ian and Stew as they canoe up to a “cracking spot” to “fire up the Barbie”. It isn’t before too long until larger ships turn up full of Dutch, British, German and Chinese settlers hungry for some of Izza and Stewie’s Australian lamb and in a bizarre historically inaccurate demonstration, they ‘celebrate of all the new arrivals who have contributed to making Australia the great place it is today’ – this, of course, is before mutton’s primary use to service the dietary needs of those emaciating in penal colonies in the 1700s. It then travels to 12 months later when Stewbacca suggest they should celebrate the anniversary and askes Iz-wazza if he remembers the exact date. Ian replies, "Not really, does the exact day matter?".
While MLA’s message is clearly an attempt to unite Aboriginal people and the wider Australian community together, it does exactly the opposite by being a bunch of non-Indigenous people writing in the voice of Aboriginal Australians and saying ‘we don’t care about what Australia Day represents’, when in actual fact, many Aboriginal Australians definitely do care.
Given that people have protested for over 80 years against making the country’s national day on a date that is a painful reminder of brutality to Aboriginal peoples, you would only have to listen to Aboriginal people and their allies to know that this idea isn’t so much controversial, as it is entirely offensive.
Given that people have protested for over 80 years against making the country’s national day on a date that is a painful reminder of brutality to Aboriginal peoples, you would only have to listen to Aboriginal people and their allies to know that this idea isn’t so much controversial, as it is entirely offensive. Consequently, it comes as no surprise when Buzzfeed reported that The Monkeys has found it difficult to cast the Aboriginal characters due to Indigenous actors feeling like the advert trivialises the violent British settlement of Australia.
Additionally, I suspect it will be very hard to find an Aboriginal person who wants to make light of the Stolen Generations. The prominent ‘joke’ within the script has ‘Kevin Rudd’ walking through the historical barbie trying not to knock his precious lamb off his paper plate as he bumps into the “Indigenous throng”, perpetually apologising saying, “Sorry, so sorry, sorry. I’m very sorry” to which everyone’s mate, Ian responds with a smile, “Kevin, we know!” Duh Kevin! To me, this is about as funny and as clever as Miranda Devine calling Domestic Violence employment leave “Divvie” or any other person in a privileged position mocking the pain and suffering of others.
But rather than this being a dumb tweet from a Telegraph columnist, Ian and Stewart's adventure is coming from creative professionals designing to sell a product. A major reason why I can’t understand why MLA are going to such extensive efforts to be the voice of the Australian public?
We Love Lamb doesn’t even have anything to do with the Australia Day council or Reconciliation Australia - they're just food provider who distributes cuts of meat to supermarkets. Their motivation behind creating Ian and Stewart and an imagined history where the British didn’t claim Terra Nullis, is purely to be the most popular brand of meat in the Woolies’ refrigerator.
It’s almost like they want this backlash. By getting people talking about how insensitive their adverts are, MLA is able to avoid the fact that no one in Australia actually associates lamb with Australia Day. It’s not a thing. People get beef sausages. Stop trying to make it a thing and stop choking us with your politically incorrect grizzle and sending the message that equality means ‘getting over it’ while making a very loose correlation to lamb and Australia Day.