I hate to admit it, but I never watched Season One of Family Rules, NITV’s reality-style TV show which last year was touted as the ‘Indigenous Kardashians’ and followed a family of nine daughters and their single mum, Noongar woman, Danielle. But in my defense, I have never kept up with the Kardashians either.
While I am being honest, I should say that there are any number of movies or TV shows by or about Indigenous peoples that I have not seen because (1) I’m busy (2) I’m a bad Aborigine and (3) I am not always sure that they were made with the intention of us being the audience.
Sometimes Indigenous stories, much like our land, is is treated as though it is intended specifically for non-Indigenous peoples’ consumption.
And you know, I saw the hype around Family Rules last year. I had come across some of the early reviews, where the show was framed as featuring a ‘modern Indigenous family’ which defied the ‘negative stereotypes’ of ‘parents being indifferent to their children’.
For starters, I reckon we need to talk about this whole ‘modern Aboriginal’ thing. Maybe we could just stop prefacing our Indigeneity with terms that dilute its legitimacy in the same ways that ‘half’ and ‘quarter’ did. Maybe we shouldn’t be reproducing the false ‘modern-traditional binary’ constructed by anthropologists, which Goenpul scholar, Moreton-Robinson denounced some while ago in ‘Talkin up to the White Woman’.
With all this talk of modern Aborigines and stereotypes, I had worried that perhaps this reality-style TV show was another Indigenous story that had as its goal an educative appeal to whiteness. Admittedly though, I just never got around to checking out whether this was actually the case.
But here we are with Season Two and the Rule family are back, and I am pleased to say they are not just back, they are Black! This supposed 'modern family' that apparently defies the stereotypes, is actually very stereotypically Black, and I mean that in a good way.
I think we can blame Nan in Episode 1 who is not up for hugging anyone, but she will pinch your ass when you she feels like it. She will “tell ya something” with that growly look on her face, which will include insisting that you “don’t be shame of Jesus” while reminding you that “you still a baby” to her, no matter how old you get.
I love Nan and I think she deserves her own spin off, true god.
As the series unfolds, we see how Danielle and her nine daughters follow proudly in their matriarch’s footsteps. In Episode 3, when Aleisha’s (third youngest) man insists she not have visor down with the mirror while driving, she quips “I don’t know who you think you are”. Not because she forgot who he was, but because he forgot who he was supposed to be in relation to her, in that moment.
On a scale of Blackness, Family Rules is up there around Blackity Black and Proppa Black… and not just because they feasted on kangaroo tail or have a broken shower.
The fourth youngest sissy Sharna explains it best, “With my family it’s like emotional abuse, 'I do this for you, you gotta do this for me'" and Sharna would know because she doesn’t have a car right now. Aleisha on the other hand, while not the best driver (according to her nameless man), has a license and a car. In a Black household that basically means, in our language, she gets to “play God”. And, we see in Episode 3 Aleisha with her deadly nails that Sharna had to fork out for because after all, her “car doesn’t run on love”.
Not to be outdone, Sharna gets a bit wild with tidda Aleisha, not least because they can’t agree on how many rides acrylic nails are actually worth, but she is forced to take a million photos of sissy with her man, who again shall remain nameless, to get that perfect couples photo by the water.
Some half later, Aliesha is still trying to direct the photo shoot, when Sharna declares, “keep going, you’ll be layin’ in that water in a minute”.
The only thing stopping this show from reaching peak Blackness is when mum Danielle gets proppa wild at the girls for fighting over $13 eyelashes.
To be fair, a door was slammed and said-door slammer walked away immediately after mum clearly said ‘now listen to me’. It was at that point that things got wild and black.
Like the scene literally fades to black the moment mum follows daughter into the bedroom yelling and we return in the aftermath, where suddenly everyone is deploying their nice inside voices. Clearly the scene was cut at a most critical moment, as soon as things got really real in the Rule home, which is probably a good thing because maybe Australian TV isn’t really ready for that kind of blackness just yet?
Chelsea Bond is one half of the Wild Black Women radio program (with Angelina Hurley) on Brisbane’s 98.9FM. Wild Black Women will have its television debut 4 December, 9.40pm on NITV. Follow Chelsea @drcbond
Family Rules Season Two airs weekly on Wednesdays, 8.30pm on NITV from 14 November, and will be available for catch up on SBS On Demand. Join the conversation #FamilyRules
Catch up on Family Rules Season One on SBS On Demand here.