Ep 163: Swingtown, Number 96, the Bechdel Test

Welcome to the sexy episode of Boxcutters. We talk about the US show about sex in suburbia, Swingtown, and the Australian 1970s soap, Number 96.

In between we talk about the Bechdel Test and there’s also an I Don’t Buy It about the most complained about ad of 2008.

It’s over here:

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14 Comments

  1. A couple more things that didn’t come up in the show:

    Swingtown has just been released on Region 1 DVD (according to wikipedia it also played on Channel 10, but maybe that was in the mysterious parallel world of HD).

    I’m sure there still are swingers in Moorabbin, but if they put them in a contemporary-set TV show it would have to be all grim and depressing and involve crying. Why is 1970s sex allowed to be fun when sex in any other decade has to be earnest? Even in the future nothing changes… (Baltar: “I think I preferred it when you cried…”)

    Number 96 has an “English” couple in it who use phrases like “Ecky thump!” in a non-comedic way. And whenever they need to get rid of anyone (temporarily) they move to Melbourne. It’s like how in Neighbours no-one dies, they just “move to Queensland”.

  2. paddy red says:

    Hey Brett do you expect Steven Conroy to end up dumping his plan to filter the internet( George Orwell was so correct) after pressure from all corners

  3. I did say in Pork that I'd post some links pertaining to the “clean feed” issue. Enjoy!

    From The Inquisitr:

    The Minister notes falsely once again that in other countries running ISP filtering using blacklists that there was no discernible decrease in speed, despite noting the tests here proving otherwise.

    What the Minister continues to fail to mention is that the countries running blacklists he mentions were running child porn blacklists in some cases on non-compulsory feeds. What the Minister is proposing is far more reaching than anything any of these countries are running, and every time he quotes those figures it?s a lie of context.

    Today I am ashamed to be Australian, ashamed that my Government should seek to implement draconian 19th century style censorship laws over the marvel of the modern age: The Internet. Free Speech may not be totally dead in Australia yet, but it?s about to be placed on life support. Conroy can say all he wants that this isn?t about free speech, but speech censored by Government isn?t free, no matter which way you want to spin it.

    Great Firewall of Australia: What?s not mentioned makes it even more scary

    news.com.au brings some welcome focus from the mainstream:

    Trials of the filters, expected to block up to 10,000 websites and slow internet access by up to 87 per cent, are due to begin in weeks.

    Mr Suzar said the criteria being used to blacklist websites was still not publicly known.

    Internet restrictions for workers indicate what to expect with mandatory filters

    Even the Herald-Sun is reconsidering:

    It will simply drive these guys underground, making it more difficult for police to monitor and ultimately catch them.

    And the roll-out of the version that the Government proposed to begin last week has been mysteriously postponed.

    A technical report by the Internet Industry Association, commissioned by the Federal Government, found the technology would block access to legitimate sites, slow internet speeds — and not block all the porn.

    The Rudd Government has had this report since February.

    Find solutions to attack the causes of internet child pornography, not the effects.

    Caught out by net plan

    And the very conservative FCC admits to the futility of such a system as reported in apc magazine</am>:

    During the infamous Janet Jackson 'Nipplegate' incident at the 2005 Super Bowl, commissioners fell over each other to see who could appear more outraged by the brief glimpse of a partially-bared Jackson breast.

    “Americans should not have to tolerate such a gratuitous display of nudity,” one commissioner remarked. (Many of them were apparently prepared to: Nipplegate was the most rewatched moment ever on Tivo.)

    Yet even with that “rack and ruin” approach, the FCC has managed to work something out that continues to elude the Australian government: trying to impose censorship on Internet networks is a particularly stupid idea.

    US dumps unpopular internet filter plan

    And to finish on a happier note, here's a little story about fixing some of the damage caused by the methods used in the Telstra sell-off. It was incredibly stupid to include the infrastructure in the newly public company – much like we've seen with the management of the digital TV changeover to block any new players – which leads us to the current situation with 7 and 9 not offering any different content on their alternative digital feeds because it will cannibalise their own audiences. This is from the International Herald Tribune:

    The largest Australian telephone company, Telstra, could be split up if the government goes through with a threat to bypass the company in building a $6.9 billion national broadband network.

    Telstra has been shut out of the planning and if the project is granted to a rival, it could see its network arm forcibly separated to provide a platform for the network.

    Broadband plan could force Telstra split

  4. Oddly, according to amazon.com, the first episode of Swingtown is “frequently bought together” with The Dark Knight and Wall-E.

    Please God, someone tell me that there is a link there that doesn't creep me the hell out.

  5. @John: I couldn't believe it when I heard the words ecky thump used on Number 96. In fact, I've never heard those words used outside of a Monty Python context…

    @paddy red: I just frikken hope that Conroy and this govt see the utter stupidity of the proposed “clean feed” before any damage is done. I do quite a bit of work in the online realm and we've had enough to deal with already, over the years, without a fucking slowdown of all network traffic by up to 87%. As if it hasn't been hard enough with Telstra holding back on technology so they could milk the ISDN system for all it was worth and, since then, being as obstructive as possible with the country's network infrastructure so no other companies could use it fairly and provide real competition.

    When I liken the opposition to the “clean feed” with making things easier for the pedophiles, I am mocking the predictable argument from those who are pushing for it, in the knowledge that all restrictive technologies in the digital realm will be met with new technologies to subvert them. It is the same type of argument that took away civil liberties for the ?nti-terror” legislation which has made the words of Benjamin Franklin – “He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither.” – all the more germane today.

    I expected more with the change of this country's government than to have to continue to tolerate the fear mongering we saw under Howard. I also hoped to cease witnessing actions reminiscent of a police state and to live in a society where adults are treated as adults. I mean, for fuck's sake, if the list of banned sites and networks followed the lead of video games classification in this country, Second Life would be one of the networks blacklisted!

  6. Hi guys,

    I was intrigued by your talk of the Bechdel Test (pronounced “Bek-del”), being a fan of Alison's comics, and I sadly can't think of too many live action TV shows that fit her criteria. Samantha Carter and Dr Fraser in Stargate SG-1 had a few good scenes together, but not enough to really qualify. Farscape had some good female characters who sometimes talked to each other about things other than males. And Star Trek Voyager had a ratio of 3:1 of male to female main characters, a better ratio than usual. Admittedly, I'm hardly qualified to answer the question, as I'm one of those listeners who doesn't watch TV, except for sci-fi and anime.

    Another point: It's easier to test a standalone film, but in a TV show, just how often do the (at least) two women have to converse without mentioning a man, for a show to pass the test? Once a season? Hardly seems fair. Once an episode? Getting closer. But it should be a natural part of the show and not something that has to be consciously included. I would naturally include scenes like that, because that's the kind of characterisation I'd want to see. I'd think nothing unusual about a heavy sci-fi action piece where 90% of the cast was female and mostly butch dykes. America isn't going to make that show. I don't think anyone is, except in my head.

    Anyway, I'm assuming Bechdel's test is generally meant to refer to live-action shows with adult women, but if you expand the criteria to include shows involving children & teenagers, and also to include animated shows, then now I can immediately think of about 100 shows that easily qualify, and most of them are anime. I'll spare you a list, and even though many anime shows have ludicriously sexist scenarios, there are still waaaay more anime shows where the cast is predominantly female and full of smart, competent, confident female characters whose lives aren't defined by the men around them than in live-action shows.

    One particular favourite, Azumanga Diaoh, is an anime comedy TV series about six high school girls who do NOT ONCE talk about boys or boyfriends during the entire show. Also, the most powerful, emotionally devastating and dramatically engaging relationship among two females I've seen recently was in another anime TV series called Figure 17, which is about a ten year old girl and her AI mimetic liquid metal superpowered alien twin sister who literally joins together with her human analogue to fight monsters in the quiet countryside of rural Hokkaido. No joke. The earnest, raw emotion derived from that scenraio was incredible.

    The Worst Witch is another good one for passing the test, as there are roughly 14 regular characters, all female (well, it is set in a girl's school), and talk of boys is practically non-existent. But again, that's a show for 8-year-olds, so it hardly meets the standards Bechdel was aiming for. If anyone comes up with some better suggestions that aren't anime or aren't just kids show's, please let us all know.

    It's a sad comment on the state of roles for women that the best female characters who get to do the most action and be active and in leading roles and who have good complex relationships with other females have to be either immature or animated.

    I haven't seen John Adams, but the brief comments made about Mrs. Adams saying how if she were a man she'd do this and this reminds me of Beatrice's “If I were a Man” speech from Much Ado About Nothing. Written in keeping with the mindset of the times, that's perhaps more realistic than if Abigail were to strap on a gun and say, “Let's show these mothers some real democracy!” Sure, I'd still like to see that, but that wouldn't be as historically accurate.

    And you're right, The L-Word does not pass the test. Fuck that show. I've seen more realistic and complex lesbian relationships in porn films aimed at straight guys.

    And please continue to provide your loyal listeners with more classic hilarious moments like the end of this episode. Collective awkward laughter at having made comments percieved as being distasteful are always comedy gold.

    Thanks,

    Stacy

  7. I'm really not surprised at all that the West Wing failed the Bechdel test. On the surface it seems like it assumes all its characters are more or less on an equal footing, but if you look underneath you do start to notice that the female characters don't exist with the same level of autonomy as the men. I remember a scene with Ainsley and Sam and some random female character re: sexual objectification and whether you can respect women while making sexually explicit commentary. A worthy conversation, except for the fact that the woman making the complaint was somewhat frumpy looking, while all the re-occurring characters pitched in to reinforce the idea that feminism today is about sexual empowerment (and let's face it, all the main female characters are quite attractive). I do love the West Wing, but every now and then I have wanted to throw something at the screen.

  8. WWE Raw passes the Bechdel test, but WWE Smackdown does not. Conspiracy?
    I'm just sayin'…

  9. michaelbeckham says:

    More More Old TV Clips and Discussion. Hilarious! Most laughs I have had during Boxcutters.

  10. catbrain says:

    Just a couple of quick comments:

    Ibsen was Norwegian

    I really don't like the beaver ad, mainly because we don't really use the word “beaver” for “vagina” in this country. Give me something more culturally significant. But points for trying.

    Perhaps another reason the new digital channels aren't up and running has something to do with OzTam ratings? How are ratings derived from Foxtel – do they do it by individual channel or is it a cumulative figure for one program across, potentially, a range of channels? Are there even ratings for pay tv?
    Perhaps the FTA commercial networks want it to be a cumulative figure for a single program (which would kind of make sense with time-shifting n all that).

    As for Number 96, how good/dreadful were those “posh” (read: fake English) accents from the women? I have to admit that my mother had a similar sort of voice that we referred to as her “telephone voice”.

    I wanna see Dancers With Javelins.

  11. catbrain says:

    John: at the end of Party Animals last week Scott (Andrew Buchan) took the piss out of Danny (Matt Smith): “You beautiful boy with your giant fringe!”

  12. John_Richards says:

    It's like they've hired a haircut instead of an actor, isn't it?

    Incidentally, as well as those posh “mock-RADA” accents in Number 96, there's a scene where one of the elderly characters is running a business from home and she uses a deliberate “posh” accent when answering the phone. It's funny how much that tells you about the time the show was made in.

    (Tagentally to that, I remember when my mum got an answering machine for the first time and the message was recorded in a very posh voice and obviously a great distance away from the machine. For reasons of safety, possibly – new fangled machinery and it's scheming ways…)

  13. The recent Number 96 DVDs are great fun. At that point the show had moved into comedy and the use of dialect and the repetition of catchphrases was utilised heavily – understandable since it was all videotaped in the same cramped sets most of the time. Malaproping Dorrie who had the 'posh' telephone voice was the program's most popular comedy character. But the more ocker Flo is also heard to put on a range of accents on the phone when trying to avoid talking to Lady Mendel. Later when Dorrie receives a call from Lady Mendel she pretends to be a heaily-accented Italian to avoid speaking to her. Most of the time Flo and Dorrie (and Norma!) speak in borad Aussie accents in the show. Other actors were not from Australia (Elaine Lee and Frances Hargreaves were South African) so as actors would have been required to switch to RADA voices to have been employable on the Australian and UK stage. Chantal Contouri (who is Greek born) had prior to 96 lived in London and done voice training there which is why she sounds so posh in the show. That certianly makes her scenes in the final episode on the DVD all the more entertaining!! But surely Alf and Lucy's “Ecky thump”s *were* meant to be humorous… the entire show was meant to be humorous. Obviously other characters like Roma and Tanya do *not* have RADA like voices at all but seriously dodgy “foreign” accents.

  14. The recent Number 96 DVDs are great fun. At that point the show had moved into comedy and the use of dialect and the repetition of catchphrases was utilised heavily – understandable since it was all videotaped in the same cramped sets most of the time. Malaproping Dorrie who had the 'posh' telephone voice was the program's most popular comedy character. But the more ocker Flo is also heard to put on a range of accents on the phone when trying to avoid talking to Lady Mendel. Later when Dorrie receives a call from Lady Mendel she pretends to be a heaily-accented Italian to avoid speaking to her. Most of the time Flo and Dorrie (and Norma!) speak in borad Aussie accents in the show. Other actors were not from Australia (Elaine Lee and Frances Hargreaves were South African) so as actors would have been required to switch to RADA voices to have been employable on the Australian and UK stage. Chantal Contouri (who is Greek born) had prior to 96 lived in London and done voice training there which is why she sounds so posh in the show. That certianly makes her scenes in the final episode on the DVD all the more entertaining!! But surely Alf and Lucy's “Ecky thump”s *were* meant to be humorous… the entire show was meant to be humorous. Obviously other characters like Roma and Tanya do *not* have RADA like voices at all but seriously dodgy “foreign” accents.

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