I’m watching TV in London when the EastEnders comes on.
“What is this show?” I ask a local.
“It’s like our version of Neighbours,” I’m told.
But the next half hour of TV completely surprised me.
The episode’s second scene focuses on a Muslim single dad, followed by a scene with a young non-white (middle eastern? Indian? I’m not sure) winning a bet at a call centre he works for, then one with a one handed lady suffering from dwarfism, then one with a Turkish high school student, and one with a pregnant black woman. Every time I saw a person of colour I was shocked, amazed and impressed. I had my hands on my cheeks grinning?
“Why, is Australia racist?” my local friend asks.
My initial thought is yes. “I think Neighbours is all white, except there’s one Asian,” I predict.
But I need to confirm. So I look up the current characters on Neighbours. White, white, white, white…it goes on, until at the very bottom, there are twin Japanese brothers.
Home and Away, the other long running Aussie soap? White, white, white, white…oh wait this guy looks half Asian! Oh but he’s playing a white character…the rest were all white.
“Wow, Australia is racist!” my friend remarks.
It is, I think to myself. But surely we have better dramas on TV in Australia, right? So I look up the 2016 Login winners (the Aussie version of the Emmys). The show that one best drama? Home and Away.
“Oh you’re fucking kidding,” I exclaim in disgust.
Is Home and Away, a completely white washed show and in no way representative of Australia, our best drama?
It’s so shameful. I can’t believe the UK can represent so much diversity in their popular soap, when we can’t even include more than a token Asian or two in ours.
I understand that part of it is that The Eastenders is on BBC which means it’s publicly funded, whereas Home and Away and Neighbours are on commercial channels, which means they need to get viewers in order to get advertisers, and they don’t have an obligation to accurately represent the country. But it still shows that Australia isn’t ready to see many non-white people on the screen.
Australia, we really need to step up its diversity game.