3 Truths Revealed In Nick Enright’s “Blackrock” That Will Make You Want To Scream “Wake Up, Jeff!”

Every Australian knows that Jeff the Wiggle is a notoriously deep sleeper. No matter how loud you blast “Hot Potato” or “Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car” Jeff just never seems to wake from his slumber. However, after you read Nick Enright’s “Blackrock” and have had your epiphany as to the true nature of Australian culture, Jeff won’t ever sleep again as all you’ll want to do is scream “Wake up, Jeff!” and tell him how our whole identity is underpinned by an inherent and pervasive darkness that glorifies toxic masculinity, misogyny, alcoholism and other super dark shit; after all, in the words of Diane, “How [could] you sleep after hearing a thing like that?”

Here’s 3 truths about Australian society/culture revealed in the 1995 play “Blackrock” that will make you want to scream “Wake Up, Jeff!” at the top of your lungs:

1. Australia has a real drinking problem:

The Wiggles make a concerted effort to promote healthy eating and living habits to young Australians in their formative years. In the hit songs “Fruit Salad” and “Vegetable Soup”, the crew tell the audience how yummy “melon” and “tomato” can be and remind them just how delicious healthy food is. Furthermore, in their song “Getting Strong!”, the gang promotes healthy exercise habits including “running on the spot” and “skipping with a rope”. Clearly, the Wiggles are firm believers in the notion that the body is a temple and probably run their own wellness blog that spouts dodgy pseudoscience about re-aligning your chakras and carrot juice enemas.

By contrast, if the Wiggles treat their bodies like temples, the characters in “Blackrock” treat their bodies like dingy country pubs. What’s made obvious by Enright is just how much Australian youths like to drink, and I’m not talking spinach acai smoothies. We’re talking alcohol, and in very large volumes.

The first reference to alcohol in the play is made within the initial scene as Toby describes his planned 18th birthday party as a “keg show down the surf club”. Clearly, the amount of alcohol available to be consumed at the party will be excessive as “[kegs]” traditionally hold over 50 litres of liquid each. Furthermore, Toby suggests the alcohol consumption will result in spectacular drunken behaviour, a “show” of sorts. The quote also highlights the link between youth culture and alcoholism. Given the amount of alcohol available, it seems that in the eyes of Toby and his mates, the party will only be a success if it is a true piss up; this indicates that the youths’ in Blackrock have been conditioned to perceive excessive alcohol consumption (read binge drinking) as a normal and acceptable part of celebrations. Also, the “surf club” can be seen as a bastion of Australian youth culture and its carefree, beach bum attitude, hence by holding his 18th at the club, Toby inadvertently reinforces the link between Aussie youth culture and alcoholism. Given Toby’s plan to drink himself silly at his 18th, there’s really no doubting what the Wiggle’s Reaction would be; “Oh No!”.

Enright further reinforces the link between youths and alcohol through Glenys’ reaction to Cherie’s claim that she’ll be responsible at Toby’s party; “I’ll be ok. I won’t drink.” Glenys reads right through her smokescreen and asks her what she’ll do instead, “stand and watch?”. Here, Enright strengthens the link between drinking and partying; “stand and watch” suggests that Cherie would be a lone teetotaller spectating a night of drunken debauchery. Furthermore, Glenys’ attitude indicates that the adults of “Blackrock” are well aware of their kids tendency towards binge drinking, and rather than challenge or punish such behaviours, either turn a blind eye or actively encourage it (Glenys practically challenges Cherie to get drunk at the party). Again, another “Oh No!” in the coloured crew’s book.
Ricko is depicted as the ultimate boozer in the play by Enright. His drinking habits rub off quickly on Jared, who after one night with him “came home well after midnight, [fell] through the front door and [spent] half the night throwing up.” What Jared displays is the effect of excessive short term alcohol consumption (a state of “stupor” and a BAC between 0.25%0.40%) which his mum Diane blames solely on Ricko’s return. Furthermore, Ricko’s alcoholic influence also threatens Jared greater life and prospects including “school [and] work”. Ricko is seemingly an alcoholic, given that his preferred mode of emotional comfort is a bottle of Tennessee’s finest. In search of Jared to ensure his commitment to their big lie, “Ricko appears [at the beach], holding a half empty bottle of Jack Daniels.” In response to the realisation of the gravity of the situation he finds himself in, Ricko turns to alcohol to soothe his worries. This in turn causes him to partake in risky behaviour (inferred drink driving as his “van [pulls] up” before he emerges drunk) and become increasingly aggressive towards Jared; first through intimidation him by asking “where the fuck have you been?” and eventually through violence as he “[raises the trophy] to strike Jared”. Here, Ricko’s boozing is presented as a negative facet of his character that contributes to the failure of his once strong relationship with Jared but also as something that feeds his excessive machismo (which resulted in him murdering Tracy earlier in the play). Through Ricko, Enright depicts the antisocial effects of excessive alcohol consumption and how it eventually leads to the destruction of character (by bringing out their worst traits).

By highlighting the relationship between Australian youth culture and alcohol consumption and focussing on the destructive nature of alcoholism within his play “Blackrock”, Enright questions the place/role of alcohol within Australian culture. The depictions within the play paint alcohol as central to Australian culture, and given the negative portrayal, it can be inferred Enright is critical of this facet of our culture.

A country built on slabs of tinnies and populated by legless hoons whose lifeblood is the amber Eau de VB… Definitely a problem. Jeff’s certainly not sleeping through this revelation.

2. Misogyny is alive and well:

Respecting women is the Wiggle’s middle name. They’ve proven time and time again that they support gender equality and strive to promote it to young Australians. Dorothy the Dinosaur, arguably the most well renowned female Australian kids TV supporting character, was the first character of the Wiggles to be introduced when it aired in 1991. From there she’s gone on to star in over 7 solo spin off series and cemented her position as the most prominent Wiggles side character. The Wiggles also proved resolute in their decision to replace Greg (the yellow one) with Emma despite vocal backlash, stating that the change would make the Wiggles relevant “into the next generation”. After becoming part of the crew in 2013, critics were quickly silenced as Emma consistently ranked the most popular of the new Wiggles. However, if you delve a little deeper, another more concerning reality comes to light that challenges what I’ve said above. The female characters in the Wiggles stick pretty hard to traditional gender stereotypes; Dorothy isn’t some kick ass man eating t-rex but a subdued, lady-like tutu-donning “rosasaur” (a dino that eats roses duh!) whose favourite activities are “eating roses, gardening, singing and making rosy tea”. Sadly, the same is the case for Emma, who wears a skirt and big bow ties and is frequently dancing or playing a mum or queen whilst the guys get to do the big-boy jobs (by that I mean firefighting, piloting or driving the Big Red Car).

This hidden unfairness is prevalent in Australian society and manifests itself in even more concerning ways than the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. These manifestations include the acceptance of an increasingly toxic perception of masculinity and most concerningly, Australia’s disproportionately high rates of domestic violence. Whilst it may seem to most an invisible issue, Enright foregrounds the misogynistic behaviours
perpetrated against Blackrock’s female characters and how these are widely perpetuated and accepted in its greater society.

The audience is hit by the rank smell of misogyny within the first scene of the play. When Jared tells his friends that girls can’t surf because they have the “wrong centre of gravity”, local girl Cherie interjects by challenging his claim through a local female surfing “legend” Wendy Botha. Jared writes this challenge off by claiming her prowess is due to her nonfeminine physicality, “[she’s] built like a guy”. Clearly, Jared demonstrates a negative perception of females, evident by the way he diminishes the achievements of a female by attributing her success to her “masculinity” (as if success is only achievable for males). The notion of femininity as being specific to stereotypical physique is confirmed later on in the scene as the boys “froth” over supermodel “Elle Macpherson”; her success is not challenged by Jared as it is considered acceptable because it is derived from her excessive stereotypical femininity (read physical attractiveness).

Misogyny also takes the form of double standards and the preferential treatment of males within “Blackrock”. Enright first introduces this when Rachel blames the preferential treatment her brother Toby receives from their parents as boiling down to the fact that “[he’s] got a dick”. Her parents claim that the “big difference” is their age, yet amongst themselves they ask if “[they’re] being too protective.” Stewart, Rachel’s dad, again purports double standards when he scolds Rachel for probing Toby about his involvement in Tracy’s rape. He claims she’s asking more than questions and rather “[frontally attacking]” him; in stark contrast, Stewart suggests for Toby to “[frontally] attack” his mum to convince her to green light his party. From this it can be inferred that Stewart believes that males “[frontally attacking]” females is perfectly socially acceptable whilst the converse is taboo; a perfect example of double standards that oppress women. Double standards are again addressed when Tiffany reveals to Jared that “the rest of [Jared’s friends] call [her] a slut and then try to sleaze on to [her] when [Ricko’s] head’s turned”. Here, the double standards are in regards to perceived promiscuity; the boys do not recognize their own “[slutty]” behaviour in ceaselessly trying to convince Tiffany to have sex yet call her a slut for no reason other than that she is a female engaged in a sexual relationship. Furthermore, their attempts are inferred to be forceful and unpleasant given “[sleazy]” is defined as “sordid, corrupt or immoral”.

Most notably, however, is the way Enright depicts sexual violence in the play. Firstly, Enright highlights the normalisation of violence perpetrated against women amongst the male youth of “Blackrock”. In the first scene of the play, Jared tells Cherie the only reason he’ll help her to surf is because “any other guy’d smack you in the mouth”. You’d think this would stop the conversation, but no, it’s casually brushed off by the pair; clearly, brutal violence against women is a non-topic in Blackrock. This normalisation worryingly encompass victim blaming too; multiple instances of this occur in the play. As news of Tracy’s murder travels across town, questions are raised regarding her virginity, her behaviour at the party and clothing. Furthermore, the town cannot comprehend that its culture could be so toxic so as to produce a rapist/murderer that their initial reaction is to blame an “out of [towner]” with “VIC plates”. As it becomes apparent that the perpetrator was homegrown, the town’s attitude sours against Tracy; Cherie sums this up in her clap back to Glenys, “you’se all think she raped herself, she killed herself.”

In the same way the Wiggle’s unwittingly purports traditional female stereotypes and gender roles, the town of Blackrock is completely oblivious to the rot of misogyny at the centre of their culture; a rot that culminates in the rape and murder of an innocent teen.

Is Jeff actually a misogynistic pig? The only way to find out is by waking him up and asking.

3. Australian society isn’t equal:

Australia considers itself the “lucky country”, thanks in part to its relatively equal wealth distribution and low income inequality. When combined with the vast welfare state, strong public education system and universal health care, you’d be pretty hard pressed to point out obvious flaws in the net that could let people slip through (besides Indigenous Australians, but that’s a whole other issue). Yet there is a fairly obvious socio-economic divide across Australia, firstly between metropolitan and rural areas, and then between cities and their outer suburbs.The Wiggles are a fairly good example of the difference class makes in Australia; all of the founding members grew up in privileged households (eg. Anthony attended a prestigious boys school and Jeff was the son of wealthy Chinese immigrants), were exposed to “higher” culture at a young age (Murray was the child of prominent Sydney musicians) and became extremely successful in life. Their “lucky” upbringings without a doubt contributed to the profound success of The Wiggles; I highly doubt that if the gang were all raised in lower-middle class, blue collar households that they would still grow up to be Australia’s most prominent children’s performers (a generalisation, sure, but a fair one).

Although it may not be the focus of the play, socio-economic divides are certainly present within Enright’s “Blackrock” through the depiction of two obviously different socio-economic groups within the fictional town of Blackrock. Enright himself stated that plays should be “anchored in a very particular place”, and when combined with knowledge of the coastal city (Stockton/Newcastle) that provided basis for the setting of “Blackrock”, it is inferred that Blackrock is likely a blue collar dominated, post industrial satellite town somewhere along the NSW central coast.The poorer socio-economic group are the “[blackos]”, as they are affectionately referred to, who inhabit Blackrock itself. On the other hand there is the Aussie bourgeoisie that live on the “hill”. The way each of these groups is constructed by Enright highlights the gulf in Australian society between the lower-middle class battlers and the upper class tall poppies.

Let’s start with the “blackos”. Enright makes it quite obvious throughout the play that the majority of characters are of lower-middle class socio-economic group, all except the Acklands. The disproportionate representation reflects the makeup of Blackrock’s society and is bound in traditional hierarchical structure; the wealthy elite constitute a minority of the population whilst the lower class represents a vast majority but controls only small amounts of the wealth. These socio-economic conditions are perpetuated by the behaviours of the characters in the play. Most evident is the positive perception of prison time amongst “blacko” youths. Davo describes his brother’s prison stint as an entirely positive experience as he “worked out twice a day” and gained “cred” as it “told the older guys [he] could handle himself”. Despite it being intended to punish, for the blackos, prison is seen as an opportunity to build a more successful self whilst gaining acceptance from greater society. This cycle of prison time is not only positively reinforced but a product of intergenerational perpetuation, reflected in the way Toby asks Ricko whether he’ll “follow daddy” into prison. Perpetuation is also reflected in regards to the treatment of women. Len, Jared’s dad is described as being estranged from his family as he “[pissed] off” after “[smacking] [Diane]one time too many.” Through dialogue, Enright reveals that Jared had grown up in an underprivileged, abusive household. Jared later perpetuates his Dad’s abusive behaviour towards intimate partners when he “grabs” Rachel and refers to her as a “bitch”. Enright also reveals that the “blackos” are perceived negatively by those on the hill as Stewart refers to Blackrock as “hoontown”. Stewart places the connotations of “hoon” onto the populace of Blackrock, hence comparing them to “louts or hooligans”. The perception of “blackos” as uncultured and primitive is reinforced by Stewart and his wife Marian who believe the only reason to be in Blackrock after “sunset” is either to “fuck” or get into “a punch up”; this not only reflects the overt machismo and misogyny that is depicted as being rife amongst “blacko” culture but also paints them as primitive given reproduction and strength are key
primal functions. Enright alludes to the exclusivity of the “hill” through Ricko when he makes guesses as to Toby’s father’s profession as either “a doctor” or “lawyer”; two elite/high salary jobs that require stringent higher education. This also serves to contrast against the jobs the “blackos” in the play hold, whether it be Jared who works at “safeway”, Tiffany who wears an “apron” to work (implied blue collar/customer service) or Len who is a boxing coach. Ultimately, the juxtaposition of employment between those on the hill and the “blackos” only serves to highlight the gulf in terms of income inequality between the two socio-economic groups. The privilege of the Ackland’s is also signified through their response to Tracey. Whilst the “blacko” youths are left to fend for themselves by either committing perjury (in the case of Ricko, Scott and Davo) or finding their own emotional outlets (Cherie and her tape deck), Rachel and Toby receive the “best professional help” and a “solicitor” respectively. Again, Enright juxtaposes the privileged position of the Ackland family against the “blackos” to highlight their high socio-economic standing.

Enright’s juxtaposition of the Acklands on the “hill” and the people of Blackrock itself serves to reflect the greater socio-economic divide between Australia’s lower-middle and upper classes. Furthermore, through the juxtaposition, Enright foregrounds the attitudes, perceptions and privileges of the two socio-economic groups thus also highlighting the cultural disparity between them.

It’s safe to say that the Wiggles grew up on the “hill” and that the “hill” certainly contributed to their success. Does Jeff know that his privileged, wealthy upbringing gave him a massive comparative advantage over thousands of other Australians and was a huge factor in helping him win at life? Probably.

Should we still wake him from his narcoleptic slumber by shouting really loudly the entirety of the Communist Manifesto directly into his ear? Definitely.

 

T.G.

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The Hidden Truth Of Nick Enright’s BlackRock You Wouldn’t Believe!

 

Don’t you remember the time in high school, having mad Chats with the mates, busting out those assignments while whipping and nae-nae-ing? and reading a book about a girl getting raped and murdered over in East Australia? So do I! Nick Enright’s BlackRock was a controversial playwright that has been studied since its presentation in 1996 for its portrayal of a series of events that follows the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl named Tracy while attending a beach party where everyone’s getting on the piss, hosted by Toby, a 16-year-old fella that Tracy knew. People were lying, not speaking out, and even helped with the rape! Worst thing its based on a true story of misogyny and violence. That’s the hidden truth that you’ll now get to know.

 

LH1

Just so you know, the murder that BlackRock, written by Nick Enright in 1996, is based off what happens to be the abuse, rape, and murder of Leigh Leigh. A 14-year-old girl who got gangraped by a 3 of 18-year-old men while attending a party in Stockton Surf Club, New South Wales, with minimum adult supervision, where she got physically abused for refusing to have sex with Guy Wilson after having non-consensual sex with an unnamed 15 year old boy played as “Toby”…. SO, on that serious note. Lets first have a look at the truth of Leigh Leigh’s story that BlackRock portrays.

Lets start off with a summary of BlackRock’s plot. A character named Tracy – representing Leigh Leigh – harmlessly rocking up to Toby’s 16th birthday beach party and smashing back the drinks. Having a good time. Buuuut the male characters were calling her and girl characters alike “bush pigs” and demanded that they “put out” in motivation of characters like Jacob. Tracey was then allegedly found naked within the sand dunes with head wounds from blood-forced trauma caused by the impact of a rock. The characters are then degrading in their emotional and social state. Jacob stopped attending school and lashed out at his mother and cousin, Cherie demonised all other characters for not “caring enough” for Tracy’s death, and Ricko becomes unstable, attempts to physically abuse the character Rachal, and finally reveals that he raped/murdered Tracy after she was gangraped by Toby, Craig and Scott, wanting Jacob to be his alibi. All the culprits were comprehended, however, the pressure of mateship still loomed over Jacob and he seek advice for what to do and his guilt for seeing the crime but not acting.

Okay, although BlackRock’s an interesting approach to the Leigh Leigh’s murder, written in a way to make the story more palatable to the broad reader while putting the meaning across of what the possible source of such an atrocity was. So, the specifics of the true story were really watered down. DON’T WORRY I won’t destroy your innocence with the details, however, Leigh Leigh was raped at a 16-year old’s party while drunk. The event of her being physically abused by 20 odd men in front of a crowd of school mates was left out (for obvious reasons). Likely represented through Jacko instead as he was a bystander who saw the events, with his turmoil reflecting the writer’s opinion of the social impact that such behaviour reinforces – self destruction – the rock used for Leigh Leigh’s murder was accurate along with Ricko, whom was Charlie Webster, the bouncer of the Stockton party. The actual murder itself was A LOT more gruesome and I’m for one am grateful that it wasn’t included because there would be no possibility of the story hitting mainstream media and covering the social issue. The attitude of the Stockton residence was also reflected, as just like in BlackRock, no one that witnessed Leigh Leigh’s abuse said anything to help the case out of either mateship or fear for their own safety

Now that’s sorted, lets have a little gander at the hidden meanings of dramatic conventions within BlackRock intended for the audience.

When it comes to symbolising the primal misogynistic behaviour of men, BlackRock has it down pat. Ricko’s description of his “accidental” murder of Tracy describing a “rock in one hand and a earring in the other” this is BlackRock’s Ego, Super Ego and Id, the Ricko’s conscious ego to do good and assist Tracy through her Trauma (represented by the earring) being won over by the primal desire for sex despite the risks (represented by the rock) and is shown again by his aggressive behaviour towards Jacob’s friend Tiffany. This was likely Enright’s perception of the possible factor behind the true murder, or at least used the plot to highlight an important issue of Leigh Leigh’s society. A murder fuelled by a misogynistic drive within the male characters to get what they want, with the women expected to give in to those desires. This reinforced by dialogue, Toby, Davo and Scott bragging that they “went through” Tracy shown no remorse in their behaviour Cherie’s mother being told that the Cherie has “got to learn how the world works” because she’s not a boy, while Toby, Davo and Scott bragging that they “went through” Tracy shown no remorse in their behaviour, and Ricko described all the female characters as “bush pig” that “had it everywhere but [their] armpit”… I know, if that’s not belittling then I don’t know what is and the list of dialogue goes on and on, from literally every male character. this clearly reflects the position of power, specifically between the genders that Enright argues to plague the small, poor suburbs of Australia which Leigh Leigh was situated in, naturalised and not just a single behavioural anomaly.

Then there’s Ricko’s van keys. I know, who cares. But the keys had a much deeper meaning than you may think and also happens to be very quick and simple. As the van was the object that introduced Ricko within BlackRock’s plot, the van also carries the same associated meaning. Misogyny and murder. Therefore, as Ricko eventually breaks down and gets arrested, giving Jacob the van’s Keys, those keys could represent the toxic behaviour being moved on to the next generation. i.e. Jacob. By throwing the keys away (although a waste of money if you ask me) Jacob denies this, this could be what Enright is asking from us. To end this misogyny.

With that. I end it here. I’ll be back with more rad info on more literature. See you’se next time #PEACE

 

L.H.

 

 

 

Funny Title

~Summary~

The play Blackrock by Nick Enright written in 1995, based around the major aspects of a crime committed in 1989 and entails a young school girl who is raped and murdered whilst attending a surf club party that entertained a large number of underage drinkers and partygoers. Progressively through the play, the truth is slowly revealed. Both the reality of Tracy’s killer (Ricko, the cool surfer dude, murders and rapes Tracy, but ‘it just happened’ so we’ll let him off).  and also Australian culture is discovered

Although Australia’s culture is refined enough (A Bunning’s snag on the weekend and a Woolies mud cake on your birthday) Blackrock reveals some classic Australian culture embedded in our youth generation that isn’t so flattering (woops). ‘allegedly’ our major defining cultural elements of our society include misogyny, alcoholism, violence and mateship.

But how? Well…..

Alcoholism?

We all know Australia’s big on drinking, I mean, we love it, but the ‘not so fun side of alcohol’ is visible within the youth generation and by doing so reveals that one of the only and most enticing entertainment options for our bright young stars is underage drinking and sex! And they’re not messing around, their party is a full on ‘keg show’ as toby reckons, and the most important attendee of all the ‘supermarket trolley stacked with beer’. From a young age it appears our youths destined for alcoholism and they are exposed to it constantly whether it be getting a beer out the fridge for dad or the half time commercials at the footy but the youngsters in Blackrock are no different. Particularly the boys in play see drinking as a social sort of deal. After Ricko returns he states that he and his friends are all ‘going to get some beers and sit up on the rock’, this part of Australia’s culture is not talked about negatively or as a problem, we all know someone who loves to get on the ‘piss’ so to speak, but hardly anyone sees the down side and what it can cause ‘she’ll be right’ Right?… WRONG. The drunken shenanigans that took place on the night were for the most part, fuelled by alcohol. The effects of alcohol are well known to most of us, for example it can lead to long term addictions and health issues such as alcohol poisoning and liver disease, but in addition to these harmful affects alcohol also increases our chance of making bad decisions and taking risks that we wouldn’t usually. These bad decisions and risky behaviour are present in multiple ways at the party. Some of them harmless, some of them not.

 

Misogyny?

There is A LOT of misogynistic ideologies going on in Blackrock, and I mean A LOT, it’s terrible, women are degraded and discriminated against by the men in the play AND by the younger generation boys (wonder where they got that from). The play represents some very real aspects of Australian culture during the time it was written in and some aspects of our present-day Australian society. The mutilation of a women’s body is a reoccurring theme within the play and although us readers/viewers are spared the gruesome details for the most part, it is blatantly clear what went down in the sand dunes. The rape of Tracy speaks volumes about the young men’s take on women, the fact that Ricko believed that sex from Tracy was something he could just take as a payment without any consent, it’s not rocket science Ricko, no means no mate. The way in which she was murdered *this part is yucky* that the side of her head being caved in by a rock just makes it so much worse. Together these serve as the primary evidence for female mutilation in the book, genital and head disfiguration yet the theme also presents itself in two other forms one being Diane’s breast cancer. Diane undergoes a mastectomy which is literally her boob getting removed, this serves to highlight the theme. The last representation of the disfiguration of a women’s body is when Tiff brings donut for a not so deserving Ricko who, instead of appreciating them, throws them at her like the complete asshole he is, leaving her with jam all over her but symbolising so much more, you see Tiff being covered in jam looks just………….yep, blood, Ricko symbolically bloodies ANOTHER women but it probably ‘just happened’ right? At least we have Rachel though, she sticks up for us women the whole time stating that the only reason Toby is allowed to go to the Surf club party is because he’s got a dick! And she’s right. Cherie also has a very good point, she declares that everyone thinks that ‘she raped herself. She killed herself’, another bang on point because if we hit fast-forward on the play, we can see how Stewart tries to belittle the event, he tries to make it sound small and irrelevant and almost that it was her fault, he says that ‘it just happened’ like that makes it better. Marian also tries to get Toby off the rapist hook by saying that she was ‘obviously drinking’. Stewart, as if he hadn’t already done enough, also uses women’s sex appeal and exploits photos of their body’s for his body count campaign which are ‘plastered over every bus shelter’ after his advert is played in the next scene Shana runs on naked, alluding to the fact that this is how his advert also starts. Themes such as these are all present within todays society, especially with the exploitation of women’s body’s, whether it be because ‘sex sells’, because the man a women is situated around wants sex or a recently newer inequality in today’s society is within the work force of Australia, where women are underpaid in comparison to their male equivalents or the fact that companies just don’t want to hire women, misogyny is still present.

 

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Violence?

Surely our beautiful Australia isn’t built on violence? Well listen it’s not the only thing we’ve got but it’s a damn big part of it. Australia and particularly Australia’s youth constantly use violence (either towards themselves or others) as a way of expression. It is literally the only way some people can resolve a situation, instead of talking it out most just prefer to smash on, have you ever been to high school? Teenage boys and girls literally cannot control themselves and it is no different for these youngsters in Blackrock. Hormones run high and fights break out at a steady pace throughout the play, but not all of the violence in this play is necessarily bad, it could potentially be regarded as bad but it’s not all murder and killing, in fact the play also highlights the fact that Australia has parts of violence engraved into it, it’s part of our natural responses to things, even if it’s just playful bants like when Jared ‘Smacks him [Scott] round the head. They go off together, sparring, laughing.’ They are legitimately laughing and sparring, displaying the fact that Australians use little spout of violence for fun and communication. Speaking of violence for fun, Jared’s dad appears to be a coach for a boxers club, he even claims that he could make something of Jared, this is important as we realise that the kind of kids in this town are struggling or have ‘shit for brains’ as Len explains, and sometimes they can feel as if violence is their only way, it quite literally is here where some teenagers can make something of themselves. Moving on to the matter that the youths of our generation use violence for expression and as a way of resolving things, Cherie tries to trash Ricko’s van (which he definitely deserves) because her emotions are so high she cannot find any other form of release but violence. Many of the male characters will initiate a fight as a way of sorting out a problem. Another example of this is when Tiff is standing up to Ricko (finally) before His big confession, he asks her ‘you looking for a smack in the mouth’ when she is dishing out the truth on his ass, calling him an ‘animal’ and whatnot, it’s spectacular. Ricko has no other way to resolve his anger towards her that ‘he tries to pull her to the ground’. Another form of violence is strongly present within the play, this is a different kind of violence, self-violence. Although one without cause there are 2 suicides in the play. Ricko for whatever reason, be it being unable to spend time in jail, unable to live with what he has done, the loss of his mates and girlfriend or a mixture of all, he ‘tops himself off’ in terms of the book using his belt. It is unsettling to know that much of the violence that we get to see in the play is ultimately what it is like in real life, especially for boys and those left behind in the education system, those are the ones that more often than not lack the capability to deal with emotions and problem solve and so they revolt in violence towards others or themselves.

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Mateship?

Yay! A good one finally, when most people think of Australia or try to impersonate an Australia the first thing they say is ‘G’day mate’ (the second is to throw another shrimp on the Barbie, whatever shrimp are), anyways the main point is that it is a well known fact that in Australia we have mates, but mates are something different to friends entirely. A mate is a different kind of bond, a group of best mates share loyalty, they share comradery and they share the laid-back surfer vibe we see in Blackrock. Ricko and Jared’s bromance started back when Jared’s dad had left him, and he had, ironically may I add, cracked his head open at the skate park and Ricko saved him. Since then a mateship flourished, Ricko called Jared ‘Son’ a lot and when the time came to finally return the favour that Jared had indebted to Ricko or as he told Jared ‘now it’s your turn to look after me’. Jared feels a sense of obligation to look after Ricko, he tries to convince his dad and pretty much himself that lying is the right choice by proclaiming that Ricko is his ‘best mate’ …’and that means I’ve got to back him’. The sheer force of the mateship almost convincing a young man to lie for a potential murderer. When Tiff confronts Ricko he demands she have sex with the both of them because, I believe that as part of their mateship Ricko thinks that it will bond the two together, almost like a right of passage. On the topic of right of passage is initiation rites, where the boys expect Toby to do something stupid to gain respect by his fellow mates and become part of their crew. What I think is the most important quote from the play is between Jared and Diane when she exclaims that the other boys, Scott, Davo and Toby ‘were no friends of yours’ and Jared replies with ‘No. But mates’ this draws the distinct line between friendships and mateships that is so heavily present in Australian culture.

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So yeah, basically Australia’s main cultural aspects are all really sad and dark and Blackrock does indeed expose them to us, although they’re not too at least they’re ours.

E.S.

Nick Enright’s Blackrock: A study of Mateship and Misogyny.

Leigh Leigh before her untimely death

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Background: Blackrock is a play by Australian playwright Nick Enright that was first performed in 1995. It was adapted from a 1992 play by Enright, entitled A Property of the Clan, which was inspired by the murder of Leigh Leigh in Stockton, Australia in 1989. The plays were both well received critically, though they did attract criticism from both Leigh’s family and the media due to the fictionalisation of an actual murder. Despite repeated statements from Enright that the plays were a work of fiction, they have both often been considered by viewers to be a factual account.

Summary:

  • Blackrock is an Australian beachside working-class suburb where surfing is popular among youths such as Jared and Ricko. He has his first serious girlfriend, Rachel, who comes from a much wealthier part of the city. One day Ricko, the local surfing legend, returns from an eleven-month trip. Rachel’s brother Toby’s 18th birthday party is being held at the local beach club a few days later, and Jared decides to merge a ‘welcome home’ party for Ricko with the event. The party is unsupervised with alcohol freely available. The following morning, it is revealed that 15-year-old Tracy Warner was killed at the party.
  • Three youths from the party, Davo, Scott, and Toby, tell Ricko that they raped Tracy, though left her alive. The three boys are later arrested for the sexual assault. Ricko confesses to Jared that he killed Tracy. He says he was attempting to have sex with her when she bit him and kicked him, so in a moment of rage he grabbed a rock and hit her with it. He has already told police that he was with Jared all night and asks Jared to confirm his alibi in the name of mateship; Jared is torn between telling the truth and protecting his friend. After witnessing Ricko’s abusive behaviour towards their friend Tiffany, Jared decides to tell the truth. Ricko is detained by police and hangs himself in his cell.
  • Jared’s silence leads to the breakdown of his relationships with both Rachel and his mother Diane. In the plays last scene Jared confesses to Diane that he witnessed the three youths raping Tracy, though he did not intervene. He is unsure why he did nothing though he believes it was out of loyalty to the boys who were his mates. Ricko left Jared a suicide note giving him his van, though Jared asks Cherie to dump the keys to the van in the ocean when she goes out surfing. (-Wikipedia)

The play is inspired by a real-life crime that occurred at a teenage beach party in 1989 in Stockton, an outer suburb of Newcastle in NSW. By morning, a young woman lay dead on the sand, beaten and raped.

Overview: In this blog I will be exploring the concepts of mateship and misogyny as how they are represented and shown in Enright’s Blackrock. First, we will start by looking at what exactly mateship and misogyny are according to the dictionary:

  • Mateship is an Australian cultural idiom that embodies equality, loyalty and friendship, usually among men. Russel Ward, in The Australian Legend (1958), saw the concept as a central one to the Australian people. Mateship derives from mate, meaning friend, commonly used in Australia as an amicable form of address.
  • Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny is manifest in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification. Misogyny can be found within sacred texts of religions, mythologies, and Western philosophies.

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Quote: “She’s hot, mate. They all are. Go for it. Go, son…” -In this quote Ricko is encouraging Jared to take advantage of a young girl and based off the events that happen later on he does not imply consent is needed for Jared to get what he wants. Another issue here is that Jared has a girlfriend, Rachel, So Ricko is reinforcing the misogynistic views of men in the play by disrespecting them and being detachedly unfaithful to not only Jared’s girlfriend Rachel but Tiffany who Ricko himself was with.

So how is mateship and misogyny shown in Blackrock? Through the objectification of young women, the binge drinking, the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude, and the idea that girls just need to cope with it until the phase passes. Let’s explore this in more depth:

Quote: “Tell this bitch to back off” -When Ricko says this line he addresses one of the boys rather than Tiffany herself. This disrespectfully shows not only Tiffany, but all characters present that he finds her so beneath him that he finds it disgusting to address her directly.

In Blackrock, Enright demonstrates time and time again that all the relationships between the boys and the girls end up abusive, physical, emotional and humiliating. For example, in scene 6 Ricko and Jared talk about Jared going and “getting in” with Tracy, Leanne or Shana. He encourages them in a way that makes the girls out as little more than pieces of meat that are there purely for the boy’s pleasure. Also, Ricko promotes Jared to cheat on Rachel who was unable to come to the party because her parents didn’t allow her to go. This shows how little respect they had for women and being faithful to them. Still on page 22 Cherie (Jared’s cousin) asks Ricko if he would help her learn to surf because Jared wouldn’t due to the fact he was scared his friends would make fun of him (“Girls can’t do it”). Ricko’s response was ‘what’s in it for me’. Ricko was hinting at getting sexual favours in return, but Cherie quickly responses saying ‘nothing. Oh. Ill wash your van for you, clean the windows’. Cherie tries to change the situation from a sexual position, to a casual position because Cherie was not interested in having sexual relations with not only Ricko but any guy.

Rachel: In a way Rachel is the moral heart of the play, she speaks her mind and stands up for herself. Its confronting but what we see in Rachel is how important it is for young women to feel comfortable with who they are and what they believe. This is important to show that not all young women are pushovers and can be independent which, to the males of the play, can be quite intimidating. An example of this is when she stands up to Toby calling him a rapist and a murderer.

Clearly, Jared and his mates objectify the girls. Their language throughout is harsh and demeaning while Tiffany has a use-by date. But for these boys and men, even expressing genuine feeling can be seen as corrupting the ‘authentic’ male which can also be seen when Ricko considers Jared a ‘queer dog’ for expressing that he missed Ricko.

In Blackrock, Enright addresses a very Australian cultural trait- the tendency to downplay serious issues. We tend to turn a blind eye to things that are said or done and it’s because we don’t want to make a scene and this in turn is bedding down a cycle of abuse that will perpetuate. “I remember reading a quote from Nick when he was reflecting the play and he said that the most terrifying thing for him was that the children in the play are one day going to be the parents”. -The Sydney Morning Herald.
Quote: “Cause any other guy’d smack you in the mouth.” -In the opening scene, Jared verbally backhands Cherie and puts her ‘in her place.’

Representations of genders are constructed by different cultures and societies. Blackrock explores the representation of gender in Australian society and the importance of masculinity and physical competition is evident in the exchanges between the teenage boys of Blackrock and their treatment of the female characters. The objectification of women is demonstrated in the treatment of Tiffany by Ricko, and Rachel by Jared, the language the boys use to describe the girls and in the way they talk about the rape and murder of Tracey Warner. For example, the boys constantly calling the females of the play ‘slags’ and laughing when the girls get affronted. The males use the women merely for their own gain, “you want to get us another beer Tiff”. In this quote the lack of question mark symbolises that Ricko is not, in fact, asking Tiffany to get them some drinks but ordering her. Another clear example of these misogynistic views can be seen when the boys are talking about Tracy’s rape, “We all pounded her…we all went through her”. In this scene the boys don’t show any remorse or empathy for Tracy in fact they marvel in their own ingenuous at their gang rape as if it was a fun-loving and bonding activity for the boys.

This type of sexual violence is used to illustrate the fact that the loyalty we often champion as a key element of white Australian masculinity often comes at a horrific cost. The play revolves around violence. And, obviously, the act of gang rape is the most prominent example of violence as explained previously. Aside from this; the way the boys speak to one another and especially the female characters is often an example of verbal violence. They use words to verbally degrade those around them. Several characters had the opportunity to prevent the rape and death of Tracey and chose to do nothing. Jared saw the rape, heard a confession from her killer and did not act on either occasion. He did not go to the police, he did not condemn any of the boys involved nor did he support them. He did this all for his so-called ‘mates’ and that decision tormented him throughout the entirety of the play.

Mateship is shown as a supportive network amongst the boys. Jared sees Ricko as his mate. “He let me hang with the guys, taught me heaps of stuff, took me up the coast, saw me catch my first barrel. He’s a bro.” The degree of this mateship, or what could also be called peer pressure existent amongst the male characters in Blackrock is exemplified when Cherie speaks at the grave of Tracy and tells how none of the guys put in for the tree because they were, “Afraid their mates would pay out on them”. Peer pressure plays a major part in the horrific crimes that these otherwise ordinary boys commit. When Ricko first comes to town he begins to assert himself over the rest of the group, then when he knows he will be caught he exerts a lot of pressure onto Jared, asking him to lie to the police. Peer pressure is evident when Jared doesn’t speak out about the rape, which he witnessed.

Furthermore, Ricko invokes mateship whenever it is expedient. “You wouldn’t have to. You’re a bro. I’d be there for you.” “Tell them what we said. You were with Ricko. You were with your mate.” When Jared tells his mother that he didn’t stop the three boys from raping Tracey because they were his mates, Diane replies, “Those three were no friends of yours”. Jared reiterates with emphasis, “No. But mates…”

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The characters in Blackrock embody Enright’s views on the Australian culture and especially focuses on the men on the play and specifically, with relevance to this blog post, mateship and misogyny, both shown by the males in the play. By taking the story of young Australian Leigh Leigh, Enright takes time and effort to not focus on the murder or even the victim, but how the murder was brought about and the aftermath of it. Through the violence, sexuality and superiority that the men in the play display, we are positioned to empathise with the women in the play and see them as victims.

 

A.M.

What Nick Enright’s Blackrock Reveals About Australia’s Controversial Past

A. Smith    7 Hours Ago

 

WARNING: This article will discuss some HEAVY stuff. Trigger warning for murder and sex crimes. Any humour in this post doesn’t aim at belittling or making the situation any less serious, more so to make the topic a tad more palatable.

 

Blackrock– a controversial and powerful play, based off real life events and written to cover a lot of serious topics. There’s no easy way to discuss the synopsis; a teenage girl is gang-raped and murdered at a birthday party in a small Australian town. The play was written based on the murder of Leigh Leigh, a 14-year-old girl who was assaulted and found naked in the sand dunes after attending a birthday party at Stockton beach. The play mirrors many details from the case, including the cause of death; blunt force trauma to the head by a large rock. In Blackrock, Tracy assumes the role of Leigh, but other characters are created to be involved in the murder of Tracy Warner, unlike in the real-life case where the suspect is said to have worked alone. This of course, could have been an act of extreme mateship which resulted in the murderer of Leigh Leigh taking one for The Boys. (Taking 20 years in the hole, to be exact.)

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Sickeningly enough, the case of Leigh Leigh displays something Australians are renowned for; mateship. The initial assaults and abuse were carried out by multiple boys at the party, who took turns kicking, spitting and yelling at her after she asked for some help for being raped by another boy earlier. This displays Aussie mateship to its core, that you’ll stick by your friends and act alongside their decisions no matter the situation to prove your loyalty to the friendship. Obviously, I’m being cynical here, because this Australian value is actually a rather positive one, just highlighting it in this context shows some dickheads with disgusting morals. I’m moving towards my point though; that this exact use of mateship and copying what the lads are doing instead of using your moral compass and realising The Boys are absolutely disgusting is what Enright uses to show the problem with Australia and its prioritising of friendship. Honestly, if your mates all support gang-raping a 14-year-old then maybe you should cancel Saturday. Saturdays aren’t for the boys anymore, it’s for realising the negatives of mateship and the misogyny that is deeply embedded in Australia’s past.

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This misogyny I’m going on about can be found in most of Blackrock’s scenes. Where both the female and male characters are involved. This normalizes and desensitizes the sexism towards women, inviting the audience to adopt the idea that this behaviour is commonplace and normal in Australian society. In most cases unfortunately, this is absolutely the truth. Enright chooses to set this story in a normal Australian small-town to convey that everyday life faces rampant sexism. Blackrock sees characters calling women “bush-pigs” and demanding that they “shut up and put out”. The women are seen as objects of sexual fulfilment, even being as young as 15 and 16 and assumed to have “had it everywhere but [their] armpit” according to the male characters. Intertwining these kinds of verbal assaults into passages with everyday language and conversation normalises this behaviour, and allows Enright to set up this link between the sexism towards women and groups of friends. The biggest example of sexism and mateship, the big whammy, comes from Tracy’s rape, where Toby, Craig and Scott take advantage of her being drunk. Toby later expresses his regrets, saying “the other guys were there, and it was like I had to”. By saying this, Toby reveals that without his friends, he probably wouldn’t have committed the crime. Toby gains this support, or pressure, from his friends, who all act together, allowing their sense of mateship to drive their crime. Ricko also confides in his friend Jared when confessing he murdered Tracy, showing his trust in their friendship. This passage also details Ricko’s sexist nature, as while Tracy is asking for help due to being raped and asking to go home, Ricko ignores her and puts his intentions first; saying “I’ll take you home babe, but first things first.” (implying attempted rape). Ricko’s friendship with Jared allows him to almost nonchalantly confess it was “a rock in one hand and her earring in another”.

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The thing is, while the events surrounding the inspiration for Blackrock show a dark and controversial Australian past of police tampering and raping of schoolgirls, it also highlights that these kinds of things did and still do continue to happen, even after Leigh Leigh’s publicised death. The misogyny and mateship Enright shoved down the throats of the audience through awkward attempts at being “hip” and displayed by the fictional-but-based-on-real-people characters still run rampant in Australian society today. The circumstances of Tracy’s death in Blackrock only mirror real-life events that happened both before and after the murder of Leigh Leigh. A simple search through the list of major Australian crimes dating from the 1800’s to present shows most, if not all, of the rapes listed as against women. Many of these rapes and murders are carried out by more than one person, displaying that sense of good old Aussie mateship. Obviously, our priorities as Australians are pretty fucked to value mateship and supporting friends over THE LAW and BEING A DECENT HUMAN BEING. Crimes such as the acts of Allan Baker and Kevin Crump, and the Bega Schoolgirl murders show friends working together to commit horrible crimes. In the Bega murders, Beckett described following his friend’s orders and doing as he said, a true act of mateship and support. This kind of negligence towards horrible acts due to friends displaying their mateship continuously repeats itself through Australian history, and is prominent in Blackrock. Enright utilizes pieces of Australia’s past and identity to highlight issues, and overall display that our controversial past of misogyny and mateship doesn’t just end in the past, but continues towards the present as well. Australia is well ready for a change, and to straighten its priorities up. I’m not saying being a good mate is bad, but maybe we should change the ideas associated with being a good mate from “disregarding morals to be able to have a drink later with the boys” to “realise when your mate is being a dickhead, and stop him from doing so”.

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_major_crimes_in_Australia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Baker_and_Kevin_Crump

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bega_schoolgirl_murders

 

 

Misogyny is a Human Pyramid

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Weinstein, Affleck, Spacey, Cosby, this dude, that dude, and so on. The last few years have been remarkable. At this point, you can simply text the name of a powerful man to a friend, and they know – another has been accused, outed, exposed.

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The context is so present in our minds, partly because it always has been, but largely because the public conversation that’s erupted has been so thorough and, for the most part, wonderfully persistent in both condemning predatory behaviour and upholding the testimonies of victims. New precedents are being established. Where we would once discuss these crimes with beleaguered resignation about the consequences, we can now be quietly confident that we’re entering a new era. Blackrock, (1996) Nick Enright’s hard-hitting modern classic, is one of those plays that grabs you and does not let go. The play looks at issues that were raised by the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl after a Newcastle area beach party. A party on the beach, drugs, booze and surf. But by morning a young woman lies dead on the sand, beaten and raped. This incredible human drama examines the social impulse to violence within Australian culture, within young males. Finally, retribution is being inflicted on the perpetuator and not the victim. This infliction of blame onto the victim is constantly present throughout Nick Enright’s play Blackrock by numerous characters at various points, many believing that the conclusion of the events that night was Tracy’s fault. Three youths from the party, Davo, Scott, and Toby, tell Ricko that they raped Tracy, though left her alive. The three boys are later arrested for the sexual assault and Ricko confesses to Jared that he killed Tracy. Even with the confession of the boys the reader is made aware many characters predominantly believe Tracy was to blame for her own rape and murder, shown through a conversation between Cherie and Glenys her mum in Scene Sixteen. “Nothing’s anybody’s fault. She raped herself. She killed herself. That’s what youse all think,” to which Glenys replies; “You douse yourself in kero then start playing with matches, you can’t blame anyone else when you set yourself on fire.” This implies Glenys’ belief that Tracy put herself in the terrible situation as she was consuming alcohol. This idea that Tracy didn’t help herself in this situation and she was partly to blame is also made apparent in a conversation between Rachel and Jared in Scene Twenty-three, where Jared says; “Then why didn’t she act like one?/People should act the way they are. Not dress down and look like a moll and dance like- a moll.”

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It feels different even from a year ago. Would Casey Affleck have won the Oscar in this climate, we ask? Probably not, we think. I bet he’s relieved, we say. Public opinion has swung: the Weinstein Company didn’t fire Harvey Weinstein because they found out he was a sexual predator, they fired him because we found out. It’s good to see that the house is finally burning down around him and men like him, but we need to talk about that house- who built it, who lived there, and why it was allowed to stand for so long.

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Misogyny is, and always has been, collaborative. Its longevity and omnipotence is maintained through embodied structures of support-‘embodied’, because it’s easy to forget that these structures are the sum of choices made by individuals. They are the choices of those with the social, political or legal capital to effect change, but who don’t. More often than not, this means men. This is not an accusation, but an observation, and we need to engage with it as such.

At this point, we must resist the temptation to view misogyny as a spectrum. This is the wrong way to measure harm; it gives way to a complacency that says, ‘it’s just a joke, it’s not like I actually touched her’. Misogyny isn’t a sliding scale of harm where jokes are situated at the low end and rape at the other. Rather, it functions like a human pyramid, where minor acts support the major by providing, at best, a foundation of blithe indifference, and at worst an atmosphere of amusement at the denigration of women.

 

At the sprawling base of this pyramid are the innumerable silent men: those who stand idly by as sexism and misogyny play out before them. Their silence might be due to ignorance, intimidation or indifference, but its impact is always the same- silence is complicity, and it creates a stable base for other men to stand on without fear of retribution. This silence is illustrated by the main protagonist Jared in Scene Four where he replies to his mother’s frustrations with: “Then don’t look.” This comment is pivotal in representing Jared’s deliberate ignorance to the violent rape and murder of Tracy in that it conveys if you don’t like something you should just turn away and do nothing. This act of doing nothing and being a passive bystander is shown through the quotation in Scene Twenty-four: “I let it happen…I turned and ran the other way. I could’ve gone down there. Anytime. I could have taken her home. Only I wouldn’t. I didn’t,” where Jared admits he could have helped Tracy. Could have intervened. This quote shows Jared has faced the confronting reality that his silence is key. That it is foundational to both sexism and sexual violence. Similarly, during a conversation in Scene Two between the Ackland family, Stewart says: “You don’t like it, ladies, don’t watch.” This further conveys the attitude of ignoring misogyny and simply acting like it is nonexistent in our society instead of trying to change and correct these attitudes.

 

Next, are the brokers of power; the ones who work quietly and menacingly from the corner office to protect the interests of the broader machine. They’re the ones who quash victims’ allegations with ‘think carefully about pursuing this’: a loaded comment used to convince victims of the superfluity of their claims; a reminder that their status means they can easily be hung out to dry. These characteristics are embodied primarily in Stewart Ackland. In Scene Fourteen we hear from the rapists and their account of the fateful night, discussing their guilt and admitting to raping her; SCOTT: “We did it. The three of us./We all pounded her.”  Enright’s use of language “pounded” and “we went through her” present sex and violence as intertwined and connected. In the following scene Toby’s father Stewart says: “They’ve admitted having sex with her, but sex is not assault,” and “The girl was under-age. The law says she can’t consent.” This dialogue suggests the male characters in the play hold more pro-rape attitudes and more traditional gender roles

 

At the top of this human pyramid stand men like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Australia’s own Don Burke, as well as a variety of other powerful men whose behaviour is vile and, to varying degrees, visible. History is riddled with them: these towering men who cast long shadows, within which they comfortably perpetrate. In Blackrock on the top of the pyramid is Ricko, it is made known to the reader he is idolised by many characters in the play and many look up to him. This is evident in Scene One, during a conversation between ‘the boys’ where Davo says; “He’s one of the crowd, mate,” to which Ricko responds; “Yeah? Like how?” This suggests the idea that to be part of the group you need to gain approval from Ricko. This is further supported by Toby’s desperate attempt to be one of the ‘Blacko’s’ by his response to Ricko’s question being, “Like I’m having a rave over here for my birthday.” The boys in Blackrock share a trusting bond and relationship with the character Ricko who throughout the play acts as an older brother figure who the boys trust with their lives. This trust is demonstrated in Scene Fourteen where Davo and Scott come to Ricko for advice on what they should do in regard to the crime they committed. This is shown through Davo saying; “Ricko? Got a minute? We’re in the shit, mate” and Scott saying; “Shut up! Ricko, you’re the only one we can trust,” these quotations evidently portray the strong bond and connection that Ricko shares with many of the Blacko’s demonstrating the influence and dominance he holds.

 

Misogyny is a human pyramid, but it also functions like a food chain. The pressure to dominate women (and less powerful men) comes from the top down, and men who abuse their power are likely to exert dominance over everyone. It’s not surprising that many of the recently exposed men were, at the very least, notorious for being bullies.

 

None of this is to say that men are not responsible for their behaviour – part of what has made this moment in time so powerful is that these men are finally being held accountable. But it’s worth noting that they are not anomalies. Men who abuse their power over women (or other vulnerable parties) exist across every industry, ethnicity, age, sexuality, nationality, socioeconomic class and religion. There is no common thread besides ‘masculinity’ and our shared understanding of what this constitutes. To focus exclusively on condemning men like Harvey Weinstein is simple and gratifying – his power was stratospheric, and his abuse of it was equally monumental. He is mythological, un-relatable, far removed. But Harvey Weinstein is not removed from our culture-he is significant. For men’s criticism of Harvey Weinstein to be sincere and productive, they need to reject the urge to vilify him while positioning themselves as the progressive alternative. Men must instead become relentlessly self-reflexive, and recognise the way that the scale of abuse matches the scale of power. They must reflect on the power they hold, and identify the areas in which they could, even accidentally, abuse that power. This includes witnessing misogyny or sexism but not objecting to or correcting it, because the option to disengage belongs only to the powerful.

 

To claim that misogyny is a pyramid built upon a silent majority might seem like a harsh indictment, but it is also an empowering one. If men can swallow the confronting reality that their silence is foundational to both sexism and sexual violence, then they get to embrace the inverse reality- that their vocal dissent could begin to destabilise these evils at their base. This counts most of all when there are no women around- I have a feeling the most sexist things ever said about me occurred when I wasn’t in earshot, or even in the room. It counts in the all-male text chain. It counts in the locker-room. It counts when there are no women there to pat you on the back. It counts when there’s nothing in it for you.

 

Toxic masculinity thrives by coding empathy as a fun killer and emotion as weakness and has engineered hearty consequences for those who display these qualities, ranging from eye rolls and ostracism all the way to physical violence. This starts early, when boys are shamed for crying, or for liking anything ‘feminine’- when sensitivity is discouraged. The result is that empathy is suppressed, and this allows the objectification of others (women in particular) to thrive. But what if all the strength and resilience we foster in boys from a young age were instead employed here- what if we encouraged boys to be empathetic, and raised them to be strong enough to absorb the consequences, and to use their social privilege in service of others? Perhaps this is a good way for men to channel that confusing (white) male guilt; to divert their efforts away from seeking absolution for their identity, and instead orientate themselves toward building a world where that identity is no longer the trump card. This idea of lacking emotional stability in young males is extremely prominent in Blackrock, in Scene One Jared puts Cherie in her place with the backhander, “Cause any other guy’d smack you in the mouth.” This is a reflection of a male attitude that perceives violence as an acceptable mode of response, as a means to a solution, whether it’s against others or themselves. In a number of scenes, violence emerges as the most accessible form of expression. In Scene Nineteen the violence and aggression that Jared’s father, Len, teaches his boxers parallels much of the violence portrayed amongst the males throughout the play. “In the ring you’ve got two allies [fists], one friend [brain], and no mates. It’s just you and him and the sweet smell of blood.” Len, taunts George for holding back in the ring, telling him that his opponent, Donny, “could spread [his] legs and prong [him] and [he’d] ask him if he wants seconds.” He refers to him as a “bonehead” and a “shit for brains.” The idea here seems to be there is strong connection between sex and violence and the two-go hand in hand. Language is the means by which many of the male characters within the play distance themselves from their emotions. In the reunion scene with Ricko, we learn that one of their friends had died. The discussion of the boy’s death is cautious and emotionally disconnected. There is an outburst of examples within Blackrock where male characters repress their emotions and chose to express their emotional instability through violence. Shortly after Tracey’s murder in Scene Twenty-three, Rachel confronts Jared, asking him to talk to her about that night and, more importantly, to share his feelings. His response is one of anger and emotional retreat. The stage direction of [He hurls the mug. It shatters.] this extract shows the fragility of adolescent males and emphasises how emotionally vulnerable they are. Through this emotional instability the audience is shown due to the lacking knowledge of how to express feelings without using feminine qualities, these boys choose to take their anger out physically as this response is seen to be more masculine and the social norm. Violence being how many adolescent males’ express emotions show that they have not been nurtured and taught any other form and resort to this one method of dealing with conflicts.

 

If we can learn to see men as distinct from established understandings of masculinity in the way we have done with women and femininity, then hopefully we can begin to construct a version of masculinity that is more plural, more expansive, and less harmful to everyone. It’s an urgent task, given that men are four times more likely than women to commit suicide, and that violent and sexual crimes are overwhelmingly perpetrated by men. An emergent masculinity might be one where men have the right to be vulnerable, uncertain, and empathetic without feeling shame; where they can acknowledge their limitations, be it physically, emotionally or mentally, and not feel like a failure. This is already happening, but we need to work to elevate this more inclusive model, and we need men who are prepared to enact it in real time.

 

We need dads to talk to their 16-year-old sons about loneliness. We need men to talk to boys about sexuality and consent, and we need their perspective to be a healthy one that stresses the value of empathy and respect, as this will run counter to much of what boys will see in pornography and other media. We need to teach boys that sometimes the most courageous thing they can do is ask for help. We must allow men to feel and express more than anger, to engage with the reality that anger is a secondary emotion, a mask for pain, and one that isn’t likely to be soothed by outward aggression or dominating someone else. We need all the men at the base of the pyramid to unsubscribe, to withdraw their tacit complicity, and to work together to establish new norms around what it means to be a man. If we embrace the momentum of this cultural moment, if we keep listening to victims while placing the burden of change on the shoulders of those most equipped to enact it-men-then we’ll be able to look back on 2018 as a watershed year in the long and grueling fight against misogyny. The future is looking brighter than it has before.

AM7   A.M.

A Blackrock blogrock about Misogyny and Mateship:

Misogyny and mateship, two concepts that are keystones to Australian culture, one is spread by patriarchal piles of shit and the other we love and think is a positive influence in the community,. But not everyone agrees, such as Nick Enright, who criticises both concepts in his play Blackrock, first published in 1996. Based on true events, Blackrock recounts the events relating to the murder of Leigh Leigh and how the surrounding society reacted. The theme of mateship is mainly criticised by presenting all the guys as being emotionless for the sake of not looking feminine in front of their mates, because apparently emotions are strictly reserved for women. The theme of misogyny is criticised by making all the guys who are sexist seem like major dicks to women.
So let’s get to business, because you aren’t here to read an introduction. Onto the juicy bits!!

Mateship:
Mateship is an Australian cultural value, and I had trouble defining it at first, so I checked Wikipedia, which said, “Mateship is an Australian cultural idiom that embodies equality, loyalty and friendship, usually among men.” and that didn’t really clear things up because it’s way too wordy, so I looked around and found a better definition:
“Mateship is just camaraderie in bogan form.”
-Dylan Pokroy
Which makes way more sense to me, so I’m sticking with that.
But, contrary to all the positive portrayals in definitions and whatnot, Enright portrays mateship in a negative way.
Mateship plays a big role in the play, with almost all of the guys saying “mate” at least once. One of the main ways that mateship is portrayed negatively is how the guys all try to hide their feelings in the fear of being mocked. For instance, when Ricko returns, this exchange occurs:
“Jared: I’m glad you’re back mate, I’ve missed you.
Ricko: What are you, a queer dog.
Jared: Get fucked.”
Which shows how Ricko doesn’t care about any of that mushy emotions stuff, and is willing to make fun of his best friend for saying mushy stuff. Ricko’s lack of emotions are also shown in the same scene when Scott tells him that a friend Jason committed suicide, in this exchange:
“Ricko: …where’s Jason Davo? Youse two were always joined at the hip. Eh?
Scott: He’s dead, Ricko.
Ricko: How?
Davo: Accident.
Scott: He topped himself.
Davo: You don’t know that! Nobody fucken knows that.
Jared: We gave him a good send-off, eh?
Ricko: Bet youse did.”
This exchange shows how the only emotional response was from Davo, who was Jason’s best friend, and that response was to lash out angrily, whilst everyone else dodged the topic. I mean, he used an exclamation mark and everything, that’s kinda a big deal. This shows how they don’t want to be seen showing emotion in front of their mates in fear of social scorn. Also notice how Scott says, “topped himself” instead of “committed suicide” or “killed himself”, yeah, Scott is trying to emotionally distance himself and the other boys from the death to shield them from any sort of emotional realisation of Jason’s death. The dudes not wanting their mates to cop out on them is directly mentioned when Cherie is speaking at Tracy’s grave and says, “None of the guys’d give anything, even the ones that wanted to. Afraid their mates would pay out on them.” which is directly referencing that none of the guys would want to show emotion just in case their mates gave them grief about it.

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***INCOMING SPOILERS!!!***
Towards the end of the play it is revealed that Jared saw Tracy’s rape and did nothing, partially because he didn’t want to act against his ‘mates’. So this can be seen as significant when he finds out that Tracy was murdered, and all he wants to do is go back to sleep and distance himself from what happened. This represents that for him and his mates, ignoring anything that could evoke an emotional response is a necessity.

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Like come on guys, ignoring your emotions just distances you from those you love and trust, which is the point Enright was trying to make, which can be seen when Diane says to Jared, “I tried once. And then I gave up. No, that’s not it. I kept it all in. Probably scared of falling apart in front of you.”, Which isn’t normal. Like, at all. You should be allowed to be emotional in front of your kinds. This could also represent that the emotionless behaviour is not just to do with their mates giving them a hard time, but also a behaviour learned from parent to child.

Jared witnessing the murder and his guilt over his inaction is used to portray the difference between mateship and friendship and the uncertainties surrounding these concepts, as this exchange between Diane and Jared shows:
“Jared: They’re your mates.
Diane: Those three were no friends of yours.
Jared: No. But mates…”
Which certainly clears things up. Yup, I totally know the difference between friendship and mateship. Just like Jared definitely gets it too. Oh wait, no he doesn’t, and that doesn’t help clear things up for us either. All I get about Mateship is that Jared wants to save the hide of his ‘mates’.
Speaking of saving hides, Ricko tries to invoke a sense of mateship in Jared to convince him to lie to the cops and save his hide when he says, “Will you back me up, mate? You got to. You got to. Please. Please, Jazza.”

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Low blow Ricko, low blow. What a real mate like thing to do.
It seems like Enright doesn’t like mateship, he thinks pretending you don’t have emotions because your mates will give you grief is kinda a shit thing. He does this by portraying Ricko as a manipulative prick and making all the guys who don’t show emotions seem like pricks. He also represents that the lack of emotion isn’t necessarily just a generational trend, but instead it can also be a learned response taught to children by their parents.

Misogyny:
The patriarchy, we all know it, we all hate it (or should hate), and when the patriarchy rears its ugly head, it spews words of misogyny and spreads anti-women hate. That is exactly what we’re going to talk about, how stupid the patriarchy is and how wrong the degrading of women is.
The best place to start is probably with the author himself. In an interview conducted by Robert McCuaig, Enright stated that:
“The fear of women is so paramount in this society. I think the most terrifying thing that I ever read, and I think it’s probably true, is something Gore Vidal said, which is, ‘If only women knew how much men hate them.’ ”
Which really highlights how boys hate all the femininity stuff and want nothing to do with it.
In the first scene, Cherie wants to surf so she tries to get Jared to teach her, but all Jared has to say is that, “Girls can’t do it.” and that can be interpreted as representing that the surfing community is full of misogynistic dicks who think women are inferior to men, given that the only representations of the surfing community are Jared and Ricko, and Ricko’s a bit of a tit.
A big problem presented is the use of a woman’s body to sell a product, which is represented by Stewart. Stewart works in advertising, and his advertisements regularly sexualise women, making them seem like objects. Kinda like what he sells. There’s a word for this. Oh yeah, objectification, silly me. jk I meant to do that

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Anyway, there are parallels with Stewart’s award scene and the scene where Scott steals Shana’s top (dick move). Stewart says that, “…the female body is a thing of beauty and a joy to look at from every angle.” and that they are going to show his ad (his company is called “Bodycount” and that just sounds like a group that has to use women to sell stuff because they’re incompetent) and then it cuts to Shana chasing Scott in her underwear. An audience that isn’t reading a book but instead watching a performance might assume that this is the ad. Since Shana is an unwilling participant in this event, it represents the wrongfulness in all the objectification of the female body that Stewart is doing. Can we also talk about the name of the company? Because ‘Bodycount’ just sounds so violent, almost as though they’d condone the violent actions in the play. Representing Stewart as an A-grade dick is also done when he attempts to defend Toby raping Tracy by saying, “We’re not interested in guilt or shame or political correctness. We want to keep Toby out of jail. That’s all.” defending rape is just wrong in general, but when they’ve confessed to raping a minor who was actively saying no? That’s just a whole new level of dick.

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As I’ve already said, Ricko is a dick. This is shown in the way he treats Tiffany, his girlfriend, in a disrespectful way. In the scene where Ricko comes back he says, “Tiffany, shut up.”, which is just plain rude, then he gives her $20 and says, “Shoot down the road and get us some beers.”, not as a question, but as an order, as though she does his bidding, like a servant to her lord. In a later scene Tiffany brings Ricko doughnuts as a gift, and he throws them at her, getting, “Jam all over [her]”, in a way that is similar to blood. **SPOILER** It’s pretty clear that this is meant to represent the night he killed Tracy, and all the blood he spilt hitting her with a rock. He attacks Tiffany again later, when he tries to force her to have sex with Jared and himself, where he says, “You’ll do what you always do, bitch. ‘Cause you are what you are. What you’ll always be. So shut up and put out.” This confrontation escalates until Jared saves Tiffany by overpowering Ricko. Wow, gender roles much?

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Let’s not forget how Scott and Davo described how they and Toby raped Tracy, using terms such as, “We all pounded her…” and, “we went through her.”, making her seem like a passive object instead of a person who was actively resisting. The acknowledgement of the rape happens when Rachel interrogates Toby as to what happens, resulting in this exchange:
“Toby:…She wanted to, then she didn’t want to
…Rachel: She said no? Toby?
Toby: Yes. And I kept going.”
Which shows their blatant disregard for Tracy’s wishes in regards to her own bodily autonomy. And yet they attempt to avoid jail even though they acknowledge they did something wrong and violated a young girl. Hmmm. I wonder why that is. Maybe it’s got something to do with that whole “Boys will be boys” sentiment and how men aren’t held responsible for their actions, which Jared so helpfully pints out when he says, “Ricko’s dead because some moll didn’t know the limits.”, blaming Ricko’s death on a girl who was… unwilling… to do… what made him die? And that’s her fault?

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Geez, society sure is fucked up.

Oh yeah did I mention how everyone in the play perpetuates rape culture? Even good old Glenys? Because that’s a thing that happens. Glenys herself say, “You douse yourself in kero, then start playing with matches, you can’t blame anyone else when you set yourself on fire.” which is stupid. Rape culture is stupid. Blaming Tracy for being raped is stupid. Full stop. The end.
So yeah, misogyny is stupid, fuck the Patriarchy, sexist piles of shit should go to hell, and that’s what Enright thinks, just in more formal terms, and with more words.

Still, it’s good to know that society finally learned from its mistakes. I mean, mates are nothing but a positive influence these days and peer pressure is at an utmost minimum. And women are treated fairly and equally by everyone in society. Life is just peachy.
Oh wait, we still have these problems.

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Well damn, I guess that Blackrock is still relevant in today’s society. And it’s clear that Enright created a play that has remained relatable throughout the generations. Four for you, Nick Enright! You go Nick Enright!

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