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Development   /  Margee Brown

OUTRAGEOUS The LBGTQI History of Aussie TV

TV historian and author Andrew Mercado is investigating why representation on screen is so powerful.

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Impact areas

ARTS

HUMAN RIGHTS & SOCIAL JUSTICE

INDIGENOUS

YOUTH & EDUCATION

Crew

  • DIRECTOR Lawrence Lim

  • PRODUCER Margee Brown & Andrew Mercado

Synopsis

DURATION: 120 MINUTES

TV historian Andrew Mercado is investigating how queer people have been portrayed on Australian television over the decades and how every queer milestone happened on TV down under before the rest of the world.

Australian television used to be a world leader. Thanks to our groundbreaking programs in the 70’s, there were more LGBT characters on Aussie TV than the rest of the world combined. And they weren’t niche or one-off programs buried outside prime time, they were the top rating programs of the day, proving Aussies were accepting of queer people on TV.

While the Americans were making The Brady Bunch and The Waltons, we were smashing taboos and making multi-sexual and multi-cultural dramas like Number 96, The Box and Prisoner.

Even drag was mainstream in Australia long before the rest of the world. Three decades before Priscilla hit cinemas, Dame Edna Everage and Carlotta were household names.

Andrew Mercado explains: As a teenager growing up in the 70’s, it is impossible to overstate how important this original representation was. I spent my formative teenage years observing gay people on TV who were accepted, successful and heroic. Television showed me who I could be after school, and that feeling of confidence remained with me for the rest of my life. That's why representation is important and it's why I became one of the first openly gay man on Australian TV.

Queer people disappeared from TV during the AIDS crisis in the 80's. Bringing Mardi Gras to TV in the 90's was hugely controversial. But by the 21st century, reality shows got with the program. So too did Australian drama and comedy which finally began introducing queer characters that were also Indigenous and multicultural.

Today, gay icons like Courtney Act, Kylie Minogue, Josh Thomas and Hannah Gadsby are known all over the world. So let's look back and investigate the trailblazers who paved the way for them.

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

During the 50 year anniversary of Stonewall in 2019, there were numerous lists compiled around the world about the greatest queer moments in pop culture. Unfortunately, no one knew or recognised that Australia had broadcast every gay TV milestone first, and sometimes years and decades before the rest of the world caught up. It's time for the record to be corrected.

Australian TV audiences began seeing queer people on TV from the early 1960’s. By the 1970’s current affairs shows were profiling a lesbian and gay couple kissing each other on prime time TV.

These are some of the first kisses between real queer people ever seen on TV, and soon gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender characters were being welcomed into Australian dramas. And not just as guest roles either - they were regular characters seen five nights a week for years and years.

Impact

What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

Representation is important.

Our Impact strategy includes creating live events and talks to share all the ways Australian producers, writers and actors led the way. Let’s look back at how it happened, and break it down as to why it still matters today.

Our creator and hosts are highly visual queer community identities. The series will feature live activations before, during and after the broadcast.

We'll also create primary school, university resource & community events

Outcomes

What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

History is important, we'll restore the records.

There is now a generation of Aussies who have grown up with seeing representation and they are curious about learning who the trailblazers were.

Young people today believe in diversity and inclusion but many of them are unaware of how progressive Australia used to be.

Tell them that “The King” of Australian television was really a queen and they want to know why he had to stay in the closet.

They aren’t familiar with Crawfords' cop shows like Homicide, and are shocked to learn that many of TV’s earliest cops were homophobic, even when dealing with “poofter bashing”, a sad staple of too many dramas that reduced gay men to victims.

Today, there are queer people everywhere on reality TV, they are reading the news, and they are representing their multicultural and Indigenous communities.

And as more actors come out as gay and non-binary, we want to plan a better future for them all.

Activities

How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

Throughout lockdown, Andrew Mercado has written the definite encyclopedia on the Queer History of Australian TV.

That means the research has all been done and all we need now is for our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters to help bring this to fruition.
We want this to be a multimedia event with podcast and tie-in book to engage with our audience direct and keep the conversation going.

We want this show to be made with an all queer crew and we want the world to know that Australia is still a progressive, inclusive, accepting nation … even though some of our politicians like to pretend we are not.

Stakeholders

How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

Producers Margee and Andrew understand that audiences demand authenticity and we are in conversation with LGBTQ partners to help us continue our research.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

This series will allow screen bodies, university and schools to access this history rarely shared with a mainstream audience. Understanding how representation on screen affects those watching will be a powerful case study.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

The ratings from the broadcast and digital activations will provide the data needed to demonstrate how important it is to ensure representation for all voices and stories is vital.

Seeing screen bodies, universities and schools studying the case studies and stories we'll uncover throughout our investigation will also provide measurable success and a platform for more people to see themselves on screen.