Victoria’s Offensive Language Law Changes Are Bollocks

In the fine tradition of politicians looking like they’re doing something, the new Baillieu government in Victoria has decided to fine people swearing in public on the spot. Which, let’s be honest, is different to actually being offensive.

This is instead of charging people with offensive language and hauling them into court only to have the charges dismissed by the magistrate in what is obviously a waste of the court’s time. Offensive language laws are long past their use-by date as the community has become more tolerant (this is different to accepting) of people swearing in public. It’s part of the social fabric and unless the surrounding language is intended to be threatening, most people just brush it off.

Many on Twitter, as usual, are blaming the moral conservatives and the evangelicals but I find it hard to see either of these groups explicitly supporting the new legislation. Basically, the new legislation is more about clearing the matter in one hit, in the same way councils do with parking fines, rather than let magistrates let the ‘offender’ off. These groups might drink a dry sherry in honour of the new laws, but unless my Aunty Betty has been writing letters (and she does), nobody is going to be all that impressed.

I think you’ll find the Victoria Police are behind it.

Baillieu wants to give Police the excuse to grab people on what is effectively a technicality. If a Police officer directs someone to do something and gets the predictable response that goes along the lines of ‘Get f***ed, pig,’ then the Police now have a marvellous excuse for grabbing the offender, fining them a couple of hundred bucks and sending them on their way after what will no doubt be a thorough search. That’s what this is all about, it’s the twenty-first century clip over the ear with added rights infringements.

If you want to blame the evangelicals (I’m not exactly sure who people think these evangelicals are) or the moral conservatives (a marvellous social caricature used as a scapegoat. Again, who are these people? Apart from Aunty Betty, I mean), go right ahead. But I think you’re missing the point. If the Police fine a hundred people on an average Saturday night in Melbourne, that’s twenty grand for the state’s coffers, or a millions bucks for a year’s worth of Saturdays. How many of those hundred people will want to take this to court? Not many. No doubt the process will be as tortuous as contesting a parking fine and that’s the point.

Worse, and far more insidious than the ad hominem argument of evangelicals/moral conservatives, is the fact that it is giving the Police a fantastic excuse to decide to search you where they previously wouldn’t bother. Police probably don’t bother with offensive language charges on their own because it sends them to court, causes endless paperwork and rarely gets past the magistrate. Those are the sorts of shenanigans nobody needs for somebody dropping an f-bomb in public. Now the Police know they’re more likely to make it stick, they’ll fine you and search you because, hey, why not while you’re already writing a ticket?

See where this is going? With a bit of luck, someone they really want to talk to will go for a bit of biffo and they’ve got them in the cells, nice and handy for assessing whether they can get them for something else.

I’m not dismissing ‘moral conservatism’ or evangelicals as a factor, but they’re not the driving force. I can’t say there’s much evidence to support the argument but it is the sort of thing Aunty Betty would do. She once rang my father early on a Sunday morning asking him to preach against a Pizza Hut slogan that went, ‘Get Stuffed.’ He told her to get stuffed, but reasonably politely, as I recall. For the record, swearing doesn’t offend me, despite my membership of the Christian church. There’s rather more going on in society to worry about people saying words to which we have attached weight for strange reasons.

Fining somebody for offensive language is remarkably stupid and is massively inconsistent. People like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones are wilfully offensive in their on-air and written ramblings yet they never, ever swear at or to their audience. Baillieu isn’t interested in keeping the peace, he’s interested in raking in a few bucks, playing hard ball on law and order and giving Police a new motivation for collaring somebody they normally wouldn’t – or couldn’t.

I reckon that’s far worse.

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Rock Bottom Is Up From Here.

It appears we have actually reached the bottom of the barrel, finished scraping it, checked it over for anything left, kicked the barrel over and dug about fifteen feet down. Because today Australia’s political debate centred around whether or not Cate Blanchett’s opinion on climate change and our – her – government’s response, was valid. She has chosen to express her opinion and values by helping front a union-funded political campaign encouraging Australians to think past the media’s woeful representation of the carbon tax pricing scheme (I’m looking at almost all of them here) and engage, using her celebrity for something she deems useful. While I don’t take much notice of what celebrities think, good on her.

The question of its validity rose up because, well, she’s a woman and a rich one at that. But what’s this? There are other people in the ad. Our very own, beloved, Michael Caton (he who plays pretty much the same character in everything he’s ever been in ever) is in it too, but his opinion wasn’t questioned, presumably because the validity of people’s opinions are means-tested. I’m just waiting for some idiot to say maybe Blanchett would understand all this better if she had…sorry, wrong argument, she’s got kids. See? How else are we to denigrate a woman with power and an opinion if she has kids?

Just to make sure, Channel 9’s Sunday evening news crossed to the Wharf Theatre to talk about whether she was being treated harshly. Why even bother getting involved in that dog whistle argument? Barnaby Joyce’s rabble-rousing was tired and messy and incomprehensible. The government were nowhere to be seen, despite the campaign being to their benefit.

To be fair, part of this has blown up because this Labor Government are the biggest bunch of numpties when it comes to explaining any of their policies. They are trying to actually do something (as well as being forced to do other things by people like Andrew Wilkie) and the something is good not just for the country but the world.

To illustrate: The Labor Party would take a focus group to a pub and explain the benefits of providing a free beverage. The media would be there, it would all be carefully stage-managed. The PR people would arrive in their Audis, the carefully selected working family representative (slightly heavy 35 year-old with 2.5 kids) would be nicely turned out in chinos and a polo shirt. Then the Minister would start speaking:

‘The liquid in question we present here today is a carbonated beverage, made with hops and malt and when consumed, usually orally, it makes the conshoomer…’

At that point, Tony Abbott would burst through the door with a bunch of carousing National Party wallopers, tear off his shirt and shout, ‘Free Beer!’ and everyone would vote for him instead.

And time and time again the media, and the Labor Party, let this happen. Labor can’t explain the Mining Resources Tax without treading on themselves and sections of the media somehow make Gina Rinehart look like a battler. Climate change isn’t explained properly and carefully by anyone, including Tim Flannery, because they cannot master the art of cut-through. The Coalition and the media, including Fairfax, are producing so much static that Labor just can’t catch a break, and it’s their own fault. The only break they’ve caught is an email from the Coalition whip moaning about MPs missing divisions.

Good government includes telling the story of policy and this government fails to tell a story that people can understand and digest. I’m for the carbon tax pricing scheme (I had to delete tax even though that’s not what it is but it’s all we hear because Labor never rebuffs it) and I’ve had to dig long and hard to even understand what the government could be maybe possibly be doing. Not every one has the time or the mad Google skillz, or the political engagement that goes beyond a shirtless, screaming Tony Abbott. Or the willpower, to be honest.

That’s not meant to be patronising, by the way, except possibly to Labor’s media advisors. Given the state of political discourse, people have been happier listening to Abbott rather than some nasal Labor minister whining about how it’s good for working families moving forward.

We’ve got this because we’ve asked for it. We are not demanding enough of our politicians, we are not holding them to the high standards we expect and we are letting them waste our Sundays bitching about a perfectly legal ad supporting the policy of an elected government. Nobody has made anything of Angry Anderson (that’s not me, by the way) being the climate sceptics’ front man (I actually thought he was dead) and nobody has questioned Rinehart’s lunatic views based on the amount of money she has in the bank.

Why are we letting the media question Blanchett like this, why are we consuming it and why isn’t the Labor government coming out swinging like they did when the Liberals leaked an email?

SlutWalk Means One Thing To Me

Nobody deserves to be raped.

There is no excuse for rape. There is no excuse for rape.

Her clothes are no excuse for rape. Her occupation is no excuse for rape. Her refusal to have a drink with you is no excuse for rape. Her refusal to have sex with you is no excuse for rape. It doesn’t matter if you are married or in a long-term relationship, there’s no excuse for rape.

It doesn’t matter which drugs she might have taken, if you’re a footballer, if she’s a sex worker or a nun or anything in between – there’s no excuse for rape.

It doesn’t matter what you think, what you believe, what she believes, what I believe. There’s no excuse for rape.

There just isn’t.

There’s no excuse that anyone has to have this explained to them. There’s no excuse that we’re still having to tell people that it is never the victim’s fault. Nobody wants to be raped, nobody deserves to be raped, every one on this planet holds the right to be safe from being raped.

There’s no excuse for rape. Not now, not then, not tomorrow, not ever.

You may not like the name of Slutwalk, you may not really understand why it’s called that. You will see people marching in it who don’t really get it either. But it doesn’t matter. It’s happening because there are people in this world who hate women enough to think that they were ‘asking for it.’ You may not agree with the morality of many of the people walking, you may be a Christian, a Muslim, an Atheist or nothing or everything, but the message is clear – there’s no excuse for rape and there’s no excuse for blaming the victim.

I’m a Christian and I would join this walk because everyone on SlutWalk has one common belief:

There is no excuse for rape.

That’s a good enough reason to hit the streets with people you ordinarily wouldn’t.

If you don’t agree, keep reading this post until you do. If I only knew one person who had been raped, it would be too many, but I know way more than one. And that breaks my heart and that is another reason I would join SlutWalk.

It’s very, very simple.

There is no excuse for rape.

The Truth Is Out – Super-Injunctions Are (Hopefully) Dead

As with Trafigura, so it was with Ryan Giggs, for Gentleman of Football. Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming named Ryan Giggs (previously known on this blog as Stupid English Footballer)(when he should have been known as Stupid Welsh Footballer, thank you commenter) in parliament as the footballer at the centre of the current super-injunction row. The vanity of a footballer who plays for the very famous Manchester United is now in serious tatters, but it was long-gone before he was actually named.

I said in my previous post that it was unlikely that celebrity affairs were going to be brought up in Parliament as they were hardly in the national interest. They’re not. If Ryan Giggs is stupid enough to cheat on his wife in five-star hotels with an instantly recognisable former reality television star, that’s his own business. Giggs’ fall from grace is entirely of his own making and during his fall he managed to hit everything he could to ensure a blood corpse. Sure, it takes two to tango and Imogen Thomas must have been nuts for thinking it was a good idea, but Giggs couldn’t be bothered springing the extra cash to suppress her identity as well. The Sun newspaper’s crowd-sourcing of the legal risk has worked a treat, aided and abetted by the wonderful concept of parliamentary privilege.

It brings into sharper focus the fact that super-injunctions were being misused by celebrities who were protecting their hide, rather than the truly vulnerable. British PM David Cameron has (yawn) promised a review of privacy laws but what I’m interested in is the fact that this went from being someone protecting their privacy (however vainly) to the issue actually, genuinely, being in the national interest. It became the national interest because it once again raised the question of what the point of a super-injunction is and how are they even allowed in a society with a free press?

The facts of the super-injunction are pretty sordid and, in and of themselves, a waste of the paper and the oxygen and megabytes consumed to discuss them. We’re hardly surprised a footballer can’t keep his pants on (although one wonders about the staggering choice of using 5-star hotels, public places, in which to conduct the affair), but the fact that such unimportant information can be suppressed by a national instrument such as the court system is profoundly troubling. It’s astonishing that this stuff even reaches a court room.

The issue of whether this affair is newsworthy or not is another matter. I don’t believe it is, but millions of Sun, Daily Mail, Express and whatever other tabloid you can think of seem to think it is, as long as the woman is attractive and the celebrity famous enough. The twist, of course, is Giggs’ hypocrisy which one supposes just scrapes it into a very wide definition of news.

The founding purpose of super-injunctions appear to be lost in the mists of time but they were certainly not designed for this sort of stupidity. It seems to me they can be used for things that are just embarrassing rather than a matter of national security because separate legislation handles national secrets and security.

With the age of over-sharing via Twitter, Facebook and the open Internet, we have a terrific, anonymised way for the world to find stuff out. Giggs and his irksome ilk are now going to have to behave themselves like normal humans or wear the consequences of their transgressions. The price of their fame is that, sadly, they will be pursued by the very people and institutions that make them famous. The media gives with one hand and takes with the other. Once they tire of you or they sniff hypocrisy, you will be splashed across the pages of the national dailies, complete with judgmental commentary. Facts are optional and often invented to increase the outrage factor.

On the upside, it might stop you from cheating on our wife, embarrassing your family and making you a figure of hate and/or international ridicule. The wheels have fallen off the well-polished family-man Giggs’ wagon – well, they fell off when he basically tried to sue the entire Internet – but the hubcaps of super-injunctions themselves are lying in a ditch beside the motorway as the wheelnuts undo themselves. The centuries-old tradition of parliamentary privilege has twice destroyed the assault on the public interest that super-injunctions are.

The truth is out and the biggest, if not the first, casualty of this war is the ignoble practice of super-injunctions.

The Truth Will Always Out – Super-Injunctions Are Stupid

When I first drafted this, I had the English footballer’s name in it. I’ve taken it out and replaced it with SEF or, Stupid English Footballer. Just to cover my backside so I can go to the UK without possibly being sued. It won’t be hard for any of you to work out who this footballer is. I’ll put his real name back in when a) I get a life b) it looks like I can get away with it.

There’s a marvellous stink going on, and has been going on, over UK court orders known as superinjunctions. There’s a certain amount of schadenfreude about the whole thing because it’s hardly important, but it’s funny when a cover-up is blown.

Super-injunctions are a court order that not only forbids reporting names or facts or whatever it is the litigant is trying to hide, the order also forbids the actual reporting of the existence of the order. The first time super-injunctions became an issue was when one was raised on behalf of an oil-trading company Trafigura. Trafigura were trying to stop details coming to light about an internal report that wasn’t kind about a Cote D’Ivoire toxic dumping episode. They got caught when a question was tabled in UK Parliament under privilege, which blew the whole thing wide open. The media, unsure of the legalities of reporting it all, had an interesting few days.

That was in 2009. More recently, via the medium with which the media has that most troubled relationship, a ‘list’ of other super-injunctions was released. It kicked off with The Sun reporting what are known as ‘blind’ items, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks, which on the Internet is a participation sport. Amusingly, these weren’t even super-injunctions, merely gagging orders. These gagging orders were largely taken out by celebrities to stop the papers reporting things that weren’t exactly in the national interest. The orders mostly involved preventing rutting, married footballers and the people they were rutting with, being identified. A few people were embarrassed, some liars outed and the discussion took on a (carefully worded) life of its own.

Where it got really interesting was when Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, took legal action when he discovered that respected BBC journalist Andrew Marr had taken out a proper super-injunction to prevent details of extra-marital affairs of his own. Hislop argued that Marr’s use of a super-injunction was epic hypocrisy (my words) because Marr himself had criticised them in the past and also criticised gagging orders. Being an active and prominent journalist meant he earned the scorn of his peers and rightly so. He has since stated he feels embarrassed and uneasy about his actions. Sounds more like he’s upset he got caught.

The Internet, never mind Twitter, makes a mockery of legal jurisdictions and it’s almost impossible to police anything that’s said. It’s also worth remembering, super-injunctions and gagging orders are fabulously expensive so are not generally available to the people who would genuinely need them for reasons most of us would find acceptable.

So that’s the history lesson.

I see why some gagging orders are good, where people are actually being protected from identification (like, say the poor woman who made the mistake of bearing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s child) or made the even bigger mistake of being alone in a room with Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Neither of these women could afford gagging orders even if they were legally available. These women were wronged and yet they can’t get protection without paying huge sums to a lawyer to get it.

The marvellous thing about gagging orders taken out by desperate celebrities and craven corporations is that the only thing they are really protecting is their own vanity and their own lies. They’re a lie in themselves and I’m pretty sure there are some quite pointed conversations with the children of these celebrities. The kids have the moral high ground which would be rather uncomfortable for the alleged adult in the conversation, I would imagine.

Footlballer [SEF] made the mistake of, firstly, cheating on his wife after painting himself as a family man for years. Then he got a super-injunction. When the media, and then the Internet, gets a sniff of this sort of thing, a ton of bricks falling on these people would be a blessed release. [SEF], who is apparently good at moving a ball around a field, has decided to sue Twitter and some of its users for breaching the order. Nice try. All he’s done is make himself a household name for being a hypocrite, a cad and a liar. The brilliant @snarkyplatypus tweeted one of the best summaries of anything ever:

‘I see [SEF] has discovered the work of Barbra Streisand’

(referring to the phenomenon amusingly titled the ‘Streisand effect‘)

I’m really enjoying this discussion because it points to an absolutely fundamental fact of life – the truth will always out. The Internet has a marvellous way of smoking it out, whether through the work of Anonymous, dedicated journalists or the herd mentality of groups like 4Chan. I’m not suggesting these methods are always particularly ethical and it would be rather nicer if people didn’t get hurt on the way through, but it’s going to happen. The Sun’s blind items were pretty much a presentation to the world: ‘We know a little bit about this, you do the rest so at some point we can take the credit.’ It’s like crowd-sourcing the legal risk, in the manner of the I Am Spartacus movement on Twitter during the so-called Twitter Joke Trial.

The other interesting thing is the way the law is having trouble keeping up with how to handle these sorts of shenanigans. The Paul Chambers case is a superb example of over-reaction and the timeline of events is extraordinary . The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Judge, compared (with a touch of hysteria) breaking these injunctions with child pornography, a reaction that’s difficult to understand (especially when the super-injunctions that have been uncovered are largely to do with personal vanity).

Difficult until you view it through the prism of legal tradition, some of it going back hundreds of years. The legal profession and the governments who make laws are grappling with the concept of a fragmented jurisdiction. You can publish a claim about someone who has taken out an order on a website not hosted within the United Kingdom and as long as you can’t be identified (or more to the point, have taken steps to ensure you aren’t), there’s nothing that can be done without a gross breach of the principles of freedom of speech (ie, blocking that webhost or in this case Twitter). I see Lord Judge’s problem, and it must be really frustrating, but find it hard to sympathise with the people who are affected (I may be labouring that point, apologies).

Bizarrely, those who try and make a deal of the fact their injunction has been breached should look to Jeremy Clarkson as a role model. It is alleged that he had a dalliance with somebody or other (one of the names that popped up was Jemima Kahn) and he has pretty much ignored it. If he had taken out the gagging order, he neutralised the PR problem by just avoiding it. It’s less interesting than smacking Piers Morgan in the face, but it had the desired effect – the media moved on to get a hold of someone else. Jemima Khan denied it, everyone else tried to scrub their brains clean of the image and that was that.

As Marr discovered, if you can be hanged on your own petard, people will go even harder to uncover the truth. The Internet loves a fight and doing something moronic like suing Twitter is a guaranteed way to send your problem supernova. I was barely aware of [SEF]’s existence until a couple of days ago, but now I know he slept with a model called Imogen Thomas (I tweeted a link to a ‘story’ run by the online Fairfax papers that critiqued the dress she wore to court this week). Now I know more than I really want to, but if he’d just worn the consequences of his actions, the Daily Mail would have done a job on him and people outside the UK wouldn’t care a jot. As it stands now, no matter how good a footballer he is, he now looks like a complete plonker. Which he is.

I guess the worst thing about super-injunctions is how they may be used. Someone commented on a TechCrunch (one of the sites I used during my research) article that, technically-speaking, Tony Blair could have taken out a super-injunction over his Iraq WMD dodginess. That doesn’t really stand up, because as Trafigura discovered, super-injunctions can be blown open under Parliamentary privilege, but as with Trafigura, the discovery of the super-injunction was serendipitous and that will keep happening. That will be why celebs like super-injunctions – their sex life isn’t in the national interest so won’t come up in Parliament. I hope not.

Attendance at Famous People School should include tattooing of this truism on their forearms: The truth will always out – even if you’re rich.

Of Slutwalks, Strauss-Kahns and Schwarzeneggers.

As I posted earlier this week, Dominque Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault sparked some weirdly sexist reporting. It seemed worse to me because, in amongst all the drama about SRI in Victorian schools, the other big thing amongst my Twitter brigade is the upcoming Melbourne Slutwalk.

I’ve mainly observed the debate on this one because I’m a bit conflicted. Like the other crusade going on this week, different people view the point of the walk differently. The media has focussed on grabbing anyone who’s willing to take a provocative photograph, with the subject claiming that the march is all about freedom to express their sexuality any way they choose, thus reclaiming and/or subverting the abusive term.
The media, again, was taking an angle that perpetuated the misogyny that SlutWalk is trying to condemn. I read some great articles that went to the heart of the problem – it’s not so much about the freedom for women to express sexuality as it is about being able to function in society without some lunkhead calling you a slut.
Clementine Ford asked for examples, via Twitter (@clementine_ford). Some of them were utterly breath-taking. A woman and her female companions (including her mother) were abused by male St Kilda fans for supporting Collingwood, calling them sluts for simply being women and barracking for the opposing sportsball team. I don’t even think these morons even knew just how stupid they were being, which I think makes it even worse, because they’ve obviously disconnected from the power that our culture has assigned the word.
And while we’re on St Kilda, let’s advance an idea – if the club had an all-woman team and the roles were reversed in the ‘St Kilda Schoolgirl’ scandal, who would have been called a slut on the internet? Yep, that’s right, the woman player, not the schoolboy. He’d have been named as an effin’ legend for bagging the football slut.
I will, just once, agree with Catherine Deveny when she said that slut is a judgemental term and that a woman’s sexuality is her own business and not open for public comment, regardless of her sexual history or future.
The media have hounded the alleged victim of Strauss Kahn this week. What makes the hounding even worse is that the woman is reported to be a Muslim. If she was attacked (I am just being careful here, by the way, not taking sides), this may have repercussions for her far beyond the trauma of the actual attack itself, yet the media are there on her doorstep, harrassing her despite being attacked, at work, while apparently wearing a hijab. If Strauss Kahn did it, he couldn’t pick a victim with more to lose. That’s not to say any other woman had less to lose, but it’s possible Strauss-Kahn’s victim will have even greater trauma to deal with.
The mother of Schwarzenegger’s ‘love child’ (I prefer ‘unequal power relationship child’) has had her image splashed across international media simply because she’d had sex with the former Governor of California (well, before he was Governor). It’s none of our business and all it does is expose her to ridicule and identifies her to potential nutbag attackers. Nice one media. We’d never know who she was if she hadn’t slept with a rock-ape who happened to be rich and famous.
Jump to the other side of the Atlantic and there’s a been a stink about UK Justice Minister Ken Clarke’s so-called date rape gaffe. I don’t really know what he was trying to say, but I think he should have said something like this.
‘No matter where you stand on rape, it is a very, very serious offence. Rape is the worst betrayal of another person’s physical and emotional integrity. The context of the rape is immaterial – it’s rape. However…’
And here’s the tricky bit. Before you get to the end of however, the cry goes up. Stay with me.
‘However – rape with violence, coercion, the involvement of drugs or in company must be punished even more severely because the person who does this must be made to pay for the additional trauma caused by these factors.’ If rape were a crime committed mostly against men, one imagines that there would not even have been a debate to begin with.
So the thread here is clear – the power men wield. The aim of Slutwalk has been mis-reported and sexed-up by sections of the media in order to create a raunchy feel instead of the real and stated intent – to be able to walk the streets without being judged a slut just because you don’t respond in a way that a male feels you should or may be dressed outside of the boundaries set by that particular person. The media used its power and most importantly, its power over women, to knock the balance in favour of a story they feel will generate the most clicks and tutting commentary. Slutwalk’s aim, to me, is so utterly fundamental just like the reason it has to be had is fundamental – the power relationships in our culture are inherently unequal, making women fair game.
I hope Slutwalk achieves this aim and the media doesn’t behave like a bunch of schoolboys with a belly full of Red Bull and vodka.

I Watched Episode 2 of Angry Boys!

Being a proper Aussie bloke (well, actually, not really, I don’t understand sport), I like to give things a fair go. I didn’t enjoy Angry Boys last week and thought it might have been the fact it was the first episode and just needed to find its rhythm. In that spirit, I returned to the well, looking forward to maybe meeting somebody new and not just tweaked or just plain reconstituted old characters. So, we met S.Mouse.

Oh, look, he’s blacked up, but because he’s an artiste, it means it’s confronting and funny and satirical, rather than old hat.

As I said last week, Lilley’s usually strong performances save a deficit in writing. S.Mouse is a thoroughly unlikeable little turd, although I’m sure there’ll be redemption next week, but he’s so grating. Once again it was the writing that completely failed to do the performances justice, and being the writer, that’s his problem. His storyline was spectacularly lacking in invention, it was just ideas plucked from reality and a long time after they stopped being funny. Making him black was an interesting choice because white rappers are inherently funny. Their almost mandatory lameness means you can have a lot of fun. The weird collision of hip-hop novelty and troubled, rebellious child star struggled to convince.

Satire has to add a twist and so far, there’s no twist. S.Mouse’s dodgy back story notwithstanding, it’s been done before. Characters like this – Kanye West, Snoop Dogg et al – are depressingly familiar and tiring. Having Chris Lilley point out that hip-hop is un-self-conscious parody is news only to a five year-old. When someone like S.Mouse has already appeared in Law and Order or CSI or worse, The Bill, you’ve missed the boat to take you to the island where there’s a shark you can jump.

Oh, she said wanked a dog! It’s Gran again and her ‘unexpected’ potty mouth. Hilarity.

The Gran (Mr G’s mad aunt?) character doesn’t appear to be going very far and consists of her being mostly horrible and then a little bit sweet. Her storyline is also written in order to manipulate the audience to invent some sympathy for her, rather than to be thought-provoking. The suicide angle was a bit uncomfortable, but not the way I think was intended – I thought it was too much. One wonders what is in store for us to manufacture sympathy for S.Mouse. At least with the virtually irredeemable twins, there is something embedded in their story that already gives us something to chew over.

What annoys me about the story arcs of the characters is that Lilley pushes them into the gutter to haul them back out again, even if it’s only momentarily. Russell T. Davies did this with the final stories of the David Tennant-era of Doctor Who. He turned the wonderful character of the Doctor into a scary, raging egomaniac with a sense of entitlement that we’d never seen before and it left a sour taste because it was a crude device. Lilley just keeps recycling it on all four storylines we’ve seen so far.

I will say I got a laugh this time. Right at the end when the boys in the prison were in the super-hero pyjamas. It was actually the only moment where the humour was at all subtle or gentle. He can do it, he’s just chosen not to. The rest of the gags were poo, dick and bum jokes and if there were other subtle jokes, they were so subtle I missed them.

Twitter seemed slightly muted compared to last week. I checked the ratings, they had remained flat, with a fall of 20,000 (statistically irrelevant, I would say). Whether it’s the dawning realisation that it isn’t funny or the unexpectedly heavy subject matter in some of the scenes, I’m not sure. Perhaps I am projecting and I just filtered the tweets.

Which brings me to a theory I’m developing about Lilley. Many tweets from last week seemed to be the fawning stuff I see regularly for Stephen Fry on Twitter. Lilley has somehow achieved national hero status, the successes of We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High propelling him to a position of pre-eminence. Let’s face it, the only other Australian comedy series we’ve had recently was Laid and, well, you know. It’s almost like if anyone dares to criticise the show, they’ll never work in this town again. I say that from the comparative safety of a relatively anonymous blogger with a name that is the Scandanavian equivalent of John Smith.

All this talk of ‘dark and confronting’ dodges the issue that it isn’t actually very good television. The pace is ponderous, the direction heavy-handed and Lilley does not allow much from the other performers, they’re all flat, robbing the show of the depth it’s going to need to survive its long season. I get that his characters are the stars but even in Little Britain, The Peter Serafinowicz Show, The Catherine Tate Show and other character-based sketch shows, the other performers at least get a chance to be seen, to react and to engage. The only exception has been S.Mouse’s father who I thought could have been funny if he’d been given funny lines. There’s no dynamism to the main characters either, so the repetition of their hooks – their hubris, the racism, the relentless swearing and gesturing – is just boring.

I didn’t set out to hate Angry Boys, but alarm bells rang when I heard he had twelve episodes to fill and the creeping mean-spiritedness of Summer Heights High had really put me off. Angry Boys has found its rhythm, but it’s a beat I can’t learn to like.