Persuasive Arguments (Essays)

On Hate

When I was ten, I had pretty regular ten year old interests. I loved Whitney Houston, books about fairies, and The Golden Girls. I swapped Hello Kitty writing paper with my friends, and took a weekly class called ‘Mime & Dance’. I won the acting awards, but sucked at tap dancing. I played with Barbie dolls, adored my grandmother, and slept every night with a stuffed white bunny tucked under my chin.

Yesterday in Nigeria, a ten year old girl walked into a market place in Maiduguri with a bomb strapped to her tiny body that killed 20 people and injured roughly 20 more. The Islamic militant group Boko Haram, known for their increasing use of women and children as human bombs, are suspected to be behind the carnage. News reports haven’t mentioned the little girl’s name, but I imagine it was something pretty and lyrical in that lovely rhythmic way of African languages.

On any other day this might be front page news, provided nothing too dramatic happened in Australian sport. But this hasn’t been an easy week for the world. Collectively we’re all still reeling from the shootings in Paris, and unfortunately an innocent little soul used as a weapon of mass murder in a notoriously dangerous area doesn’t have quite the same shock value as an unexpected attack in the City of Love. Like a shooting in America, we’ve come to expect it. With a shrug of our shoulders and a shake of our head, we put our palms up in despair and resign ourselves to the world being a crazy place.

But the world isn’t crazy. Crazy is uncontrollable and unpredictable. What is happening right now is neither of those things. The Charlie Hebdo shootings were shocking, but not altogether unexpected in a city that has always pulsated with barely contained cultural divides. You can hardly say that France deserved to be attacked but in a country that has laws restricting a Muslim woman’s right to wear her burqa or hijab as she sees fit, it’s not surprising that fundamentalists would seize the chance to exploit any simmering resentment.

I don’t suppose the grandfathers of the internet could have foreseen how their invention would shrink the planet to the extent that the web has become a matchmaking site for third generation immigrant kids full of inherited resentment, and evil despots from organisations they’ve never heard of. Where Hitler rallied the troops at Nuremberg, today’s tyrannical leaders connect globally via secret chatrooms and social media.  Clichéd as it sounds, disenfranchised youth are ripe for the picking, and ancient cultural ties, however tenuous, still bind.

This ‘war on terror’ we keep hearing about is a festering, man-made mess of tyranny and hate and fear, with religious fanaticism the volatile end result.  There is so much hate behind this shit in Paris. Lunatics hating ‘the West’ on behalf of Islam, idiots hating the Jews on behalf of the Palestinians, the French blowing up mosques in an eye for an eye retaliation…maybe it’s just that I’m lucky, but I can’t fathom living with that much anger inside me. How can anyone hate anything that much? I don’t even hate cane toads or the Westboro Baptist Church that much, despite both being out to get me. Where does it all end?

Ever since news broke of the shooting in Paris, I’ve had on my mind something I remember Desmond Tutu saying on, of all things, an episode of Donahue about 20 years ago. I might not have it exactly right, but it was along the lines of “the only way to be human is to be human together; and the only way to survive is to survive together.” It’s a good quote.

I haven’t felt this unsettled by world events since the aftermath of 9/11, and I mean that sincerely. I don’t know how we realistically go about fixing these problems, but I do know this: if ever there was proof that hate is a stupid unproductive emotion, this week is it. Hate is lazy and ignorant and easy.

Trying to understand and respect each other might be harder, but there’s less dead bodies at the end of it.

Yoko Ono Endangered Species

Yoko Ono
Endangered Species

Semi-Precious Moments

I owe a few people an apology. Actually it’s probably quite a few people, so I’m just going to go with a blanket “I’m sorry” to anyone I’ve ever accused of over sharing and be done with it. Turns out whatever the reason was for me attacking your need to disseminate all aspects of your private life in public was nothing compared to my latest discovery on YouTube.

This morning as I was making my usual way through procrastination central, I stumbled across videos of women telling their partners they’re pregnant and…well…I’m kind of horrified. I’m not talking Maury Povich-style “you ARE the father” videos. I’m talking sweet, loving moments between couples who are ultimately pleased about becoming parents. Videos like this:

There are thousands of them, the majority of which have titles like Telling My Husband I’m Pregnant – *Emotional* or Jake Finds out He’s Going to Be a Daddy – Beautiful!!!  I sat through a few, my heart unmoved by what I was watching, and all I could think was “what are you people doing?”

I’ve never been ‘with child’ so maybe I am totally romanticising the whole concept of pregnancy, but there’s something about this I just can’t handle. I understand being excited about being pregnant, and I understand wanting to share that joy. I even get filming the moment you tell the rest of the family you’re pregnant, because some of the grandparents’-to-be reactions are genuinely laugh out loud funny. But that very first time you share the news with your partner, before the pregnancy becomes something that belongs to everyone else, don’t you want five minutes together to say “this might be happening to us” that no one else gets to share? Isn’t that one of the few moments of pregnancy that belongs just to the two of you? If you’re going to let everyone in at that point, why not just invite them to the conception as well?

For those who want children, then this is arguably the moment between a couple; the point at which they realise they may well be bringing another human into the world. Discounting intervention from fertility specialists and pressure from the mother-in-law to give her grandchildren, no one else is actually involved. So why are they stopping to film it for the internet? Is it a competition between females to see whose bloke will prove himself the better man?

I know we live in a world where the line between private and public is fuzzy, enough has been written about how we overshare our lives. But this seems to be a very clear example of where we’ve got our priorities all arse about face, and I’m starting to feel a queasy sadness about what we’ve lost. Perhaps you could call it mourning sickness.

This is more than just sentimentally holding on to keepsakes that have special meaning. Mementos are different. My home is full of little knick knacks that hold value for no one other than me (although I’d probably draw the line at turning the urine covered pregnancy test into a framed wall décor like quite a lot of these women seem intent on doing). Aside from these videos being pretty boring viewing given they’re mostly of guys dumbfounded by both impending fatherhood and the fact that they’re looking into an iPhone rather than their partner’s face, the moment being recorded is actually being altered by the presence of the camera. If you’re busy concentrating on the Director’s Cut, making sure you’ve pressed record, worrying whether the sound is okay, that you’ve got your script ready and you’re both in frame, you’re not exactly giving the father your undivided attention. And he’s not giving the moment his undivided attention either based on how many videos include the line “are you filming this?” All you’ve ended up with is footage of two people dealing with life changing news, aware that their behaviour is being recorded for probable mass consumption. Way to ensure the reaction is anything but natural.

The thing is we don’t actually need permanent reminders of everything that happens to us. We have memories and the ability to tell stories – and a whole lot more can be evoked by a loving retelling than can ever be gleaned by sitting through a home movie. Consider it the real life version of ‘the book was better’. And okay one day you may forget that memory due to age or brain function, but at that point no YouTube video is really going to help you. If you are experiencing something that means so much to you that you want to remember every single second, then participate in it without the distraction of the viewfinder. Be present for the moment itself, not just the instant replay, because right now you’re somewhere between participant and audience and that kind of sucks.

Frankly I can’t help thinking we’d all be better off putting down our phones and just enjoying the experience of making memories we’d hate to forget, rather than footage of what might have been.

The Donkeys, The Muppets and Me.

I donkey voted today, and I feel a bit dirty about it. I didn’t do it out of a lack of respect for the voting system, nor because I thought it would be funny or smart. I did it because for me personally, it was the most honest decision I could make, the one that sat most comfortably with me.

A friend of mine called me out on this, saying that by donkey voting I give up my right to whinge about politics, but I strongly believe the opposite is true. I didn’t donkey vote out of complacency or laziness. If I was either of those things I wouldn’t have dragged myself out of bed while suffering a fairly substantial hangover, fight for a car park at the local state school, wait in the absentee voter’s queue for an hour and a half while ratty little kids tried to sell me over iced cupcakes, cans of home brand soft drink, and overcooked sausages in home brand bread. Hold the home brand BBQ sauce, thanks! If it were simply a matter of laziness, I would have taken two more Nurofen, rolled over and gone back to sleeping off my headache.

If anything , the fact that I feel so unrepresented by the various parties should entitle me to complain even more loudly. I pay personal and company tax, I pay rates, fuel excise, GST, customs duties, fire service levies, superannuation tax, fringe benefit tax, and probably a whole lot more I don’t even know about. And yet, none of that guarantee me fair representation in government.

I take my voting seriously. I suspect I’m one of the more informed members of the electorate. I research the parties, read up on their platforms, I find out who they’re giving their preferences to. I do this for every local, state and federal election. I come from a very pro Liberal background, the daughter of small business owners who’ve been self employed for about 40 years. I am a small business owner myself. For me to give my vote to the LNP would be as easy as breathing.

But I am also a lesbian who wants to be able to marry my partner if I choose to, and I care about the environment, and want to see more money spent on education and health, and less on police helicopters. I am anti organised religion, and certainly anti any religion based groups having any say at all in terms of policy.

I am economically conservative, but socially progressive. And I want to vote for a party who believes the same. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option. You have to be either one or the other when it comes to voting. Which is weird, because anyone I talk to seems to love the idea of an economically conservative, socially progressive government. It, um, makes sense. It certainly seems to be far more representative of the community I live in.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because it’s not an option. I donkey voted because I didn’t feel any party deserved my vote. Major policy agendas on both sides of politics turned my stomach and I felt ill supporting either.

And yes, I know there are alternatives, but in the electorate I vote in the alternative is Family First. Errr…thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather lick the rim of Bob Katter’s hat after a night line dancing at a Lee Kernigan concert.

So, today I voted for a donkey. It seemed somehow better than voting for a muppet who doesn’t understand me.


Vamp. Tramp. Temptress. Seductress. Tart. Trollop. Words that conjure up such wickedness, such evil, such sensuous manipulation of men!

In what is primarily still a man’s world, where things are seen and documented from a male point of view, the worst villains are always women. Sure, there have been some seriously devilish men, but the best of the worst are always the women. Just ask the happy folks at Disneyland. In a recent poll of the “Best of the Worst” villains, three of the top five characters were women. It seems even the kids are picking up on just how vindictive women can be…

In our culture, women are portrayed as either angels or monsters – never anything in between. Yet even the angels among us are assumed to have a repressed manic energy. “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned” and all that. Women are expected to go mad at some stage in their lives – it’s just a matter of when.

Why? Is it really all Eve’s fault for believing that dastardly serpent? Was Adam so peeved with his woman for denying him a life spent lazing around in Eden eating mangoes, that he felt obliged to teach every man after him never to trust a woman?

Or was it Adam’s mythological first wife, Lilith? She liked it on top, but he wanted to make love missionary style so he told her to bugger off. Given that most men would be content with sex in any position, was Adam perhaps a repressed homosexual? That’s it! No wonder the Catholics have exerted so much energy repressing women and bolstering the position of men. The last thing they would want made public is that the father of mankind is a raving poofter!

Then there was Pandora and her irresistible box of evil little voices. Her curiosity didn’t just kill the cat; it damned mankind for all eternity.

It is a theme that runs consistently through history, from ancient mythology to present day. Women stuffed up by taking the initiative, and refusing to wait for a man. Interestingly, the very characteristics that make these women a target are the same personality traits admired in men – aggression, courage, strength, independence and dominance.

Of course, as the feminists have been pointing out for the past 40 years, we’ve historically only ever heard the bloke’s side of the story. Maybe both Eve and Pandora were sick of languishing with the limp wristed other halves, and desperate for a bit of excitement. Who knows? Lilith certainly wasn’t going to hang around, sexually frustrated and subservient to her husband’s urges. The world’s first feminist, was our Lilith. Germaine Greer in full flight was never a patch on Lil, who screamed and cursed Adam for banishing her from Eden, and spawned evil little babies to harass her ex husband.

We will never really know what caused women to obtain such a violently unattractive reputation, although perhaps Freud went some way to explaining the problem all men face, when he admitted that for all his psychoanalysis, he never could work out the intricacies of the feminine psyche. I suspect a lot of the mystery surrounding women relates to men’s view of ‘that time of the moth’, and their utter bemusement at the mood swings, cravings, obsessions and trauma that females go through every month. Part of the expectation that women eventually go troppo must surely come from generations of men watching their mothers’ journey through the wonderful world of menopause, without actually understanding what the poor woman was enduring. This thinking, by association, must culminate in long lasting cultural references to the Mother-in- Law figure.

What we do know is that the motif of the dangerous woman remains current in our culture and shows no sign of abating. Within society, we don’t ever anoint a queen of ‘nice’ (well, we have Miss Universe but no one in their right mind takes that seriously), yet we always have a reigning queen of all that is conniving, manipulating and obsessively sexual.

In every generation, there is one woman anointed by society, who embodies the archetypical temptress. A mysterious, dark and untouchable fembot, whose only aim in life is to suck the essence out of every man she encounters. These women come primarily from the rank of actress, perhaps as a result of the flamboyant nature of the business and because as a profession it was always seen as only a slight step up from prostitution, although there has been the occasional politician, author and painter.

So what sets these women apart from their peers?

Well, firstly they act as though men’s only use in life is to provide a little light entertainment; they appear to believe that men are an unnecessary appendage in life. This is a woman who we could never envisage living for her family, standing in the kitchen making her husband’s dinner, hanging out the washing, or ducking through the supermarket, a kid on her hip, grabbing toilet paper, sugar and milk. Audrey Hepburn, widely considered one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived, couldn’t have cut it as a vamp. She was too domestic, too devoted a wife and mother, too darn nice. Instead, one imagines a real vamp waking slowly just before lunch, wrapped in satin sheets, hair shining in the late morning sun, her luscious ruby lips calling for a Bloody Mary to get the day rolling. These aren’t the sort of women you wouldn’t take home to meet your mother; they’re the sort of women who wouldn’t want to meet her anyway. Wanton women, who care for nothing other than their own peace of mind, are somehow Succubus incarnate. It is as though women, in forsaking their duty as controller of domesticity and childrearing, are letting down society. The inability to become breathless with excitement at the thought of a new washing machine in which to clean hubby’s clothes is seen as almost deviant in mindset. Indeed, many continue to believe that the family is the very foundation up on which we depend, without it we are ruined. Every woman who consciously chooses to ignore her social responsibility represents one more tear in the moral fibre of society. The “Post War Happy Housewife” must be determined to lose herself in the happiness, and cleanliness, of her family. Any other way of life just isn’t normal.

Secondly, a vamp is nobody’s fool and nobody’s victim. She most certainly does not require rescuing. Marilyn Monroe, the world’s most famous sexpot, doesn’t fit in with these women as she always had a quality about her that seemed fragile. Even in a low cut, figure-hugging sequinned number, all lips and tits and breathless singing, she appeared as though a little girl secretly dressing up in her mother’s clothes. Men yearned to be the one to save her, yet the only thing that could have helped her was a large dose of what a true vamp possesses in truckloads – confidence. Vamps exude self-assuredness. They live to please themselves and are not fazed by outside opinions. They aren’t the sort of women to check themselves when they bend down so that their underwear doesn’t show. Rather, they’d be quite happy if someone did get a flash of their undoubtedly sexy underwear.

Most importantly, these are women who have never apologised for their behaviour, as they frankly don’t see what needs repenting. Where men historically flex their muscles, or those of their troops, women flex their brains and squeeze their opponents by the heart or the testicles – whichever they reach first. What’s more, they get away with it, via a raised eyebrow and a determined pout. There have been some ballsy women throughout history – Queen Victoria, Joan Crawford, Margaret Thatcher, yet they never really got away with being iron fisted. Mostly, they were just written off as uptight bitches who ‘need to get some’.

Why do we bestow on some women an almost reverential form of fame, while others are hard-hearted old bags?

An undeniable part of the allure must their beauty, although it is by no means the only reason. Grace Kelly was a stunning woman, but always seemed to have something ultimately wholesome about her. Jane Fonda almost had what we’re looking for. Barbarella proved beyond doubt what a little sex rocket she could be, but then she went all serious, all activist, all aggression and frustration. Hanoi Jane didn’t exactly exude sex appeal riding in a tank during the Vietnam War, in her camouflage gear and with her hard hat slipping sideways off her head. Not even if the world did know she was pretty gorgeous under all that dirt and dust!

No, it is more than just beauty. It is an awareness of their attributes, combined with a total disregard for their looks, a slightly untouchable quality, a self sacrificing sense of humour, and a twinkle in their eye that indicates there is serious mischief to be made. No matter how bad they are, you can’t help thinking they’d be fun to hang around.

Their effect is measurable on both males and females. Men seem to behold the seductress in morbid fascination – at once repelled and aroused at the thought of a woman proving them redundant, while women are caught between jealousy and admiration. In either case, the world is in awe of the vamp.

So, are these man-eating, praying mantis-like, hyper sexualised, masculinised women all bad? With the media constantly chugging out constructed images of the world, who knows? We do know that their very existence threatens the makeup of society, the way we are conditioned to expect women to behave, and the standing of man and women as equals; with men a little more equal than the women.

Yet the vamp is a necessary evil. We need rebels and rule breakers amongst us to provide the excitement and interest in life. We need them so that we may safely experience danger by living vicariously through the experiences of those daring enough to take a risk, and we need them to measure ourselves against. In short, we need the sinners as much as the saints in order that we may live a little easier within our own mundane lives.

The power she wields over society ensures there will always be women who would relish the opportunity to personify all that is deliciously, hellishly, sensuously alluring, untrustworthy and villainous about women. It is, after all, what sells stilettos and red lipstick – year after year, generation after generation.


When evaluating the statement that “Australia is a Sexist Society”, initial images are of placard waving women marching on Parliament House, Germaine Greer espousing her views in The Female Eunuch, and business women bemoaning the existence of the glass ceiling. These images are real, and absolutely justifiable, however after 40 years of the feminist movement being active in Australia, a new wave of gender inequality seems to be upon us. For the men in society aged 40 years and younger, who have lived their entire lives in a post feminist Australia, what affect does the concentration on women’s issues have on them? This essay will analyse whether in raising awareness of women’s rights, a world neglectful of the changing needs of men has evolved.

Steve Biddulph, in his book ‘Manhood‘, discusses the rise of the men’s movement. He says that while “women had to overcome oppression, men’s difficulties are with isolation” (1994: 4), stemming from men’s tendency to internalise problems. Biddulph goes further to state that the three most instrumental factors in men’s problems are: “1/ Loneliness; 2/ Compulsive Competition and 3/ Lifelong Emotional Timidity” (1994: 4). These can all be attributed in some degree to the environment in which a child was raised, and te quality of the male influence a man received as a young boy. A concern raised in recent political debate has been the significant lack of strong male role models in many children’s lives. This is particularly important for boys learning to become men in households where the father figure is absent or unreliable. Girls are not similarly affected, in that they are able to connect with women on which to mould themselves in virtually every facet of life. Commonly, children start life with their mother as primary care giver, or at day care where the vast majority of kindergarten teachers are female. As they reach school age, they enter a world where male teaching levels are on the decline, or in some cases, simply non existent. Biddulph approximates that one in three boys have “no male figures at home, and no men active in their lives” (1994: 118). School becomes the last resort for male interaction and influence. It is not surprising therefore that boys account for over 80 percent of children with learning difficulties (1994: 119), which when ignored can lead to increases in crimes and violent acts committed by men. When a child is ignorant to alternative displays of masculinity, violent behaviour remains the only way to be noticed (French 1999: 139). Consider these figures taken from the Wesley Mission’s website:

  • Our prisons are full of men (90%), they are not full of women (10%)
  • Our juvenile detention centres are full of boys, not girls
  • Approximately 90% of our school suspensions and expulsions are boys, not girls
  • Our remedial reading classes are full of boys, not girls
  • Well over 80% of our drug and alcohol abusers are boys and young men, not girls and young women
  • The rate of suicide in the 15-24 year age group for males is nearly seven times the rate for females in the same age group
  • Injury rates for males are three times the rate for women
  • There perpetration of violence and abuse is approximately 95% male

Due to the expectations placed on men to never appear the victim, men as they develop become and increasing liability to themselves. The feelings of loneliness and isolaation discussed by Biddulph put men at much greater risk of suicide, substance abuse, ill health and accidental death. The Wesley Mission’s research for “Suicide In Australia, A Dying Shame” evidenced that men are as susceptible to depression and mental illness as women, possibly even more so. Medicare statistics show that women use medical services more regularly than men, and are more willing to try alternatives such as counselling and therapy sessions. In addition, a joint study between the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University, found that of 2151 participants, “4.7% had been assaulted in some way during the last 12 months; 5.7% of men and 3.7% of women” (Heady, Scott, de Vaus: 1999). They were able to see that rates of domestic violence against men by female perpetrators were at least equal to that of male abuse against women; yet male victims remain the missing link in demographics, as due to the stigma attached, many assaults go unreported. Most telling however, is data relating to current suicide rates in Australia. The Wesley Mission found that out of 2683 suicides in 1998, 2150 of these were men. For every suicide, there are five attempts by males to take their own life, and male suicides outnumber female suicides by four to one.

A relatively new and seemingly benign development has been the emergence of male bashing as a form of humour in the media. While sitcoms have long had an unspoken rule regarding the portrayal of mothers as strong figures above foolish thought (Hayward in Biddulph 1994: 28), husbands are seen as the ‘loveable dope’. Sitcoms, such as Home Improvement, are hugely successful and work on a concept of an inept husband with a wife who treats him as one of the children. Similarly, advertising techniques are becoming increasingly blatant in their use of gender stereotypes as an advertising ploy. The Advertising Standards Commission dismissed complaints made against a Voodoo Hoisery ad featuring a woman walking three naked men on dog leashes, ruling that the advertisement was a “satirical comment on a patriarchal society” (Wilson: 2002). Meanwhile, an advertisement for Chivas Regal, of a good looking woman in a miniskirt getting out of a car, with the line “Yes, God is a Man”, was pulled from circulation and amended, due to its apparent offensiveness to women (Ligerakis: 2000). The furore that would ensue if a television show based around imbecilic women, or a billboard showing three naked women being led doglike through the streets by a man, can not be overestimated. Images such as these are detrimental to teh way men are viewed by others, and the way they view themselves.

Perhaps the best argument for the men’s movement’s existence can be found in a quote from the On Line Opinion website:

“Anyone who would deny there is a bias against men’s rights needs only to look at the agendas of government-sponsored conferences on this subject, examine the list of guest speakers, or for that matter consider that the ‘Male Helpline’ in Queensland has closed because the Queensland Premier refused to provide the paltry amount needed to keep it open. What price the outcry if it was a women’s or children’s help line?”

Until such time as governments, communities and individuals give equal credence to the pains of both men AND women, Australians will always live in a society that is sexist, unbalanced and unjust. When men can cry freely in public without ridicule, obtain counselling without awareness of the stigma, and receive equal recognition in such things as custody battles; only then can Australia truly claim to be free of gender equality.

Oscar’s Red Carpet

It used to be that the Oscars was the show, yet every year an estimated audience of one billion viewers tunes in just to watch special coverage of the Academy Awards Red Carpet star arrivals. Not the ceremony itself, just the red carpet. Why? What is it about that long stretch of cerise shag pile that makes people tune in? Do we really need a show about stars arriving for another show? Yes, apparently.
“The Oscars is the highest example of red carpet spectacle in the world” (HREF1)Nothing screams to the world “I have arrived” the way an invitation to walk the red carpet does. In that respect, it becomes important to our society to see who exactly is granted this privilege, and evaluate whether they deserve it. Likewise, there is pressure on those we are watching to meet our expectations and fulfill our need to watch “the popular and the beautiful celebrate their popularity and beauty” (HREF1). School formals, corporate functions and rugby awards nights all hijack this symbol in an attempt to bring a touch of Hollywood to their night and make attendees feel special. Every movie premiere and every awards show in the entertainment industry stages their own red carpet arrival, but of all the red carpets in the world, the one belonging to the Oscars is the reddest.

“The famous Red Carpet entrance has, over the years, become the setting for rampant individualism and competition. Who is wearing the best dress? Which up and coming is dating which executive? Who’s in the ten-mill bracket this year? Who will win that gold icon, join the ‘in’ crowd and add another zero to their pay packet? Which post bash party will be the most exorbitant? This frothy pre-ceremony catwalk preserves the highly ideological notion that something called talent brings you happiness, power, good looks and fame.” (HREF4).

As the only part of the Academy Awards to directly involve members of the general public (fans can purchase tickets to sit in the bleachers running the length of the red carpet, but entrance to the ceremony is by invitation only), the red carpet is the one moment where some degree of interaction between celebrity and fan is possible. As such, it is the only place where a degree of intimacy can be imagined by the audience, the main ingredient in a successful relationship between media products and consumers. What is interesting is how the red carpet walk has developed from a chance for stars to be interviewed and show off their outfit to mean so much more. Rather than just being a glorified catwalk, the red carpet has become its own little world, with its own customs and expected codes of behavior, dress and social standing. So iconic has the image of the red carpet become, that it now exists in a separate place within society.
Although the classical rituals of laying robes for royalty and religious deities were adopted innocently enough by Hollywood almost a century ago, red carpet events have really evolved with the advent of pervasive global media coverage. Despite its long history, the red carpet was made for the media of the 21st century, even to the extent that the exact colour of dye used on the rug is one that best shows up red on television (HREF2). The Red Carpet now stands alone as a symbol of power, glamour and success – three highly valuable commodities in our society. The Red Carpet Foundation, naturally based in the United States, describes the red carpet as one of the entertainment industry’s “longest lasting legacies…playing a unique role in our cultural identity”. (HREF3)
Yet troublingly, this cultural institution is one built on façade and superficiality, a result of image after image being created without any substance to it. Unlike the Oscars ceremony, which does have the business of presenting awards to quantify its existence, the red carpet exists purely as a media spectacle. It is there just to be looked at, and in this respect fits neatly into the work of post modern theorist Jean Baudrillard.
Baudrillard was concerned with the post modern preoccupation with appearance, what a self centred emphasis on image and style becomes the dominant force in how we create ourselves (Elliott 2001, p131). He theorized that a world consisting of “glittering media surfaces and radiant commodified images” (p140) would lead to what he termed a hyper-reality, where repetitious images of excess intensify in the collective minds of the public and become more real than our actual reality (p136).

Perhaps when Baudrillard first tossed about the idea of hyper-reality he had some premonition of the space we now know as the Oscars Red Carpet. Foxtel’s 24 hour continuous broadcasting “Live From the Red Carpet” summarises everything Baudrillard pointed to when he became concerned the audience was the victim of the image. Round the clock coverage of actors and actresses arriving on the red carpet, overlaid with inane commentary by supposed style gurus, does not advance society. The viewer remains stagnant, simply consuming image after repetitious image. His ideas about a world driven by explicitly excessive and transparent imagery could surely find no better fit than within an analysis of the way this seemingly inconsequential event has been packaged for society’s consumption.

“Who arrived with Donatella Versace?”
“Who’s going to Elton’s party?”
“Did anyone see Oprah talking to me?”
“Does Joan Rivers like my dress?”

To some level, we are all susceptible to the razzle dazzle of high wattage stars, and it is this form of seduction that is at the heart of Baudrillard’s notion of the hyper real. The version of the red carpet that we see on television is pure fiction, a ‘fantasyscape’ (p136) that becomes more vivid and intense than the more benign, less perfect reality that exists behind the cameras. The viewing audience in not privy to the networking, marketing and publicity seeking games that go on between the Hollywood studios as they fight to get their stars on the red carpet.

We hear rumours of designers lavishing stars with gifts and money in order to get them to wear their gowns, yet we see no evidence of this. All we, the viewers, see is the end result – ethereal Hollywood goddesses gliding down the carpet. Nor are we privy to the sight of said goddess being led by her publicists away from lesser known media entities, and towards the ones who matter – Joan Rivers, Oprah Winfrey et al.
Media coverage has ensured that an audience clamouring for a glimpse of their favourite star is given ample quantities of what they want. Even their arrival at an event becomes valuable currency for a society demanding information about them. The Red Carpet provides the perfect opportunity to cover, without distraction, the stars and their image. Inevitably, the 30 minutes a star spends on the red carpet becomes worth more to audiences than the two minutes they may spend presenting on stage.
Part of the fascination with watching the red carpet must also lie in seeing famous faces allowed to act in ways considered taboo in ordinary society. Thos who are granted the privilege to walk the real Hollywood carpet find they are also accepted into and arena where ‘anything goes’, where extreme examples of behavior are not only condoned, but encouraged. Where else are we allowed to talk about ourselves, encourage gratuitous compliments from virtual strangers and blatantly preen ourselves for photographs? The result is what Marxists would consider a highly fetishised space of “irrational reverence or obsessive devotion”, where stars compete with each other to enact expected modes of behavior (HREF1).
Partly a throwback to the bohemian image thespians have long cultivated within society, where marginal tendencies were encouraged, there are stars that make a point of being the most extraordinary of all attendees. Celebrities such as Cher, Angelina Jolie and Bjork have created a reputation for trying to shock on the red carpet by wearing eccentric clothing, kissing their brother, and laying an egg (?!?!) respectively. In the ordinary world, to enact these forms of behavior attracts criticism for displaying narcissistic tendencies, broaching taboo forms of behavior and generally considered off-putting, yet on the red carpet it is accepted. This is one occasion that is all about maximum exposure, and whatever can be done to heighten the attention is just part of the game. If you don’t want to be noticed, best you sneak in through a side door.
It is commonplace for stars to wear haute couture gowns and designer diamond jewellery borrowed for the evening, so much so that media don’t ask ‘What are you wearing’, but ‘Who are you wearing’. Now, any female will tell you that borrowing clothing from a shop to wear to a party then return it the next day is one of the biggest crimes a girl about town can commit. Yet for the Oscars, designers like Valentino and Versace WANT the actresses to do it. Not only that, but sometimes the gowns have been worn a couple of times before! Julia Roberts started a continuing trend when she wore a vintage gown the year she won her Oscar. Where else can a woman admit to wearing a second-hand dress to a black tie event?
Jewellers such as Harry Winston give literally millions of dollars worth of jewellery to veritable strangers and presumably cross their fingers it will all be returned in one piece – all for the possibility that someone watching at home will rush out the following Monday to grab a pair of earrings as seen on the lobes of Gwyneth Paltrow. Ironically, the only person I heard admitting to the crime of wearing her own jewels was the perennially plastic Dolly Parton. “Whay would aye wear someone else’s stuff when aye can wear maye own?” she hollered to a stunned Richard Wilkins. Indeed, but if your boobs once belonged to the makers of Tupperware, what difference does it make whose diamonds you wear?
Of course, the notion that stars inhabit a world far removed from the great majority is not new, and the sight of the red carpet at the Oscars is only the manifestation of this fact. On a daily basis, celebrity allows for excessive displays of behavior as it “radiates greater material and symbolic power than non celebrity” (Rojek p31). It is seeing so many people in possession of this power all in one location that is truly dazzling to audiences.
Recently, Hollywood has begun to use the red carpet as a means of communicating to the wider community. In 2001, the glitz and sparkle of the red carpet was hyped unprecedented levels as Hollywood attempted to counteract the downturn in the USA economy. The following year, as America reeled from the shock of 9/11 and US troops were days away from being sent overseas, the red carpet was shortened, stars were discouraged from acting as outlandishly as previous years and the majority of the world’s press were denied access. The following year, it was back in all its glory – shinier than ever (HREF4). Small changes may be made to the televised ceremony, but the red carpet remains the site where Hollywood chooses to make the most visible statements. This, more than anything else, confirms the awareness that all eyes are on the red carpet. When next you watch the Oscars look closely for the second carpet, the other entrance that the stars don’t use. Often visible in the background, it’s for the other attendees – the ones that are not famous and therefore hold no social currency. It is the best illustration of what we consider valuable and praiseworthy.
There is a great romanticism about the Oscars and its history, and it seems cruel to treat it too cynically. Yet so much of what is celebrated during this annual event is intangible and, for most people, unobtainable. In many ways it summarises much of what is worrisome about our culture today. Soren Kierkegaard, as far back as the mid 1800s, foresaw the future of the human condition if we continued to place too much social importance and emphasis on the surreal. Believing that human experience in modern times consisted of three spheres – aesthetic, ethical and religious, with the aesthetic sphere being considered the lowest of them – his work centred on what he saw as the decline of religious, the ethical, priorities (Carroll p184). He theorized that if left only with the aesthetic sphere of pleasure and sensual experience in which to experience life, we become focused on the pursuit of temporal happiness, and indulge in passion and beautiful pleasures, a state he likens to the love affair (p 185). While on the surface it doesn’t sound like too bad a state to be in, anyone who’s experienced the rollercoaster of a love affair knows that eventually things crash to the ground and the illusion is shattered. What Kierkegaard is implying is that without an ethical or spiritual base to fall back on, it is not enough to just have everything looking and feeling pretty as it is in Hollywood. We require the substance underneath to sustain us when the shiny media image presented to us begins to tarnish. Real life can’t be stage managed the way the red carpet is, so us mere mortals require something more tangible. We may all secretly crave a chance to set foot on Oscar’s red carpet, but we don’t really want one running through our own house, do we?

Good Cop, Bad Cop

“Let’s go figure out who the bad guy is, all right?”
Mr Pink, Reservoir Dogs

Bent cops, crook politicians, underhand media tactics, internal cover-ups, spin doctoring, hookers, developers, payoffs, con men and movie stars. Are we talking Queensland in the 1980’s? Well, no. But you could be forgiven for thinking so. It’s crime, Hollywood style.

In the days of Bogart as Private Investigator, it used to be so easy to sort out the goodies from the baddies, the trustworthy from the outright scoundrels. No matter the problem, with Bogie in his ubiquitous trench coat and fedora, as Marlowe or Spade, it would be resolved one way or the other. If you were in trouble, you phoned the authorities. And if the nature of your troubles meant that wasn’t an option then you hired a private investigator. Pretty straight forward – unless the dick you hire is a crook, no more trustworthy than the guy you’ve hired him to sort out. Nowadays a girl could get the impression she should be as wary of the cop flashing his badge as she is of the burglar flashing his weapon.

What is it with today’s crime fighters? Why do they seem to have so much trouble working out that they’re the ones who solve the crimes, not commit them? Is it really that hard to stay straight when surrounded by all those crooks? If you believe Hollywood, even the straightest of honest cops can be bought if the price is right.

Maybe Bogart’s film noir detective could be momentarily distracted by a great pair of legs, but that was as far as his devilishness went. Part of his allure was surely that he gave the appearance of being a rogue without actually having to be one. His success came from being able to ride with the criminals while not letting himself ultimately become one. Surrounded by moral corruption, he had his own moral code that allowed him to operate within crime circles while maintaining his professional integrity. The hope we held that the detective would prove to be honest was generally fulfilled. He was the perfect hero, “neither sinner nor saint, he was a little bit of both” (Rafter 2000: 73).

A good look at today’s class of heroes shows us a motley crew of gangsters, mobsters, kidnappers, pimps, gambles and hit men. Identifying the dodgy players has become an almost impossible task in Hollywood productions, as the world begins to demand narratives that don’t always take the moral high ground. Today’s audiences are very different from the pre Vietnam, Watergate and Al Qaeda aware consumers, who had implicit trust in their authorities and organisations. To a generation yet to be exposed to media saturated in conspiracy theories, it was not impossible to expect cops to be upstanding members of the community. Now, while audiences may desire law enforcers with strong ethics, they aren’t shocked if they don’t turn up, nor are they particularly inclined to trust them if they do.

It appears that movie producers are aware of this loss of naivety and innocence as post-Vietnam movies reflect a lack of confidence in government, protective services and other organisations acting as society’s guardians. Documented examples of police brutality and inefficiency have created a culture that demands to know who exactly is in control. If we can’t count on the police, and if we suspect we aren’t getting the right information from the government, then exactly who is in charge? Film and television, as the main purveyors of our cultural activities, reflect these changing mindsets.

A film such as LA Confidential should (being based primarily around a group of cops from a major downtown precinct), be teeming with decent human beings, yet there’s not a decent figure amongst the characters. Sure, Basinger plays the hooker with a heart of gold role, but she’s not above screwing her boyfriend’s colleague when her pimp asks her to. Set around the working relationship of three very different detectives, the audience is left in no doubt of the film’s message – that anyone can be corrupted if the price is right, or the motivation spot on. They don’t trust each other – why should the audience?

From the moment we are introduced to the highly moralistic character of Ed Exley (played by Guy Pearce), we know that by movie’s end either he’ll have had to confront his ethical beliefs, or the audience will hate his moral crusade. It is only through his wavering, and subsequent ethical dilemma, that Exley becomes likable. Until that moment of realisation, not only is he ostracized by his world weary colleagues, but by the audience as well. Until he shows his ‘inner criminal’, we loathe him, and certainly don’t align with him.

Positioned as Exley’s polar opposite in LA Confidential, Bud White (Russell Crowe) is a man on a mission to avenge every act of violence against women, and will break the law to do so. Problem is, when things get a bit grim his personal life, he gives Kim Basinger a smack across the face highlighting how the strongest convictions can fall apart if the right buttons are pressed.

Perhaps the only character we can rely on is the consistently corrupt Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), a figure who would never miss the chance of a payoff, yet is forthcoming about his activities, and refreshingly self-mocking.

What remains constant in today’s crime films is that the audience is often left rooting for the supposed criminal rather that the crime fighter. Criminals are now often drawn in such a way that their charisma overrides any judgement we may make about their clandestine activities. Positioned against a dodgy cop, the crim doesn’t look so bad!

Sometimes we justify their criminality with movies such as Thelma and Louise, and sometimes we glamorize their criminal careers in films like The Godfather trilogy. Interestingly, The Godfather was always intended to highlight the gritty futility of mafia crime, yet its subsequent cult status within our culture highlights the way the audience reveres and condones the characters and their lives.

There is an undeniable attraction to the glamour of crime, to the sheer recklessness of the criminal’s actions. Certain characteristics of criminals become admirable – their daring, their icy demeanour and the ability to switch off their emotional response. The criminal hero’s allure lies in his sense of adventure, his romantic temperament and his stalwart belief that his actions are justifiable. Just think Warren Beatty in Bonnie & Clyde, one of cinemas most likeable bad guys. If a guy can go out breaking skulls all day, then come home bearing roses for his wife, he is all the more admired. Depictions of gangsters who return for dinner at 5 o’clock give their lives a sense of normality. For the viewer, the hero’s criminal activities are just a form of employment, comparable to a lawyer, bank manager or insurance salesman.

Martin Scorscese’s Casino highlights how a group of people we’d normally have little compassion for can endear themselves to an audience to the extent that we cheer them on and relish their success.

Take Ginger (Sharon Stone), a character who is glamorous, intelligent, powerful, infamous and sexy. Did someone say drug addicted whore??? Who cares! She’s hot, she’s got great clothes, and she brought the whole shebang to its knees! GO SISTER!!!

Even Joe Pesci’s portrayal of the emotionally barren Nicky Santoro can evoke affection from the audience. Perhaps it’s the way he says ‘FUCK’ with complete abandon, or the way he pats his wife on the bum. More likely, our admiration for Santoro stems from the total audacity of his actions.

It is a visual extension of the feeling we get when we talk our way out of a speeding ticket, or drive home a little tipsy without getting sprung by the Booze Bus. Society loves getting one up on authority and celebrates rebellion in various forms. Anyone who’s received so much a parking ticket knows the urge to get revenge on Big Brother. That there are people in the world who enact these fantasies is a given, but for the majority of us our only insight into this world is via crime reports in the news (Bond Potter 1998: 59). Films allow us access to a life of crime without the risk of ending up in the clink.

Popular absurdist films such as Pulp Fiction, Fargo, and to a certain extent even Casino, refuse to let the audience take crime too seriously by filling the screen with delightfully despicable characters we can’t help but like. We enjoy them because they enact to extreme levels every outlandish fantasy we’ve conjured up about teaching that parking inspector a lesson. Absurdist films work on our natural assumptions of crime and those who commit them by taking hose assumptions and throwing them back at us, so that murder and mayhem are treated with an unexpected quirky edge (Rafter 2000: 47). Whether the criminal ought to be punished for their misdemeanours becomes inconsequential as we begin to see them as we see ourselves – the perpetrator of the crime suddenly becomes the victim of a greater injustice. Never mind they’ve previously kidnapped a child, shot her mother and stolen a car; we know how they feel because we’ve been in trouble with the law too.

In reality, we’re just a bunch of cowards living vicariously through rebellious film characters as a means of safely resisting authority, allowing film to nourish our “secret voyeuristic desires” (Rafter 2000: 43).

As a cultural conductor, film provides the perfect place to enact the antagonism we feel towards the justice system without having to consider ourselves common criminals. Today’s films, by allowing us to experience both sides of the law, make us feel just a little less morally compromised. We never be no Spade or Marlowe, but we ain’t no Nicky Santoro either!

City Folk

“The city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo”
Desmond Morris, The Human Zoo

Ever noticed how cities are full of people wearing black from head to toe? Stand in the CBD of any city from Auckland to Singapore, New York to Paris, and you’ll see thousands of people rushing around like funky Matrix cast members, complete with slick hair & sexy sunglasses. It’s the universal uniform of the inner city; so much so that a bird’s eye view of Central Station in any of these cities will leave you in no doubt that colour was outlawed by corporate fashionistas a long time ago. Inhabitants wear black like armour, a symbol of ‘I belong here’ and ‘I fit in’. It is just one form of behaviour humans adopt in order to survive city life.

Urban myth tells us that cities are full of unknown dangers, and that the best way to stay safe is to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to ourselves. Don’t make eye contact on the subway, don’t talk to strangers, and don’t wear loud clothing. So where does this leave human relationships and interaction within the city environment, when trains are full of people reading the paper, and buses full of passengers gazing out the window to avoid making pleasantries with the person sharing a seat less than a metre in width? Human contact in cities is made up of short, sharp exchanges between people – bus drivers, subway ticketing officers, newspaper sellers etc. Hollywood has romanticised the city, whereby strangers fall in love on trains or during their lunch hour in the park, yet the reality is that all this human contact makes people withdraw. It is not natural for us humans to be comfortable with strangers invading our space, and the tendency of the city to force us within arms reach of people we don’t know leads us to respond in ways that counteract this violation (Sennett 1994, p.17). Our initial reaction when confronted with someone we don’t know is to take a step back and evaluate, an action that is not necessarily appropriate when trapped in the confines of a seat on the bus or train. Our response, therefore, is to shut the intruder out. Visitors from out of town interpret this behaviour as sullen, rude and arrogant, when in fact it is merely a form of self preservation. Silence becomes a way of maintaining privacy (1994, p.343).

After 9/11, t-shirts stating “I LOVE NEW YORK” became a way of showing support and solidarity with the residents of New York City. City living people the world over suddenly became very aware that in today’s world, to be a resident of any big city means looking out not only for muggers, junkies and prostitutes, but also suspicious men, abandoned packages and low flying aircraft. Given that people’s compassion was directed towards the inhabitants, not the skyscrapers, shouldn’t the t-shirts have read “I love the people of New York”? Consciously or otherwise, we equate cities with the people who operate within them, making the city more than just cement, steel and glass. The movement of the people, acting like blood through the city’s veins and arteries, override its inanimate nature.

Cities bring together an amazing cross section of humankind that may otherwise not mix. Well paid executives pass unemployed people on their way to the welfare office, school children learn on streets where hookers and rent boys patrol, two men hold hands as they walk past St Mary’s Cathedral (perhaps consciously), people visit art galleries and museums situated in manicured botanical gardens used by sporting teams and fitness fanatics, students wait at bus stops and subway stations being used as shelter by the homeless, and Chinatown incorporates a traditionally hostile mix nationalities such as Korean, Malaysian, Japanese, Vietnamese and the odd Turkish pide shop. It is this convergence of cultures, beliefs, backgrounds and class that makes the city fascinating, and brings tourists back to previously visited destinations time and time again. While people undoubtedly travel to see for themselves famous structures such as the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House and the Golden Gate Bridge, they surely do not return to a city to see the same buildings and monuments repetitively. They return for the ambience, the vibe and the people.

Anyone who has lived and worked in the city will tell you city people are different. They’re intense, focused, career driven and social. Generally, they can also be lonely, stressed, dissatisfied and bordering on bankruptcy from too many nights out trying to fill these voids. Much of this is to do with the fact that people are initially attracted to the city at a time in their lives when opportunity and career advancement must be sought out and seized at every opportunity. Consequently, each year sees thousands of individuals flock to ‘the big smoke’, leaving behind families, friends and support networks. The result is cities full of virtual strangers affecting relationships with each other in order to face the isolation that being in a city can bring. Social networking becomes important as a means of filling the void left by displacement and the loss of ‘home’. Intense connections are made hastily, which is not to say that all relationships are false, only that they are borne out of necessity rather than evolving naturally. Inevitably, the pressures of finding a comfort zone in this foreign territory become a breeding ground for ironically anti-social behaviour such as recreational drug taking as a means for coping. Perhaps the party pills provide some relief in the crippling isolation, given their intention is to promote feelings of contentment and joyfulness.

A few years ago when I was living in Sydney, a funny email did the rounds titled “You know you live in Sydney when…” This email consisted of a series of tongue-in-cheek one liners regarding the peculiarities of Sydney life, such as “a truly car space moves you to tears”, or “you prefer Kenyan to Nigerian coffee beans and can tell when they’ve been mixed with South American coffee”. It also had one that struck me as particularly insightful. “You know you live in Sydney…when you know everyone’s mobile number and email address, but not their surname or where they live.” This one was really true! My social circle was full of people I hardly knew, and I wasn’t the only one. It took a joke email to bring home just how shallow and glib city life can be, yet researchers such as Emile Durkheim and Max Weber produced many works relating to the subordination of individuals in the city, and the way trying to maintain a sense of belonging and community spirit within such a vast area subjects people to impersonal relationships within a fragmented society (Davies & Herbert 1993, p. 15).

A study by Suttle in 1972 sought to have cities analysed along the lines of a social construct rather than in an ecological context, as urban places are not “given, concrete entities”, but rather a “product of the way individuals or social groups interpret, perceive and assign meanings to their cities” (Davies & Herbert 1993, p.85). Interestingly, when describing this most impenetrable of locales we have always used language that suggested an ‘aliveness’ and humanity. Cities hustle, pulsate, breathe and hum. New York is the ‘city that never sleeps’, Brisbane is a ‘young city maturing quickly’, Melbourne is ‘cultured’ and, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the media is showing us that New Orleans has ‘a heart’. Utilising such terms helps to soften the hard edges of the city, giving those who reside there a sense of ownership, and almost parental pride in their town. Community based festivals are held as a celebration of the residents and what they bring to the district, and public spaces are adorned with banners extolling the city’s virtues, giving those who use these areas the “warm fuzzies” about their city (Zukin 1995, p. 4-19).

Public spaces are an important part of the identity of the city, as the spaces designated ‘public’ gives an indication of the people within the metropolis, acting as a “window to the city’s soul” (Zukin 1995, p.259), and display a cross section of the ethnicities, lifestyles and cultures. These spaces may be parks, museums, pools or galleries, yet they all offer a place where strangers can intermingle freely (1995, p.260). Given the inclusive nature of the public space, people from wealthy suburbs, housing commission developments and tourists are all equally allowed the opportunity to participate and enjoy. This democratic ideology is tempered however, by the rules and restrictions imposed by councils and municipal bodies who dictate where citizens can picnic, walk, and swim, rollerblade, cycle and walk their dogs. When city parks are used in lieu of our own private backyard, any regulations restricting our use of this space become threatening. Our sense of freedom in this free space is challenged. Graffiti and a gang mentality emerge in direct retaliation to the authorities as a way of reclaiming ownership of the space by the people. Sadly however, these actions are often seen as elements of inner city crime and therefore push the everyday citizen further away from using public spaces. Inner city balconies can be seen crammed with pot plants, shrubs, mini herb gardens and the occasional water feature, as citizens attempt to create a private space out of reach of the city.

Life in the city is a life of compromise. You can choose to be near public transport or near the beach, live in the CBD right near work or live a little further out to save rent money, pay exorbitant car parking fees or do away with the car all together, and stay home to save money or go out to meet people. Yet despite all of the angst that can be caused by city life, we still celebrate our cities, envy those who have city glimpses, let alone city views, from their residences and are proud and defensive of our urban environments. Being within a city is like being in another world, one that is never really dark due to al the street lights, on where an open bar or pub can always e found, buses and trains always run, supermarkets open 24 hours and shift workers ensure there are always a few people milling about the streets. It is a hyperactive environment kept alive by the ebb and flow of its inhabitants. Cities market themselves according to their virtues, be they palaces, casinos, beaches or attractions. Souvenir outlets everywhere have postcards, t-shirts, beer coolers, pens and snow domes emblazoned with a place name and a few instantly recognisable landmarks. Yet seldom are the people of the city celebrated, despite being the vital organs that sustain the city’s existence.

Inevitably, this invisibility can be harmful to the human psyche. Given that our bodies are so closely linked to environmental conditions such as what we breathe, hear, drink and wear (Sennett 1994, p.261), it is no wonder that the sensory deprivation of modern cities leads to a mass exodus of people looking for relief from the “dullness, monotony and tactile sterility afflicting the urban environment” (1994, p.15). Each weekend sees outlying beaches and country areas of the city inundated with people escaping for a quick reprieve from the pressures. Despite the ideals of the city beautiful as a means of counteracting this need, how many people walk through Sydney’s Hyde Park on their way to work and take time to acknowledge its beauty? How many Sydney commuters on the Manly ferry look up from their books and newspapers to enjoy the sun glistening off the water and the glass of the buildings? How many more wish they could just jump in their car, turn on the stereo and the air conditioning, and pull up directly outside their work in a conveniently placed car space, thereby missing the whole city experience? Nevertheless, we return again and again to the city, and adolescents still dream of escaping their parental abode and losing themselves in the metropolis. Paradoxically, it is this feeling of having lost ourselves that inevitably makes us yearn for a life outside of the civic area, where walls are not built and people can live freely.