Neil Patrick Harris would be proud. The
legen… wait-for-it… dary Barney Stinson persona that Harris wore so well in How I Met Your Mother has been taken up
by none other than – Larrakia actress
Miranda Tapsell. How you ask?
One of Stinson’s most popular gimmicks was to
accept any and all challenges. Even when best mates Ted, Marshall, Robin, and
Lily, had no idea that a challenge had even been asked of him. That is exactly
the type of challenge that Miranda has so clearly taken up – one that almost no
one else (aside from every other Aboriginal person) realises needs to be
completed, and at some stage Miranda must have stood up in a defiant Stinson fashion
and shouted, “Challenge Accepted”.
Miranda burst onto the scene as Cynthia in
Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires – the
successful stage play turned successful film that swept the AACTA Awards that
year with eleven wins. Her performance in the film led to her continued to growth
as an actress with bit parts in TV series, culminating in a recurring role as
Martha Tennant on the Nine Network series Love
Child. In 2015, Miranda won a Logie Award for Best New Talent and The
Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding Newcomer for her role on the popular
series. Tapsell was also a series regular in Secret City (2016), Newtons
Law (2017), and Doctor Doctor
(2018). While the proud Larrakia woman has been consistently busy, it is her
2019 works that will define her career.
Let’s set the scene: Comedians Kate McLennon
and Kate McCartney have been a staple on ABC Comedy for years, and in 2019 they
wrapped up their hugely successful satire of morning breakfast television, Get Crack!n. In the final episode, regular
hosts McLennon and McCartney are sidelined by medical emergencies, forcing guests Miranda Tapsell and equally
Stinson-esque, challenge accepting Gamillaroi and Torres Straight Islander
actress and playwright Nakkiah Lui to test their morning show hosting
abilities. In an attempt to keep the “show” running smoothly and to not screw
up this rare opportunity of having two Indigenous women hosting a breakfast
show, the pair attempt to humorously brush over issues that Indigenous
Australians face on a daily basis. These issues however, are not humorous at
all and trying to talk to non-Indigenous people about them often ends in an
argument. They do not want to hear about Indigenous incarceration rates (especially
the overrepresentation of Indigenous women in prison), the stolen generation,
invasion, intergenerational trauma, or racism.
Towards the end of the episode, and after trying to so hard to keep quiet and just follow the norm (all the while, the make-up team keep applying more and more white onto her face), Miranda explodes with the following speech while she and Nakkiah are hosting a panel of all white “experts”.
Fuck the fuck up. What do you dickmonkeys know about racism?” she asks. “Ill tell you about racism, because I’ve been living with racism since the moment I shot out of my mum. 30 years of trying to be who they want me to be Nakkiah, but its never good enough is it? Because there’s something about us that they’ll never accept. What is it? If only I could put my little black finger on it. I’m just racking my big black brain. 30 years of smiling and making big eyes and not showing my anger. I’m done, not being angry. I am angry. And if you don’t like me being angry, then by all means Australia take this furious baton and run this race for me. Because we are dying in infancy, we are dying in custody and we are dying decades earlier than you, and you, should be as angry about that as I am. Stop being angry about families fleeing warzones, and schools for teaching kids properly about sex and their bodies, and anything else these bullshit shows tell you to be angry about so they can fill a talk break. Be angry at what is happening to us, to me, so I’m not the only one shouting. But you know what? Until you do that, fuck all of this shit.
While those words may be delivered in an
almost humorous way, I can assure you, they have meaning. They’re not funny in
the slightest to Aboriginal people, they’re delivered this way to give people
who are generally uncomfortable hearing these sorts of things a way to listen
without feeling guilty or upset. At the very least they’re enough to get the
likes of Andrew Bolt riled up. Bolt had the gall to blame this sort of satire for
stoking ‘race wars’ throughout Australia, conveniently forgetting that he is
one of the biggest perpetrators of hate speech in this country. He has already
been found guilty
of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act, and to add to Bolt’s hypocrisy,
he frequently claims he should be allowed to say what he pleases because of
‘free speech’, while consistently condemning the speech of others who don’t
share his views.
Many Caucasian people still believe racism
doesn’t even exist at all – if they don’t experience it, then it simply does
not exist, or they falsely believe that reverse racism is a thing. One time while
I was at work, I was in conversation with an elderly man, telling him that I
was looking for work back around where I grew up and I had an opportunity on
the horizon in Ceduna. His response was “there’s too many dirty Abo’s there”.
Another time I was walking my dog, she looks very similar to a Dingo, and
another elderly man mistook her for one completely. He pulled me up from my
walk and asked to pat her, all the while recounting a story from his younger
years. It was extremely disturbing. He told me how he grew up in Alice Springs
and he and his friends used to take Dingo pups and train them to attack
Aboriginal people. The way they did this was to “put them into a sack with old
Abo clothes that they stole and kick it, starve it and beat it until it got
used to the smell of the old Abo’s”. I was sickened by the story and walked
away in shock. The man told me that story as if it was nothing. His racist
nature was so ingrained in him that it was just a normal chat.
Crack!n, Miranda and Nakkiah bring these issues to the surface in such a way
that may possibly open a door for people to listen. It really is quite
brilliant. It also challenges a few of the mainstream morning shows that seem
to want to get involved in Indigenous issues without actually including any
Indigenous people, or anyone with any expertise in any of these matters.
Miranda Tapsell is a double-edged sword.
While she is brave enough to get up in front
of the cameras and call it how she sees it, while also stating exactly it how
it should be from behind the camera.
In Miranda’s latest film, Top End Wedding, which Tapsell co-wrote,
she plays Lauren, a lawyer, and a bloody good one at that, making associate in
the first ten minutes of the film. An associate lawyer is a great character for
Tapsell to portray, creating an fantastic character for Aboriginal people to
see on screen, an educated, successful and financially secure, proud woman. Top End Wedding is such a positive film
in relation to Indigenous people and culture, its importance in Australian
history is undeniable.
Aboriginal culture is a large part of the
film and the positive way in which culture is portrayed is fantastic. In most
films and TV shows Aboriginal people are written to be criminals, or substance
abusers, or living in low socio-economic areas, or feature in films based in
newly-colonised Australia where they are victims of cruel circumstances. In Top End Wedding, being Aboriginal seems
to be the norm and isn’t questioned by anyone – it’s great to see, feeling
refreshing, exciting, and empowering. I’ve worked in retail for the last 13
years and I’ve had my identity questioned by customers regularly over the
years. Why are my eyes dark? Why am I tanned? Where am I from? Do I celebrate
Christmas? What ‘percent’ am I? Firstly, this is none of their business, but it
highlights how everyday white Australians believe it is their ‘right’ to know
my ‘right’ to be in their country.
The aspect I loved absolutely about Top End Wedding is that there is no racism in the film. Aboriginal people should be allowed to see themselves on screen without being racially abused. I don’t recall ever seeing a film with Aboriginal actors or Indigenous themes in which race wasn’t made a conscious factor in a negative way. Aboriginal culture was made a huge part of this film, and it’s all presented in a positive way. I had the privilege to speak to the stars of the film, Miranda Tapsell and Gwilym Lee, prior to the films release. On the process of making more Aboriginal films, Miranda said:
On this film I felt like there was a lot riding on my shoulders, to make sure that it was honest and authentic, and we got it right. But I think the reason that I push for more facets of the Indigenous experience to be shown is because I then can tell the stories I want to tell, and people know it’s not reflective of the whole Aboriginal experience. And this is what I hope for, that a lot of Aboriginal people watch this film, that a lot of non-Aboriginal people watch this film and they find something that resonates with them. I also want people to see this film and go OK well that’s, I mean this is a very specific story and that’s great too. Then the Warwick Thornton’s of the world can make Sweet Country and that be a valid story and there’s more of them and we can show more than one part of ourselves.
As an aspiring screenwriter myself, I loved
hearing this. I believe that films can be used to tell all kinds of stories to
help integrate Aboriginal culture into modern society. To merge both reality
and fiction into one entity to help further peoples understanding of Aboriginal
people and issues that we face daily, and I feel what Miranda said reinforces
I also asked Gwilym about what he learnt about Aboriginal people and culture during filming, he summed up his experiences with the following, which I really enjoyed hearing:
Coming here and speaking to Aboriginal people everywhere we went, kind of just gave me a different perspective that I try to take with me wherever I am really. Even in the kind of cold, dark, city of London.
The rest of what he said was also quite
genuine and I felt he really resonated with Aboriginal culture and was able to
take away some positive lessons.
Miranda has been pushing for change for quite some time now, using her speech after winning her Logie in 2015 to call for more diversity on Australian screens. Later that year on The Verdict, she revisited the topic, and when asked is she identified as Australian by Karl Stefanovic she answered ‘no’, saying:
When I go to Australia Day, I don’t feel Australian on that day because essentially people are telling me a cant be a part of that.
After her comments on the show social media
was lit up with people claiming to be “offended” by her words. Racial and
derogatory terms were thrown around for weeks and it only proved what she had
been saying all along. Oh, the irony. Adding another experience of my own, in
2016 I was on my way to volunteer at an Invasion Day event when I pulled up at
some stop lights. A car full of teenagers pulled up next to me and when the
light finally turned green, they yelled “boong” quite aggressively at me and
then sped off. When this is a daily event, it’s hard not to see why Indigenous
people don’t feel Australian, or want to identify as ‘Australian’.
‘Aboriginal Leader’ is a term that is thrown
around by mainstream media at times, it usually isn’t the correct term to use
in the context they mean, and I suspect they know that, but that is what
Miranda is. She is a leader and a role model to all Aboriginal people. She is
pushing for change for all Aboriginal people, and for Australia as a whole. I
suspect this will prove to be one of the greatest challenges she will ever
face, but I am surely glad that someone of her calibre has accepted it.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.