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The Castle

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Australia has the terrible condition of having an essentially pointless, and prefabricated idea of ‘Aussie-ness’ that really has no relation to our real culture or the way in which we really sea ourselves. We, however subscribe to these stereotypes when trying to find some expression of our Australian identity. The feature film The Castle deals with issues about Australian identity in the 1990’s. The film uses techniques like camera shots, language and the use of narration to develop conflict between a decent, old fashioned suburban family, the Kerrigan’s and an unscrupulous corporation called Airline.

There are far to many stereotypes in The Castle to mention although her are a few examples, the accents, the barbecues, the holiday home at Bonniedoon, the boat, the clothes and the fact that one of them is in jail. Perhaps part of the success of the feature film lies in our ability to laugh at these characters, with no doubt of our own superiority. Whether it is working class Australia or the overseas, especially America, the certainty of superiority is desirable, and a film that promotes this will be successful.

The insistence on justice runs through the whole film, as Darryl fights to keep his house, the family home, which is being unjustly compulsorily acquired to make way for extension on an airport. Self-reliance is shown by Darryl’s continual struggle, but this is balanced by the team work evident in the co-operation of the Kerrigan family and other neighbors who are also threatened. The ‘Australian larrikin spirit’, which some may see as positive, is portrayed by Darryl and Steve pulling the gates off the estate to one of the Barlow members, who are responsible for the acquisition.

It is this promotion of Aussie values that makes the film work so good. We are presented with the difference between ugly location and clothing and really good internal values. When Darryl offers to pay court costs for Jack, a neighbour on an old age pension, we see him presented as worthy of our respect and admiration, despite his terrible location, clothing and manner. We see his house, despite its ugliness as worth fighting for, because he loves it so much

All of the personality traits connected with the Kerrigan family are all a part of the image that Australians have of themselves. The presentation of external factors, which throughout the film, is a running joke, can have a harmful effect on the way Australians are viewed around the world. Other feature films such as Crocodile Dundee has also had a similar effect, getting completely different reactions in Australia and around the world. It is these stereotypes that may be taken seriously overseas and regarded as reflective of Australians.

Feature films like The Castle or Crocodile Dundee are cultural products because they use attitudes, values and stereotypes about what is means to be Australian. In the absence of a strongly defined series of national identity, feature films can contribute to the shaping of how the world sees us and how we see ourselves.

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