Mateship in Australian Films

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Mateship in Australian Films

Mateship has long been a major aspect of the national image as

projected by Australian films, yet the moralities of mateship and the

image of men as mates did not go unchallenged. Australian cinema as a

significant part of the whole industry of image-makers in the country,

the way it portrays mateship, the single most important mythic element

in the cultural identity of Australia, is worth analysing.

This paper first reviews the historical background of mateship in

Australia and its contemporary development. The review here serves as

a general discussion of mateship that provides the potential readers

with some basic understandings of the idea, and as background

information for the contents that I examine subsequently.

I then briefly discuss the image of mateship in an Australian film:

Gallipolis (1982). The reasons for such an approach are explained

within the section.

Finally, I compare the image of mateship in a contemporary local film,

Idiot Box (1997), with the one in Gallipoli examined earlier and argue

that the traditions of mateship are challenged in Idiot Box.

Historical Background


Mateship has a long history in Australia. If tracing its origins, we

need to go back to the earliest days of settlement. However, firstly,

I would like to put forward the definition of mateship 'what is

mateship?' According to Ken Inglis (1998, p416), the term mateship

does not originally come from Australia; but in the Oxford English

Dictionary, its use is mostly explained by examples cited from this

country. Also, rich entries on mateship as well as mate can be found

in Au...

... middle of paper ...

...n Ken and his girlfriend. Comparing with Kev, Mick

is more stable, sensitive and romantic, but except that, he does not

have many things better. In fact, the relationship with his

girlfriend, Lani, may change his life, but his loyalties to Kev drag

him back to their mateship. In the beginning, Mick does not agree with

Kev's idea of bank robbery. But, the conformity of mateship makes him

follow Kev's decision anyway.

In conclusion, Idiot Box challenges the traditional values of

Australian mateship by examining the institution in the context of the

modern world. By comparing the totally different representations of

mateship in Gallipoli and Idiot Box, it is obvious that perhaps the

tradition of mateship continues to exist in Australian society,

however, its significance probably is much weaker than in former


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