All prime ministers have suffered at the hands of satirists but the ads for At Home with Julia promised that this was going to be something else again.
As I watched it, my discomfort flourished, bloomed and became generally exponential. By the end I was craving for Clarke and Dawes, for Max Gillies, for any intelligent satire. To be honest, it’s unclear who actually will enjoy the show. It’s not actually very funny, give or take moments that illicit a wry smile. It’s too affectionate towards Julia to please those who don’t like her. It certainly fails to offer any political critique of her style and offers no real analysis of why it might be that Gillard is not the PM we hoped for.
On the other side of the coin, if you do have a soft spot for Prime Minister Gillard, you wouldn’t be caught dead watching it — there certainly aren’t enough laughs to make that a guilty pleasure. As Peter Craven put it yesterday in The Drum, “You may think that she has presided over the demise of a once great political party out of nothing but a lean hungriness for power and that she believes in nothing … Even so, taking the dimmest possible view, Julia Gillard did not deserve this and nor did the nation.”
Which brings us to the S word. Sexist. Yes, this show just felt a bit, well, wrong. It belittled Julia Gillard in a way that no male prime minster has been, and it belittled her partner Tim Mathieson. There is no doubt that being the PM’s partner is a tough gig but Matheison has bought as much dignity as he can muster to the role — as his predecessors Therese Rein Jeanette Howard, Anita Keating and Hazel Hawke did. (Though for me, Hazel was a real stand out first partner). It’s not inherently funny, or pathetic, that Tim might have to do the household tasks or that he has a partner who works long hours. Even if relationship clichés switcheroo-ed don’t offend you, they’re just kind of, well, meh. If I was on Twitter I’d type *shrugs shoulders*
At Home with Julia is a symptom of the relentless drive towards trivialising politics and politicians, a trivialisation politicians themselves have certainly contributed to. The PM and Mathieson have helped this along by giving interviews about the state of their personal life, and whether or not they plan to marry. And despite my comments about sexism, I’d say it’s not just Gillard who’s belittled like this.
Bob Hawke suffered similarly in Channel Ten’s telemovie Hawke. That movie had good actors in it, including Richard Roxburgh and Asher Keddie and, in theory, much to commend it. But, despite being called Hawke, it was really about Bob and Blanche. Instead of getting extended sequences about Hawke’s time in the unions, or his run-ins with Paul Keating, or, indeed, any scenes that dealt with issues of political complexity, we had to endure the sight of government policy being discussed after a good shag, in a range of hotel rooms.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’m really, really uninterested in my Prime Minister’s sex life. It’s like parent sex times a million. It’s also, well, not the point. I want to know how these people’s brains work, not their other bits. The endless quickie jokes in At Home with Julie, or the gag about her perving on the hot tradesman just seemed stupid. As Tony Wilson (@byTonyWilson) tweeted, possibly too succinctly on Wednesday night, don’t remember too much publicly consumed imagining of Jeanette riding John…
No, they did not. And for that I give thanks.