Thursday, June 08, 2006

Kath, Kel and bogans, again

TV characters Kath and Kel Day-Knight live in the thinly-disguised outer-Melbourne suburb of Fountain Lakes, aka the real Patterson Lakes. Patterson Lakes is a canal-based housing development carved from bayside swamp in the 1980s. It is architecturally homogenous, featuring many McMansions (to use a term unknown in the 80s), and quite homogenous in other ways as well, in that many of its residents (I’m guessing) would be relatively wealthy, from blue-collar (including self-employedly so) backgrounds, and be boomer or older. In other words, Kath and Kel personified (Kim, meanwhile, is the indulged, GenY child-of-boomers, but let’s not go there for now.)

Similar architecture (only sans canals, and extending from the 80s right through to the present) and somewhat similar demographics are also found in abundance in Western Sydney. A noticeable difference, closely connected to its housing stock being newer, is that Western Sydney’s McMansion households are often headed by Xers, in particular, self-employed tradesmen, who have been swimming in well-paid work from the mid-1990s, thanks to a tacit ban on skilled immigrants in their trades. (Tellingly, the only seeming Xers in “Kath and Kim” are perennial victims Brett (Kim’s husband) and Sharon (Kim’s friend), but again, let’s not go there for now.)

Western Sydney is a key cultural playing-field in modern Australia. Most obviously, who holds several once-marginal, now Liberal-held Western Sydney seats almost certainly determines who holds government in Canberra. Populist local MP Jackie Kelly – a sort of Pauline Hanson with a law degree – well-understands this. To its discredit, Labor currently files this fact into its too-hard basket, thus making them a permanently unelectable joke, period.

As I said, Western Sydney also has an interesting divergence from “Kath and Kim”-land in its numbers of Xers. Across Australia, Xer men (in particular) have been generally hammered, in markets including white-collar labour, housing-ownership, and “Is life worth living?”. Western Sydney’s affluent, home-owning Xer tradies are thus an anomaly that would be merely exquisite, if it wasn’t for their raw ballot-box muscle.

GenY (I’m guessing) journalist Mel Campbell is blithe about most of this. Not only does she throw Kath and Kim in alongside Western Sydney’s tradies, as being cashed-up bogans (or “cubs”), she is oblivious to the electoral realities that make Kath and Kim small beer, even as she quotes a direct acknowledgment by PM Howard of his power-base here.

Campbell asks:

Still, what makes cubs so different from the rest of us? Surely most of us have aspirations. And surely we all work hard in order to live in comfort. (same URL)

Actually, this here Xer (and many others, I’m sure), find it easier, and more fulfilling, to laugh at such purportedly-rhetorical questions, than to laugh at “cubs” (or the nouveau-riche, to use a more standard term). Campbell spends her intellectual capital like it was Zimbabwean dollars.

What makes you designate Kim a GenY and Sharon a GenX? Surely Kim and Sharon are best friends from school and are meant to be the same age.
"Surely Kim and Sharon are best friends from school and are meant to be the same age."

I can vaguely remember their school social (?). I more vividly remember, though, how Kim landed Brett, by luring him from right under Sharon’s nose.

While I wouldn't say that being GenX vs Gen-else is a state of mind (and not birth), there is much about Kim's character that strikes me as very early-mid 20s, while Sharon seems a few years older.

One clear difference is in their jobs: Sharon is a menial drudge (nominally, a nurse), while Kim is a do-nothing princess (nominally, a call-centre worker, of course an implausible thing without some super-heavy artistic license).
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