Using Arrested Development to satirise Australian politics

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Dialogue from Lucille and Michael from the TV show ‘Arrested Development’ set against photos of Joe Hockey and Malcom Turnbull (original: http://arresteddemocracyaus.tumblr.com/page/2)

What better way to satirise politics in Australia than to set parliament in the fictional world of the Arrested Development TV show – a show centred around the comic misadventures of the dysfunctional Bluth family. This is the case of the clever “Australian politics set to quotes from Arrested Development” tumblr site http://arresteddemocracyaus.tumblr.com/ a satirical site which uses images of Australian politicians with captions from the Arrested Development series.

Why does this site work so well?

1. Securing an audience through the popularity of Arrested Development – you may be exhausted and frustrated by the nature of politics in Australia, but if you are a fan of Arrested Development it opens up a whole new entry point to laugh at the occasional silliness of politics

2. There is, of course, a long history of this, e.g.: Hitler Downfall mashups, the Harry Potter and what would Dumbledore do political campaign http://thehpalliance.org/action/campaigns/what-would-dumbledore-do/

If we apply some of the points mapped out in the ‘Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture’ paper https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/free_download/9780262513623_Confronting_the_Challenges.pdf we could break down the Arrested Development satire as having the following elements:

  • It is both analysis and commentary
    • Creative Juxtapositions
      • exposes the duplicity, contradictions, confusion patronising and patriarchal Govt in hilarious ways
    • analysis of Arrested Development’s & Govts structure (family figures, a hierarchy, etc)
      • it remains consistent within the AD fictional world
      • aware of genre, narrative & character structure
    • appreciation of emerging structure & potential meanings (in Govt)
      • alternative points of view
    • It is a type of scaffolding
      • for beginning politic cartoonists or comedians it provides a good scaffold to draw on existing content to focus more on making biting political commentary and critique through clever juxtaposition
    • It raises the debate around citizen participation (paraphrasing Jenkins’ thoughts on fan fix writing):
      • mapping emotional and political issues onto pre-existing characters allows young politically minded people to reflect on their own assumptions and thoughts from a certain critical distance and work with issues such as class, race or gender without trying to proceed a stand-alone manifesto or deep autobiographical exploration

Here’s one of my favourite Arrested Development/Oz Politics mashups using an exchange between the characters Stan Sitwell and Gob:

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That’s of course Bill Shorten and Tony Abbot captioned through an exchange between characters from Arrested Development – original: http://arresteddemocracyaus.tumblr.com

Websites:

Original tumblr site here: http://arresteddemocracyaus.tumblr.com/
facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/arresteddemocracyaus
some commentary on its impact here: http://junkee.com/the-new-arrested-democracy-tumblr-is-here-to-fill-the-void/39884

For further analysis and discussion of political satire and pop culture listen in to the 2014-08-28 recording of my radio show Pop Cosmopolitan on Edge radio – available through on demand stream here: http://www.edgeradio.org.au/program/pop-cosmopolitan/restream/

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