Nobody ever wants to break a little child’s heart. That’s why we always offer absurdly exaggerated praise whenever we’re confronted by their perspective-free drawings, failed athletic performances and terrifying Mother’s Day breakfasts.
“Mmmm! That’s delicious, Samantha!” a three-year-old’s mother will bravely claim, choking down Gravox coffee or a pancake dusted with salt instead of sugar. Mother’s Day is truly the year’s cruellest celebration. Dads score Bunnings vouchers or Father’s Day gift cards from Supercheap Auto. By comparison, mums are lucky to get through their particular day without dialling 000.
Tim Blair appears in every Quadrant.
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A loving mother’s desperate encouragement may be detected in media responses to the Yes campaign’s “You’re the Voice” advertisement. The applause for this tragic attempt at an ad, launched in early August, was excessive to the point of desperation.
“The new Yes ad featuring John Farnham’s iconic ‘You’re the Voice’ is an absolute corker,” gushed human rights lawyer Kon Karapanagiotidis, evidently oblivious to the human rights violation of subjecting those of us older than fifty to a second lifetime wave of “You’re the Voice” exposure.
“I cannot wait to vote YES and be on the right side of history,” Kon continued. “History is calling us again and giving us a chance to do what is right once more.”
Keep chewing on that delicious salty pancake, mate. Writer Nikki Gemmell was even less restrained. “This ad makes me so emotional,” she sobbed. “Watching it with tears streaming down my face.”
Me too, Nikki, but for altogether different reasons that I’ll get to in a moment.
Tellingly, Gemmell revealed that the ad restored in her a long-lost fondness for our land: “Yes, yes, yes, to move our nation, unite our nation. It makes me feel Australian, connected as Australian, so proudly, for the first time in years.”
Advertising really does a number on Nikki, who a few years ago became distraught at the closure in Australia of car-maker Holden.
“Best and most beloved car I ever had,” Gemmell wrote at the time, recalling her personal patriotic all-Aussie Holden ownership experience. “My Holden ute took me everywhere … Such a devastating day for a glorious Aussie icon.”
Too bad that her own “glorious Aussie icon” was just a Japanese-made Isuzu with Holden badges on it. And even those badges were probably imported.
The finest “You’re the Voice” ad review of them all, however, came from former BBC correspondent Nick Bryant, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald. In his celebration of the ad and Farnham’s soundtrack, Bryant presented a British fellow’s approval of a song written by four further Brits and performed by a bloke who grew up in Britain—all in the name of Australian Aborigines.
“What makes the Voice advertisement so politically compelling is its harnessing of nostalgic nationalism,” Bryant wrote.
The Voice ad, he went on, “is a statement of progressive patriotism. It counters the notion that the Yes campaign is driven by a loathing of Australia and feelings of elite white guilt. Voting Yes, it suggests, is an expression of national pride …
“A stunningly beautiful advertisement has just taken flight.”
A suggestion: if beauty judge Nick Bryant ever compliments your looks, you’re about five years overdue for complete facial reconstructive surgery. His revered ad is such a monstrosity that it deserves moment-by-moment analysis. Try to not look away:
0:0.01 The problems begin within one-tenth of a second. In the corner of a television screen showing black-and-white footage from the 1967 referendum can be seen a modern colour logo: “Australian Television Archive”. But according to Australian Television Archive owner James Paterson, his company has “nothing to do with the campaign”.
Moreover, Paterson told the Daily Telegraph, his company doesn’t have “any connection whatsoever to the footage our logo was placed on”.
Why is it that absolutely everybody involved in the Yes campaign has such an abysmal command of detail? Why, in fact, did Prime Minister Anthony Albanese prioritise a sweeping absence of detail when launching the Yes campaign? And why do Yes supporters still wonder why this isn’t working?
0:06 Our first glimpse of the Yes family: couch-based Mr Yes is reading the paper in his 1980s house, to be shortly joined by Mrs Yes and their Yes children. One of the daughters uses a cordless remote to change the TV channel. Another detail error: it’s the size of a tissue box. And the TV isn’t a remote model.
0:14 There’s something not quite right about Mr Yes, who appears incapable of expression. Mrs Yes, on the other hand, is rather too animated. At 0:21, as Uluru is returned to its traditional owners, she’s shown rubbing her hands together in pantomime villain glee.
0:36 The steady march of time is indicated by Mr Yes hooking up a home computer for his Yes son. But time’s passage isn’t indicated by Mr Yes himself, who still hasn’t figured out how his face works.
0:41 Despite being teenage girls and therefore having no awareness of anything besides themselves, the Yes daughters are quietly delighted by Eddie Mabo’s 1992 High Court legal victory. Their mother’s genes run strong in this pair.
0:43 It’s April 17, 1993. We know this because Mr Yes and the Yes clan are watching Seven’s coverage of St Kilda playing Collingwood in that year’s fourth-round match at Victoria Park. Mr Yes is wearing his St Kilda jumper (at least three years old, judging by the VFL logo) but as usual shows no emotion.
0:49 He’s resolutely emotionless even when St Kilda’s Nicky Winmar blazes through the centre of the ground and unleashes a soaring drop punt. If the Voice could restore that quality of football, I’d vote Yes in a millisecond.
0:51 Having previously co-opted Bob Hawke—who famously and approvingly said in 1988 that Australia is “a country with no hierarchy of descent”—the ad now shows us the results of PM John Howard’s 1996 firearms buy-back. This whole thing is becoming a montage of approved Boomer lefty trivia night moments.
0:55 Mrs Yes checks her facial paralysis hubby for signs of inner life. Mrs Yes would have better luck with the houseplants.
1:01 Cathy Freeman wins gold in the Sydney Olympics, but cruel editing seems at first to obscure any reaction from Mr Yes. Nanosecond pausing, however, reveals that Mr Yes does in fact achieve a momentary expression before turning away from the screen and applauding his own family.
1:22 It’s back to blankness for Mr Yes as Kevin Rudd apologises to the stolen generations. The Yes son marks this historic episode by guzzling orange juice directly from the container like a pig and daring his useless Yes dad to do anything about it.
1:30 Nothing important happens for the Yes family until they gather several years later to watch NRL great Johnathan Thurston play in an Indigenous All-Stars game. Which the Yes family do during the day, although the game was played at night.
1:32 Now elderly, Mr Yes has suddenly gained full facial mobility but is otherwise in sad decline. The bewildered fellow is engrossed in NRL while wearing a St Kilda jumper that is old enough to vote.
1:47 It’s 2017, and time for same-sex marriage! The extended Yes family clusters around a kitchen laptop to watch the vote come in, with grouchy Grandad Yes surrounded by pro-gay youngsters. His frowny response is lovingly brushed aside by a granddaughter who knows the good-hearted old coot will come good in the end.
1:50 We’re right up to the present day, in which a Yes grandson is so bored by his family that he prefers watching a YouTube clip of Professor Megan Davis. Her speech is unfortunately undated, so we don’t know if the Uluru Statement from the Heart was at that time more than a dozen pages long or just the single piece of A4.
2:09 Grandma Yes, the racial justice trailblazer who decades earlier was ecstatic about Uluru, astonishingly requires thinking time to consider her Voice vote. Granddad Yes—working outside on an old lawnmower, which he’s trying to turn into a lesbian—is caught by the same contemplative spirit. Either that or he’s surprised by the sound of his own doorbell.
2:19 The whole family rocks up to Granddad Yes’s assisted living unit and leads him away to vote. (His wife, who is with the family, apparently still lives on the outside.) You can tell it’s a gated and secure assisted living unit because Granddad walks away without closing the door. He wouldn’t be trying that in Bourke.
2:35 Touchingly, just as the family enters the local primary school polling booth, a granddaughter hands Grandma Yes a folded piece of paper. Granny opens it to discover her teen grandchild has—in the manner of a kindergarten student—drawn the word “Yes” and surrounded it with a few sparkly stickers.
We don’t see what happens next. Presumably they all vote, and then the backwards granddaughter is placed in NDIS care. Farnham tunes play over the facility’s speaker system. Her mother drops by to tell her how well she looks.