KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Column: Film and TV

Kony 2012: The film of the year and why

by Brad Nguyen , December 12, 20124 Comments

Kony 2012 is the film of the year in the same way that Nancy Gibbs, writing in Time magazine in 1999, argued that Hitler was the person of the century. It is by no means the best film released in 2012, but more than any other film this year it provided a brutally accurate gauge of our current ideologico-aesthetic climate.

Purportedly a social experiment to encourage young social media-literate people to ‘do something’ about the plight of child soldiers in Uganda, Kony 2012 was endlessly re-blogged and shared when it first appeared online in March but is now considered an embarrassing event we’d probably like to forget.

We now have a better idea of the utter corruptness of the forces behind Kony 2012 – the shady financial record of Invisible Children, the charity that produced the film; their support for the Ugandan government, itself guilty of serious human rights abuses; their advocacy for US military intervention in Uganda; the employment by US private security forces of former Ugandan child soldiers to fight as mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan; US concern over China’s growing economic influence in Uganda. But it shouldn’t be forgotten just how effective the film was in seducing us with its canny manipulation of youth culture, the drive for a global community, child-like whimsy and Apple Inc. utopianism.

This is basically the story of 2012 – the exploitation of liberal sentiment by forces of capital. The queer punk filmmaker Bruce LaBruce wrote an amusing article recently for VICE entitled ‘Beware the Bieber’ in which he argued that Justin Bieber functions as a deceptive and fuzzy icon, perpetuating the myth of Canada as a liberal utopia when in actual fact it is an imperialist force with one of the worst environmental records of developed countries, and with a demonstrated hostility towards immigrants. (Though really, Bieber, as far as the role he plays in LaBruce’s argument, is easily interchangeable with Arcade Fire, Seth Rogen, Broken Social Scene or anything else that gives us the impression of Canada as a country of laid-back peaceniks.)

This same kind of story played out in Australian politics when a video of Julia Gillard berating Tony Abbott went viral, making Gillard a kind of feminist hero when on the same day she cut welfare payments for low-income single mothers.

The Gillard story played out after the US elections when Twitter collectively cooed over a photo posted from Barack Obama’s account of the President hugging his wife. The Administration of this guy—Nobel Prize-winning President no less—would nevertheless stand firm behind Israel as it brutally bombed the people of Gaza.

The story played out with Melbourne Music Week, a 3-year-old initiative designed to demonstrate the State government’s support for Melbourne’s music scene, when in fact nothing substantial has been done to address the damaging liquor licensing laws that prompted the monumental SLAM rally in 2010 and funding to the contemporary music sector has been severely slashed. The government has conceded nothing in the way of structural support for our music culture, hoping that the city would content itself with an ephemeral carnival.

Some may accuse this argument of being too cynical. Isn’t raising awareness about child soldiers in Uganda a good thing? Isn’t celebrating a woman standing up to an unashamed sexist man a good thing? Isn’t Barack Obama a better choice than Romney? Isn’t Melbourne Music Week a chance to highlight genuinely talented and passionate people? The answer is yes to all this, but when all this is given with the left hand by players who take much, much more with the right, we should not lose our critical faculties.

The problem is not of whether to be cynical or not but that we are all too cynical in the wrong places. We’re cynical about the Occupy movement. We’re cynical about Palestine. We say things like, ‘Both parties are partly to blame so I can’t take sides.’ It seems the only time we feel comfortable taking sides is when the party in question has enough money to hire a graphic designer to hand-craft a whimsical font for its website and a musical supervisor to curate some cool, indie (and hopefully Canadian) bands to accompany the uplifting message in their awareness videos. Today we find ourselves living in a slow food, TED Talks, Steadicam, lo-fi, faux-fi, prosumer, hand-knitted, gluten-free world. Today, we find ourselves living in the year of Kony 2012.

Brad Nguyen (@bradnguyen) is a Killings columnist. He is a Melbourne-based writer, and editor of the film criticism website Screen Machine (www.screenmachine.tv).




  • http://discombobula.blogspot.com Sue

    Berwilliant!

  • Richard Watts

    Actually, Melbourne Music Week is a City of Melbourne initiative, not an event presented by the Victorian State Government – so linking it to the State Govt’s lack of support for the local music industry is a bit of a furphy.

  • Brad N

    True, Richard. But don’t get me started on Robert Doyle and the City of Melbourne!

    Still, the point that I think still holds is that these kind of once-a-year extravaganzas with their big-budget, pop-up venues and bourgeois foodie cross-promotions have little to do with what makes Melbourne’s music culture so strong.

  • ian summerfield

    Kony was good in those Naked Gun movies.

9781926428239

Abigail Ulman

Cold Feet and Hot Little Hands: Abigail Ulman on writing – and not writing – her first book

Post-book deal, every time I sat down to try to write something, I felt paralysed by some kind of literary stage fright. I had shown my work to other people before – for writing workshops, and submissions to literary journals and competitions – but I had never before written a story while thinking This story is going to be published in a book. Or, more accurately, This story idea is nowhere near good enough to be published in a book. Read more »

9781926428239

Sian Campbell

Girlhood and The Woman-Child in Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands

Each of the stories in Hot Little Hands navigates girlhood in some way, from the lives of high school-age teenagers to those of young twentysomething women. ‘Girl things’ such as horse camp, gymnastics, feminised bodies, clothing, periods, crushes, yoga and gossip weave through the fabric of the text. Though the subject matter is often adult – the girls of Hot Little Hands navigate abortion, sex trafficking, young motherhood, drugs, and deportation – the girls themselves are not… even when they technically are. Read more »

Dont-Try-This-at-Home-_-cover_-FINAL1-300x460

James Tierney

Subscriber Stories: Angela Readman’s Don’t Try This At Home

As a subscriber to publisher And Other Stories’ distribution model, I am in the unusual position of reviewing a book – Angela Readman’s short story collection Don’t Try This At Home – that thanks me by name for making its existence possible. Read more »

amy-schumer

Rebecca Shaw

Amy Schumer and the equal right to be funny

I don’t think men should be banned from making jokes about contentious subjects. I am of the belief that anything can and should be laughed about, and if done right, it can be beneficial. But more often, women are doing it right, and women are doing it better. Read more »

womens-home-companion

Kate Iselin

Trivial Pursuits: The media and ‘women’s interests’

Women, especially in public life, exist as a part of men’s worlds – a big part, sure – but still a part. Even as women become more vocal in demanding accurate and respectful representation, we are kept at arms length by a mainstream media which struggles to catch up. Read more »

SGbTsPQ

Rebecca Shaw

Command and Control: Trophy daughters and overprotective dads

There is no doubt that an overprotective parent is better than a parent who couldn’t care less what their child gets up to. And there is no doubt that most overprotective mums and dads are well-meaning. But paternal ‘protectiveness’ shticks often boil down to fathers not wanting their daughters to have sex, and by extension, get pregnant. Read more »

kstew

Joanna di Mattia

Kristen Stewart Through the Looking-Glass

Kristen Stewart is an actress who has been criticised, maligned even, for an acting style that transmits from set to screen as sullen, adolescent, wooden, blank, fidgety and inelegant. But perhaps she’s an actress concerned with authenticity, and the defining feature of her style is to show us herself by appearing like she’s not acting at all. Read more »

it-follows-4

Anwen Crawford

Behind You: The subtler horror of It Follows

I don’t watch many horror films. Lifelong victim of an overactive and slightly morbid imagination, I regularly envisage disasters, natural or otherwise, that might befall me, without requiring the added stimulus of cinema. Read more »

anne-dorval-and-antoine-olivier-pilon-in-xavier-dolans-mommy

Joanna Di Mattia

All About His Mother: Xavier Dolan’s fierce women

Xavier Dolan has created an exuberant body of cinema that privileges women (and others on the margins) as complex, chaotic beings. Dolan’s fierce mothers are cleaved from the pedestal that so much of cinema places them on, so that they may dig around in the dirt that is life. Read more »

Struggle+Street+KEY+IMAGE

Anwen Crawford

Shame and Stigma on Struggle Street

Struggle Street framed poverty as a combination of genetic inheritance and natural disaster – a barrier to be overcome only through ceaseless positive effort. Those who sabotage themselves through bad choices are therefore fair targets for our scorn, while those who gain employment or remain sober deserve praise for overcoming the odds. The deserving and undeserving poor, in other words. What an old story. Read more »

TheSlap_Show

Genevieve Wood

The Slap: What’s lost when a cricket bat becomes a baseball bat?

‘A cricket bat wouldn’t make sense in an American context’, says Tony Ayres, executive producer of the US adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. He’s right, of course – it wouldn’t. But when, in US playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s version, the eponymous slap occurs as the result of a swinging baseball bat, something’s not quite right. Read more »

empire-tv-review-fox

Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

DUKMRUTRHLU31425064919799

Katie Williams

The Currency of Games: The real world cost of in-game purchases

A new item introduced in World of Warcraft lets players purchase a month of playing time for the real-life price of $20, which they can then sell to other players in-game in exchange for virtual currency. It’s an exchange of real money for a virtual currency that has in-game value but none in the physical, ‘real’ world – and it makes me incredibly uneasy. Read more »

Arts House_Image_10c_Oedipus Schmoedipus (post)_Credit – Ellis Parrinder copy

Jane Howard

A Case for Diversity in Theatre

Attracting different audiences to the theatre is about many things. It’s about accessibility for people without high disposable incomes, but it’s also about marketing and publicity; about creating venues which are physically accessible for people with disabilities; and about ensuring the performers on stage are as diverse as we want their audiences to be. Read more »

2909252617_1f456d0c81_b

Jane Howard

A Working-Class Mythology: Ironing boards at the theatre

In theatre, there is perhaps no prop piece more mythologised than the ironing board, which came to signify the birth of contemporary British theatre. Read more »

ForceM6609

Jane Howard

Witness and Connection at Melbourne’s Dance Massive

In a city where it feels not a day goes by without an arts festival, or three, happening, Melbourne’s Dance Massive is resolutely unique. Australia’s largest dance festival is by necessity heavily reliant on Melbourne-based companies and shows that will go on to tour independently of the festival. The festival is undeniably of, and for, the dance sector in Melbourne. Read more »