Miriam Margolyes – Almost Australian, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Director Liz Allen.
Posted by celticman on Sat, 25 Jul 2020
Miriam Margolyes has done England, she’s done Trump’s United States and now she’s been sent on another two month road trip to see how Australia works (or doesn’t). Honeyed days indeed for an 82-year-old ‘fat, Jewish, lesbian’ (her words). Same old faces, popping up everywhere. I like the idea of Miriam Margolyes being unshakeable and having shock value, but this just seems like more jobs for the boys, although of course she’s not and it’s some time since she’s been a girl. The three-part series hangs on the idea that she has acquired Australian citizenship.
A line-up of citizens carefully chosen to offer some kind of insight meets Miriam, briefly. Have their say and she moves on to the next staging post.
In Bondi, Miriam meets Monika Tu. Monika Tu sells real-estate to the booming Chinese market. China today is set to overtake America as the richest and most dynamic nation on earth. China is now, where America was after the First World War. That means tens of millions of prosperous middle-class customers hoping to get on and, whisper it, perhaps, get out. Monika Tu is a millionaire; she sells them the gated communities and properties you’d expect the rich to live in. Does Miriam discover anything here? No.
Miriam heads west and meets a middle-aged woman living in a camper van. Here we’re juxtaposing the rich incomers with the poor, over-fifties women who make up the fastest growing group of homeless. But the lady Miriam meets loves her way of live. But it might have been more interesting if the producers had found the woman living in a car that was mentioned that perhaps doesn’t love her live so much. Does Miriam discover anything here? Yeh, she doesn’t want to live in home with a compost toilet and shower, which is a tap with a hose. Freedom without a mortgage has a cost and the grey ghosts are those without retirement money to put down roots. 155 000 and counting.
In some parts of Eastern Australia it hasn’t rained for three years. The worst drought since 1931, which lasted three years, like now—and counting. A hard land, made of swirling dust. In Trundle, businesses are closing. The farms surrounding it bear the weight of the drought. Four-generation farmers forced to shoot livestock because they can’t afford the feed. She asks Ron and Dolly’s eldest son, aged 9 and a bit, if he’s heard of global warming. He shakes his head, kinda has, but remains optimistic. That’s the saddest part, his optimism. It won’t get worse before it gets better, as it did in the thirties. It’ll just get worse and worse. Does Miriam discover anything here? No. Smoke and mirrors. Drive on. Get out, fast.
Miriam returns to Melbourne, where she has happy memories of having lived and loved. She meets Lidia Thorpe and her daugher, an indigenous activist (second of third-generation) that has been elected to Parliament. She tells Miriam, the Australian dream is based on genocide. True, but nobody really listens.
Miriam moves on to rural Victorian town of Nhill, whose major industry is based on slaughtering ducks (and chickens). Locals weren’t keen to work in the abattoir, so the owners imported immigrants that were happy to work for them. Miriam meets Tha-Blay Sher at his luxurious home, with his family and boss looking on as they share a meal that’s not duck stolen from the factory floor, but indigenous food of the Karen. Tha-Blay Sher is serving. They came to Australia from Burma and the refugee camps bordering Thailand. Miriam is told by Tha-Blay’s daughter, Tha-Blay is one of many Karen refugees who now work and live in Nhill after being stateless in their country of origin. Obviously, they are delighted to have Australian citizenship. Obviously, they are delighted not to be in a refugee camp. When they stop being so delighted, maybe we’ll learn something new.
In her last stop, Miriam goes into Vinnies department store, ostensibly, searching for a Pyrex dish, with a film crew following her. She accidentally, on purpose, bumps into Moj that works in the store. He explains as a kid he arrived in Australia in a boat and he couldn’t speak English, he was around fifteen, but didn’t know for sure, because he didn’t have a birth certificate. He’s been here ten years and he’s twenty-five; his mum and dad were killed in Afghanistan. He has no family. He may be deported. The Australian dream is only for some. Miriam wishes him well. I do too. Does it help? No. Miriam will plug on, regardless. The Australian Dream has a sell-by date and is only for some.
I wonder where the BBC mandarins will send her next? Mars isn’t very far. Maybe the earth will have cooled down by then.