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One of Australia’s most liked and respected actresses has delivered a scathing indictment of media – of every kind – in her Hector Crawford Memorial Lecture, addressing the country’s screen producers at their annual conference on the Gold Coast, on Wednesday, November 13, 2007. This is an edited extract.

Deep down, we all want and need to feel connected and peaceful. Today’s technology promises that it will provide us with never before enjoyed opportunities to communicate and to have the world at our fingertips. So why have we sat back and allowed the media to be so degraded? We’ve got more options for viewing than ever and not much worth watching. We‘ve been asleep at the wheel, and we’ve been split from our essential humanness by market forces.

Hugh MacKay, in a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, entitled “Waking Up Scratchy from the Dreamy Period”, described the depth of the torpor we’ve been in, disengaged, seeking the therapy of distraction from uncertainties and anxieties about the present world. He wrote: “Faced with the threat of international terrorism, we curled up into little balls of self absorption, faced with Iraq, we turned on the barbie, faced with bad news on TV, we switched to programmes about home renovations and backyards”.

And while we’ve been asleep, the commercial imperative has replaced the creative spirit, to the point where we now have a generation of kids who believe that unless it’s for sale, it’s not worth having.

Well, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap”. It’s my contention that most of the well documented problems kids today have are a direct result of their being bombarded, on a daily basis, by the popular media’s increasing focus on commercial values rather than creative ones, by the conflation of true psychological needs with wants, by the lauding of celebrity over actual achievement or contribution, and by their constant exposure to examples of our basest behavioural instincts.

"Millions of dollars are poured into making junk palatable"

Millions of dollars are poured into making junk palatable. Bells and whistles, garish sets, flashy cutting, wobbly cameras, usually utilized for no apparent reason, try to disguise the fact that the emperor’s got no clothes. My mother was a vaudeville performer in England before the Second World War, and she used to tell me that the lousy acts on the bill used lots of tricky lighting. The good ones just stood in the spotlight and did it. We haven’t come a long way, baby.

Instead of celebrating the best of everything, the mainstream media fixate on the worst – the most violent, the most dysfunctional, the stupidest. Keeping up appearances, the way you look, the accessories you have, the power you wield … these have become the measures of worth. Rather than uniting people, the media divide and alienate us, through fear, jealousy and cynicism. Depression, anxiety, addictions and personality disorders are now affecting teenagers, and even younger children, whereas not so long ago, these afflictions were more likely to manifest in people in their thirties. Kids are suffering mid-life crises in their teen years, because they’re being forced to cope with too much, too soon. We are failing our children and ourselves on a grand scale.

Published November 14, 2007

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Noni Hazlehurst

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