The Shire Gave Me Cancer

The Shire Gave Me Cancer

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“The Shire” is a television program which was aired in Australia in 2012. It was labelled as a “dramality” by Channel Ten, the network in which broadcasted it, due to its combined reality and apparent scripting. It was created by Shine Australia and is centred around the lives of people in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. The television show created extreme controversy and was constantly criticised, resulting in a very wide public sphere (the gathering of people engaged in a debate), before it was cancelled after a mere month of existence.

As somebody who attended high school in the Sutherland Shire, I have to admit that I cringed when viewing this program for the first time. I was admittedly a little amused at the far-fetched language, the characters’ appearances and the general concept that they seemingly wished to portray to the whole of Australia. I remember commuting to work the day after the first episode aired, and the train was a frenzy of people discussing the show. They all gathered together to exchange their opinions on this controversial, yet popular program. Some believed that it was entertaining and enjoyed it due to personal reasons such as the relationships on the show and being able to relate to the location it was set. However, others felt ashamed that people may associate them, as locals of the Sutherland Shire, in the same light the program’s characters were portrayed in.

It was widely known that the Mayor of Sutherland, Carol Provan, was strongly against “The Shire”, which is evident in the article “Sutherland Mayor disowns Shire cast, offends Burwood Mayor” (by Natalie Hambly). Mayor Provan believed the program would degrade and put the area of Sutherland in a negative light. The Mayor of Burwood, John Faker, did not agree with Mayor Provan’s opinion, which is a good example of a mediated public sphere. These two people generated an opinion based political debate, which all citizens had the access and freedom to respond to. The Mayors’ conflicting opinions were bound to have affected the opinions of the general public, which can be seen in the comment section of the above website. This in turn can be classified as a metaphorical gathering of people.

After it aired for the first time, Channel Ten was surprised at the criticism “The Shire” received.  In the article “Ten surprised at the criticism of The Shire” (by the Sydney Morning Herald) the network seemed genuinely puzzled by the criticism and thought that their show was “going to be the next Big Brother.”

“The Shire” was also discussed in elite mediated, and non-dialogical public spheres, and due to the accessibility of the Internet, generated a much wider audience. It was featured in the Herald Sun, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph.  The article “The Shire makes Lara Bingle’s show look like Q&A”  (by Emma Ashton), is an article where the writer goes into detail of the characters’ fake physical attributes, of which could be seen as an issue in respect of promoting insecurity and distorted body image. The thoughts in this article are debated in both positive and negative lights. The article provides details of a Twitter Feed where viewers could express their opinions on the program.  This is an excellent example of the modern day public sphere, where there is a distance in space and time because of the non-dialogical aspect of written communication.

It is obvious that no matter how negatively “The Shire” was perceived, it contributed to many debates in the public sphere. It provoked issues such a body image insecurities, as many of the characters had undergone an extended amount of plastic surgery. Cultural differences were also an issue because, as seen in the above article regarding the Mayors, the Mayor of Sutherland was depicted as “criticising” characters who were “from Burwood”, which offended the Mayor of Burwood. Other issues such as it being too fragmental to a specific audience, too commercialised, too much sexual behaviour, gender equality issues and sexual identity topics were seen throughout the show’s short life span. The combined effect of a mediated public sphere and normal public sphere generated quite a lot of publicity and this talk was being delivered, discussed and debated everywhere!

Below is a video that pretty much sums up everything I have just discussed, and it was ironically aired on the Channel Ten News!

References:

Ashton, E. 2012. ‘The Shire makes Lara Bingle’s show look like Q&A’, Herald Sun, viewed 2 April 2014,
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/the-shire-puts-on-a-sobering-show/story-fndo48ca-1226427265715

BCM110 Lecture and Tutorial notes, 31 March 2014.

Hambly, N. 2012. ‘Sutherland mayor disowns Shire cast, offends Burwood mayor’, Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 2 April 2014,
http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/sutherland-mayor-disowns-shire-cast-offends-burwood-mayor-20120717-227ia.html

McKee, A. 2005. ‘Introduction: the public sphere: an introduction’, Cambridge University Press, viewed 31 March 2014,
http://ereadings.uow.edu.au.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/mckeea2.pdf

SMH.com.au. 2012. ‘Ten surprised at criticism of The Shire’, Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 2 April 2014,
http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/ten-surprised-at-criticism-of-the-shire-20120320-1vhuy.html

Take40.com. 2012. ‘The Shire Axed From Channel 10 – Final Show Announced!’, Take40.com website, viewed 2 April 2014,
http://www.take40.com/news/33932/the-shire-axed-from-channel-10—final-show-announced!

Ten News YouTube Channel. 2012, ‘Controversial show’, viewed 1 April 2014,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qih4VFH0bvM

Twitter.com. TheShire Twitter Feed, Twitter.com website, viewed 2 April 2014,
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23theshire&src=typd

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15 thoughts on “The Shire Gave Me Cancer

  1. Living in the shire myself I remember my high school wouldn’t shut up about the show when it was on air, everyone was really annoyed that we were being portrayed as these ridiculous bogans and bimbos

  2. Ah, Tiarne, your blog has given me such a good chuckle this morning! I’ve followed some of your links: the mayoral dramality seems even better than the apparent ‘soapoperality’ of the show. One of the tweets: “The little popping noises are our brain cells dying. #TheShire @julesschiller”.
    That’s Gold, as they used to say on the Footy Show (another mediated public sphere?).
    Good blog, points well illustrated as to how the producers of a show thought they were trailblazing, thought they’d rate their own socks off. But instead their creation took off with life of it’s own, in an unexpected direction, and ultimately showed itself to be so on-the-nose that they had to can it. And interesting: it probably was trivial, banal shyte, and people probably became lost in their own fragmented lives and opinions, but the debate did happen in a variety of media, both high and low, everyone had an opinion, and lots of those were aired. There was even, ultimately, a consensus.

    1. Thank you so much, Brian for that very well thought of response!! Glad to have given you a good chuckle! I had quite a good time researching this topic. The mayor thing was hilarious and it was even more hilarious that Channel 10 thought their show was going to be the next best thing, when really, people were only watching it because it was so ridiculously mockable. Like you said though, it was debated in the media and that’s all that matters 🙂

  3. Oh how this show embarrassed pretty much all of us from the Shire. I also remember going into work the next day and pretty much anyone you spoke to about it said “I switched it off after the first 5 minutes”. A great example of how a show can cause such debate in the public sphere, and how it is very fragmented in who the show would actually appeal to. In my opinion a massive misjudgement on channel 10’s behalf.
    Well written post and I feel as though you grasped the concept of the public sphere.
    Well done 🙂

    1. It had a huge audience for maybe the first week and then nobody wanted to watch it any more after the initial hype was over! It was a very embarrassing show indeed. I went to Heathcote High School but had finished school at the time the show was aired, but my sisters told me that everyone was talking about it! So much public sphere. Thank you so much for your feedback. I really appreciate it 🙂

  4. I’m also from the Sutherland Shire and I don’t think I could ever forget all the debate and gossip it generated. Everyone would be talking about it at school and people who weren’t from the area would ask me about it too, it was so crazy! A few would be surprised that I came from the Shire and asked me about the show and whether people really acted like that there. Although I barely watched one episode, I felt like I knew enough to know where the show was headed – its eventual demise. I agree, the Mayor debate was really interesting and I think you did an excellent job on your blog post! 🙂

    1. Thank you! Yes, I think that’s what people were scared of most – that others would think that everyone from the Sutherland Shire were just like the people on the show :\ Most of them weren’t even from the Shire! Thank you so much for commenting. I am glad you think it was excellent but we’ll see haha!

  5. This is a great text thats has been seriously debated in the australian mediated public sphere. This post is really well written, you have gone in-depth with your reserach, combining it with a lot of extra sources. I enjoyed reading this post!

  6. I know exactly what you mean – reality televison shows like this.. aren’t really reality! Picking and choosing is the job of the editor. We see things that make us want to stay connected to the show – whats going to happen next. And we have to accept that reality isn’t reality as I wouldn’t be suprised if the majority of reality television shows is scripted. You have such an individual voice while writing and you backed up everything really well. Good work Tiarne! I’ve really enjoyed reading all your blog posts.

    1. Thanks so much Lily! Sometimes it took me awhile to think about what to write but hopefully my writing came across easy to understand, and hopefully relevant to what we were supposed to talk about! There’s only so much reality that can go on when you know that cameras are filing your every move! Thanks so much for your comment, I really appreciate it! 🙂

  7. I remember when this show was being advertised at the Australian version of the Jersey Shore! It’s interesting to hear your take on the ‘dramality’, as you went to high school in the area. I think that the debacle this caused in the public sphere, bought some important issues to surface such as the fact that materialism and superficiality are becoming more and more ingrained into our society. With that aside, it was a pretty ridiculous poorly made show.

    1. Thanks Ebony! Yes it was a very poorly made show. I found it so strange that they wanted to make a show about the sutherland shire. It’s not that interesting. It’s probably one of the weirdest things that has happened. Thanks so much for your feedback!

  8. I totally agree! The name the shire has now because of that show is now for the worst and the fact that they tried to make it ‘realistic’ and ‘unscripted’ only makes things worse! Every time I say I’m from the shire i get the ‘look’ and It’s funny but at the same time it’s damaging for our reputations!

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