Harry and Meghan’s big day was such a media roadblock in Australia that there were about fifteen hours when it was almost impossible to go online or watch TV here without seeing a bit of it. But I succeeded, just as 37 years ago I was the only person in British Columbia, where I was then living, who didn’t stay up all night to watch the marriage of Harry’s mum.
Since the Barnaby and Vikki interview was the exclusive domain of just one network, then, I assumed it would be much easier to avoid, and such was my intention when I got up last Sunday. But then I made the mistake of buying a newspaper, and by mid-afternoon my resistance was melting like a Gaytime at Bondi, and at 8.30 pm I found myself – as you probably did – reaching for the remote.
Even then I only meant to slum it on Seven for a few minutes – just long enough, as I told myself, to assess the siren qualities of the woman for whom our erstwhile deputy PM has given up so much – before switching back to my Foxtel recording of the NSW Waratahs giving the Queensland Reds the thrashing they so richly deserved.
But while I’ve never been the kind of driver who slows down at accidents, that Sunday night morbid curiosity got the better of me and I didn’t just slow down; I pulled over and parked up for the duration. And you probably did, too, because like me you were sure that, given all the hype, one of these star-crossed lovers would at some point say something about their affair which you didn’t already know. Which just goes to show how hopelessly wrong we can both be.
The only revealing thing about the interview, in fact, is what a pitifully small fee its subjects agreed to for providing Seven with what was hopefully going to be a ratings bonanza.
Since Barnaby’s support for gender equality is also a matter of public record, we can assume that he and Ms Campion split that $150,000 down the middle. But Barnaby’s higher tax bracket means he’ll probably net something south of 40k, and while his intention to put the money towards the lad’s education is commendable he’s in for a shock if he’s thinking about a private school, where right now it wouldn’t get him much further than Year 7.
This is one showbiz contract, then, that certainly does not bear the fingerprints of Max Markson. Which leads us to the inescapable conclusion that they really didn’t do it for the money, and they really are in love.
And while it is very sad that Mr Joyce’s marriage has failed, there is every reason to suppose that the union he now has with Ms Campion, being forged in the workplace, and in the distinctly un-fairy-tale-like surroundings of Canberra, will endure. Can as much be said about the co-stars of the no-expense-spared Disney fantasy that beamed out from St George’s Chapel a couple of weeks earlier?
The other highlight of my TV week was episode 7 of season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale. I didn’t warm to sneery Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men, and found her portrayal of a sneery Kiwi cop in Top of the Lake less than convincing. But in the role of a handmaid she’s completely brilliant, not least because most of the time all it requires her to do is sneer – usually out of windows at corpses. The corpses are also very convincing, it has to be said. It’s only the premise of the series which strains credibility. The novel which inspired it was first published in 1985, when grandparents still remembered fascism and parents still remembered the Sixties and the prospect of the extreme right taking control of a Western democracy at some point in their children’s lives must still have seemed feasible – especially in a Western democracy where religion still had a strong influence. But since then the only societies which have come close to realising Margaret Atwood’s dystopian vision of female oppression – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia – are anything but democratic, and in modern America, where the march of the liberal Left through most institutions has been as unrelenting and successful as anywhere, the idea of even the mildest kind of political incorrectness getting any kind of long-term traction is, well, stranger than fiction.
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