https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/feed M/C Journal 2021-03-13T05:49:40+00:00 Axel Bruns editor@media-culture.org.au Open Journal Systems <h1>M/C Journal</h1> <p><em>M/C Journal</em> was founded (as "M/C – A Journal of Media and Culture") in 1998 as a place of public intellectualism analysing and critiquing the meeting of media and culture. <em>M/C Journal</em> is a fully blind-, peer-reviewed academic journal, open to submissions from anyone. We take seriously the need to move ideas outward, so that our cultural debates may have some resonance with wider political and cultural interests. Each issue is organised around a one-word theme (<a href="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/archive">see our past issues</a>), and is edited by one or more guest editors with a particular interest in that theme. Each issue has a feature article which engages with the theme in some detail, followed by several shorter articles.</p> https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2749 The Canberra Bubble 2021-02-14T04:25:38+00:00 Angelika Heurich aheurich@myune.edu.au Jo Coghlan jo.coghlan@une.edu.au <p>According to the ABC television program <em>Four Corners,</em> “Parliament House in Canberra is a hotbed of political intrigue and high tension … . It’s known as the ‘Canberra Bubble’ and it operates in an atmosphere that seems far removed from how modern Australian workplaces are expected to function.”</p> <p>The term “Canberra Bubble” morphed to its current definition from 2001, although it existed in other forms before this. Its use has increased since 2015, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison regularly referring to it when attempting to deflect from turmoil within, or focus on, his Coalition government (Gwynn). “Canberra Bubble” was selected as the 2018 “Word of the Year” by the Australian National Dictionary Centre, defined as “referring to the idea that federal politicians, bureaucracy, and political journalists are obsessed with the goings-on in Canberra (rather than the everyday concerns of Australians)” (Gwynn).</p> <p>In November 2020, <em>Four Corners</em> aired an investigation into the behaviour of top government ministers, including Attorney-General Christian Porter, Minister Alan Tudge, and former Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party Barnaby Joyce; entitled “<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/inside-the-canberra-bubble/12864676">Inside the Canberra Bubble</a>”. The program’s reporter, Louise Milligan, observed:</p> <blockquote> <p>there’s a strong but unofficial tradition in federal politics of what happens in Canberra, stays in Canberra. Politicians, political staff and media operate in what’s known as ‘The Canberra Bubble’. Along with the political gamesmanship, there’s a heady, permissive culture and that culture can be toxic for women.</p> </blockquote> <p>The program acknowledged that parliamentary culture included the belief that politicians’ private lives were not open to public scrutiny. However, this leaves many women working in Parliament House feeling that such silence allows inappropriate behaviour and sexism to “thrive” in the “culture of silence” (<em>Four Corners</em>).</p> <p>Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was interviewed for the <em>Four Corners</em> program, acknowledged: “there is always a power imbalance between the boss and somebody who works for them, the younger and more junior they are, the more extreme that power imbalance is. And of course, Ministers essentially have the power to hire and fire their staff, so they’ve got enormous power.” He equates this to past culture in large corporations; a culture that has seen changes in business, but not in the federal parliament. It is the latter place that is a toxic bubble for women.</p> <h1><strong>A Woman Problem in the Bubble</strong></h1> <p>Louise Milligan reported: “the Liberal Party has been grappling with what’s been described as a ‘women problem’ for several years, with accusations of endemic sexism.” The underrepresentation of women in the current government sees them holding only seven of the 30 current ministerial positions. The Liberal Party has fewer women in the House of Representatives now than it did 20 years ago, while the Labor Party has doubled the number of women in its ranks. When asked his view on the “woman problem”, Malcolm Turnbull replied: “well I think women have got a problem with the Liberal Party. It’s probably a better way of putting it … . The party does not have enough women MPs and Senators … . It is seen as being very blokey.” Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in March 2019: “we want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise, only on the basis of others doing worse” (<em>Four Corners</em>); with “others” seen as a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/08/scott-morrison-wants-women-to-rise-but-not-solely-at-expense-of-others">reference to men</a>.</p> <p>The Liberal Party’s “woman problem” has been widely discussed in recent years, both in relation to the low numbers of women in its parliamentary representation and in its behaviour towards women. These claims were evident in an <a href="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1498">article</a> highlighting allegations of bullying by Member of Parliament (MP) Julia Banks, which led to her resignation from the Liberal Party in 2018. Banks’s move to the crossbench as an Independent was followed by the departure from politics of senior Liberal MP and former Deputy Leader Julie Bishop and three other female Liberal MPs prior to the 2019 federal election. For resigning Liberal MP Linda Reynolds, the tumultuous change of leadership in the Liberal Party on 24 August 2018, when Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, left her to say: “I do not recognise my party at the moment. I do not recognise the values. I do not recognise the bullying and intimidation that has gone on.” Bishop observed on 5 September: “it’s evident that there is an acceptance of a level of behaviour in Canberra that would not be tolerated in any other workplace.” And in her resignation speech on 27 November, Banks stated: “Often, when good women call out or are subjected to bad behaviour, the reprisals, backlash and commentary portrays them as the bad ones – the liar, the troublemaker, the emotionally unstable or weak, or someone who should be silenced” (<em>Four Corners</em>).</p> <p>Rachel Miller is a former senior Liberal staffer who worked for nine years in Parliament House. She admitted to having a consensual relationship with MP Alan Tudge. Both were married at the time. Her reason for “blowing the whistle” was not about the relationship itself, rather the culture built on an imbalance of power that she experienced and witnessed, particularly when endeavouring to end the relationship with Tudge. This saw her moving from Tudge’s office to that of Michaelia Cash, eventually being demoted and finally resigning. Miller refused to accept the Canberra bubble “culture of just putting your head down and not getting involved”.</p> <p>The <em>Four Corners</em> story also highlighted the historical behaviour of Attorney-General Christian Porter and his attitude towards women over several decades. Milligan reported:</p> <blockquote> <p>in the course of this investigation, <em>Four Corners</em> has spoken to dozens of former and currently serving staffers, politicians, and members of the legal profession. Many have worked within, or voted for, the Liberal Party. And many have volunteered examples of what they believe is inappropriate conduct by Christian Porter – including being drunk in public and making unwanted advances to women.</p> </blockquote> <p>Lawyer Josh Bornstein told <em>Four Corners</em> that the role of Attorney-General “occupies a unique role … as the first law officer of the country”, having a position in both the legal system and in politics. It is his view that this comes with a requirement for the Attorney-General “to be impeccable in terms of personal and political behaviour”. Milligan asserts that Porter’s role as “the nation’s chief law officer, includes implementing rules to protect women”.</p> <p>A historical review of Porter’s behaviour and attitude towards women was provided to <em>Four Corners</em> by barrister Kathleen Foley and debating colleague from 1987, Jo Dyer. Dyer described Porter as “very charming … very confident … Christian was quite slick … he had an air of entitlement … that I think was born of the privilege from which he came”. Foley has known Porter since she was sixteen, including at university and later when both were at the State Solicitors’ Office in Western Australia, and her impression was that Porter possessed a “dominant personality”. She said that many expected him to become a “powerful person one day” partly due to his father being “a Liberal Party powerbroker”, and that Porter had aspirations to become Prime Minister. She observed: “I’ve known him to be someone who was in my opinion, and based on what I saw, deeply sexist and actually misogynist in his treatment of women, in the way that he spoke about women.” Foley added: “for a long time, Christian has benefited from the silence around his conduct and his behaviour, and the silence has meant that his behaviour has been tolerated … . I’m here because I don’t think that his behaviour should be tolerated, and it is not acceptable.”</p> <p>Miller told the <em>Four Corners</em> program that she and others, including journalists, had observed Porter being “very intimate” with a young woman. Milligan noted that Porter “had a wife and toddler at home in Perth”, while Miller found the incident “quite confronting … in such a public space … . I was quite surprised by the behaviour and … it was definitely a step too far”. The incident was confirmed to <em>Four Corners</em> by “five other people, including Coalition staffers”. However, in 2017 the “Public Bar incident remained inside the Canberra bubble – it never leaked”, reports Milligan.</p> <p>In response to the exposure of Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce’s relationship with a member of his staff, Malcolm Turnbull changed the Code of Ministerial Standards (February 2018) for members of the Coalition Government (Liberal and National Parties). Labelled by many media as the “bonk ban”, the new code banned sexual relationships between ministers and their staff. Turnbull stopped short of asking Joyce to resign (Yaxley), however, Joyce stepped down as Leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister shortly after the code was amended.</p> <p>Turnbull has conceded that the Joyce affair was the catalyst for implementing changes to ministerial standards (<em>Four Corners</em>). He was also aware of other incidents, including the behaviour of Christian Porter and claims he spoke with Porter in 2017, when concerns were raised about Porter’s behaviour. In what Turnbull acknowledges to be a stressful working environment, the ‘Canberra bubble’ is exacerbated by long hours, alcohol, and being away from family; this leads some members to a loss of standards in behaviour, particularly in relation to how women are viewed. This seems to blame the ‘bubble’ rather than acknowledge poor behaviour. Despite the allegations of improper behaviour against Porter, in 2017 Turnbull appointed Porter Attorney-General.</p> <p>Describing the atmosphere in the Canberra bubble, Miller concedes that not “all men are predators and [not] all women are victims”. She adds that a “work hard, play hard … gung ho mentality” in a “highly sexualised environment” sees senior men not being called out for behaviour, creating the perception that they are “almost beyond reproach [and it’s] something they can get away with”. Turnbull observes: “the attitudes to women and the lack of respect … of women in many quarters … reminds me of the corporate scene … 40 years ago. It’s just not modern Australia” (<em>Four Corners</em>).</p> <p>In a disclaimer about the program, Milligan stated:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Four Corners </em>does not suggest only Liberal politicians cross this line. But the Liberal Party is in government. And the Liberal politicians in question are Ministers of the Crown. All ministers must now abide by Ministerial Standards set down by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2018. They say: ‘Serving the Australian people as Ministers ... is an honour and comes with expectations to act at all times to the highest possible standards of probity.’ They also prohibit Ministers from having sexual relations with staff. </p> </blockquote> <p>Both Tudge and Porter were sent requests by <em>Four Corners</em> for interviews and answers to detailed questions prior to the program going to air. Tudge did not respond and Porter provided a brief <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/inside-the-canberra-bubble/12864676">statement</a> in regards to his meeting with Malcolm Turnbull, denying that he had been questioned about allegations of his conduct as reported by <em>Four Corners </em>and that other matters had been discussed.</p> <h1><strong>Reactions to the <em>Four Corners</em> Program</strong></h1> <p>Responses to the program via mainstream media and on social media were intense, ranging from outrage at the behaviour of ministers on the program, to outrage that the program had aired the private lives of government ministers, with questions as to whether this was in the public interest. Porter himself disputed allegations of his behaviour aired in the program, labelling the claims as “totally false” and said he was considering legal options for “defamation” (Maiden). However, in a subsequent radio interview, Porter said “he did not want a legal battle to distract from his role” as a government minister (Moore). Commenting on the meeting he had with Turnbull in 2017, Porter asserted that Turnbull had not spoken to him about the alleged behaviour and that Turnbull “often summoned ministers in frustration about the amount of detail leaking from his Cabinet.” Porter also questioned the comments made by Dyer and Foley, saying he had not had contact with them “for decades” (Maiden). Yet, in a statement provided to the <em>West Australian </em>after the program aired, Porter admitted that Turnbull had raised the rumours of an incident and Porter had assured him they were unfounded. In a statement he again denied the allegations made in the <em>Four Corners</em> program, but admitted that he had “failed to be a good husband” (Moore). In a brief media release following the program, Tudge stated: “I regret my actions immensely and the hurt it caused my family. I also regret the hurt that Ms. Miller has experienced” (Grattan).</p> <p>Following the <em>Four Corners</em> story, Scott Morrison and Anne Ruston, the Minister for Families and Social Services, held a media conference to respond to the allegations raised by the program. Ruston was asked about her views of the treatment of women within the Liberal Party. However, she was cut off by Morrison who aired his grievance about the use of the term “bonk ban” by journalists, when referring to the ban on ministers having sexual relations with their staff. This interruption of a female minister responding to a question directed at her about allegations of misogyny drew world-wide attention. Ruston went on to reply that she felt “wholly supported” as a member of the party and in her Cabinet position. The <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-11/scott-morrison-anne-ruston-liberal-party-government/12873158">video</a> of the incident resulted in a backlash on social media. Ruston was asked about being cut off by the Prime Minister at subsequent media interviews and said she believed it to be “an entirely appropriate intervention” and reiterated her own experiences of being fully supported by other members of the Liberal Party (Maasdorp).</p> <h1><strong>Attempts to Silence the ABC</strong></h1> <p>A series of actions by government staff and ministers prior to, and following, the <em>Four Corners</em> program airing confirmed the assumption suggested by Milligan that “what happens in Canberra, stays in Canberra”. In the days leading to the airing of the <em>Four Corners</em> program, members of the federal government contacted ABC Chair Ita Buttrose, ABC Managing Director David Anderson, and other senior staff, criticising the program’s content before its release and questioning whether it was in the public interest. The Executive Producer for the program, Sally Neighbour, <a href="https://twitter.com/neighbour_s/status/1325545916107927552">tweeted</a> about the attempts to have the program cancelled on the day it was to air, and praised ABC management for not acceding to the demands.</p> <p>Anderson <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/nov/09/abc-under-extreme-political-pressure-over-bonk-ban-investigation-four-corners-boss-says">raised his concerns</a> about the emails and calls to ABC senior staff while appearing at Senate estimates and said he found it “extraordinary” (Murphy &amp; Davies). Buttrose also voiced her concerns and presented a <a href="http://about.abc.net.au/speeches/the-abc-democracy-and-the-importance-of-press-freedom/">lecture</a> reinforcing the importance of “the ABC, democracy and the importance of press freedom”. As the public broadcaster, the ABC has a charter under the <em>Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act</em> <em>(1983)</em> (ABC Act), which includes its right to media independence. The attempt by the federal government to influence programming at the ABC was seen as countering this independence.</p> <p>Following the airing of the <em>Four Corners</em> program, the Morrison Government, via Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, again contacted Ita Buttrose by letter, asking how reporting allegations of inappropriate behaviour by ministers was “in the public interest”. Fletcher made the letter public via his Twitter account on the same day. The letter “posed 15 questions to the ABC board requesting an explanation within 14 days as to how the episode complied with the ABC’s code of practice and its statutory obligations to provide accurate and impartial journalism”. Fletcher also admitted that a senior member of his staff had contacted a member of the ABC board prior to the show airing but denied this was “an attempt to lobby the board”. Reportedly the ABC was “considering a response to what it believes is a further attack on its independence” (Visentin &amp; Samios).</p> <h1><strong>A Case of Double Standards</strong></h1> <p>Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells told Milligan (<em>Four Corners</em>) that she believes “values and beliefs are very important” when standing for political office, with a responsibility to electors to “abide by those values and beliefs because ultimately we will be judged by them”. It is her view that “there is an expectation that in service of the Australian public, [politicians] abide by the highest possible conduct and integrity”.</p> <p>Porter has portrayed himself as being a family man, and an advocate for people affected by sexual harassment and concerned about domestic violence. <em>Four Corners</em> included two videos of Porter, the first from June 2020, where he stated: “no-one should have to suffer sexual harassment at work or in any other part of their lives … . The Commonwealth Government takes it very seriously”. In the second recording, from 2015, Porter spoke on the topic of domestic violence, where he advocated ensuring “that young boys understand what a respectful relationship is … what is acceptable and … go on to be good fathers and good husbands”.</p> <p>Tudge and Joyce hold a conservative view of traditional marriage as being between a man and a woman. They made this very evident during the plebiscite on legalising same-sex marriage in 2017. One of Tudge’s statements during the public debate was shown on the <em>Four Corners</em> program, where he said that he had “reservations about changing the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples” as he viewed “marriage as an institution … primarily about creating a bond for the creation, love and care of children. And … if the definition is changed … then the institution itself would potentially be weakened”. Miller responded by confirming that this was the public image Tudge portrayed, however, she was upset, surprised and believed it to be hypocrisy “to hear him … speak in parliament … and express a view that for children to have the right upbringing they need to have a mother and father and a traditional kind of family environment” (<em>Four Corners</em>).</p> <p>Following the outcome to the plebiscite in favour of marriage equality (Evershed), both Tudge and Porter voted to pass the legislation, in line with their electorates, while Joyce abstained from voting on the legislation (against the wishes of his electorate), along with nine other MPs including Scott Morrison (Henderson). Turnbull told Milligan:</p> <blockquote> <p>there’s no question that some of the most trenchant opponents of same-sex marriage, all in the name of traditional marriage, were at the same time enthusiastic practitioners of traditional adultery. As I said many times, this issue of the controversy over same-sex marriage was dripping with hypocrisy and the pools were deepest at the feet of the sanctimonious.</p> </blockquote> <h1><strong>The Bubble Threatens to Burst</strong></h1> <p>On 25 January 2021, the advocate for survivors of sexual assault, Grace Tame, was announced as Australian of the Year. This began a series of events that has the Canberra bubble showing signs of potentially rupturing, or perhaps even imploding, as further allegations of sexual assault emerge. Inspired by the speech of Grace Tame at the awards ceremony and the fact that the Prime Minister was standing beside her, on 15 February 2021, former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins <a href="https://www.news.com.au/national/politics/parliament-house-rocked-by-brittany-higgins-alleged-rape/news-story/fb02a5e95767ac306c51894fe2d63635">disclosed</a> to journalist Samantha Maiden the allegation that she had been raped by a senior staffer in March 2019. Higgins also appeared in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyjkjeoO2o4">television interview</a> with Lisa Wilkinson that evening. The assault allegedly occurred after hours in the office of her boss, then Minister for Defence Industry and current Minister for Defence, Senator Linda Reynolds.</p> <p>Higgins said she reported what had occurred to the Minister and other staff, but felt she was being made to choose between her job and taking the matter to police. The 2019 federal election was called a few weeks later. Although Higgins wanted to continue in her “dream job” at Parliament House, she resigned prior to her disclosure in February 2021. Reynolds and Morrison were questioned extensively on the matter, in parliament and by the media, as to what they knew and when they were informed. Public outrage at the allegations was heightened by conflicting stories of these timelines and of who else knew. Although Reynolds had declared to the Senate that her office had provided full support to Higgins, it was revealed that her original response to the allegations to those in her office on the day of the media publication was to call Higgins a “lying cow”. After another public and media outcry, Reynolds apologised to Higgins (Hitch).</p> <p>Initially avoiding addressing the Higgins allegation directly, Morrison finally stated his empathy for Higgins in a <a href="https://www.pm.gov.au/media/doorstop-interview-australian-parliament-house-act-160221">doorstop media interview</a>, reflecting advice he had received from his wife:</p> <blockquote> <p>Jenny and I spoke last night, and she said to me, "You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?" Jenny has a way of clarifying things, always has.</p> </blockquote> <p>On 3 March 2021, Grace Tame presented a powerful <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJmwOTfjn9U">speech</a> to the National Press Club. She was asked her view on the Prime Minister referring to his role as a father in the case of Brittany Higgins. Morrison’s statement had already enraged the public and certain members of the media, including many female journalists. Tame considered her response, then replied: “It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience. [pause] And actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience.” The statement was met by applause from the gallery and received public acclaim.</p> <p>A further allegation of rape was made public on 27 February 2021, when friends of a deceased woman sent the Prime Minister a full statement from the woman that a current unnamed Cabinet Minister had raped her in 1988, when she was 16 years old (Yu). Morrison was asked whether he had spoken with the Minister, and stated that the Minister had denied the allegations and he saw no need to take further action, and would leave it to the police. New South Wales police subsequently announced that in light of the woman’s death last year, they could not proceed with an investigation and the matter was closed. The name of the woman has not been officially disclosed, however, on the afternoon of 3 March 2021 Attorney-General Christian Porter held a <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-03/christian-porter-press-conference-transcript/13212054">press conference</a> naming himself as the Minister in question and vehemently denied the allegations. In light of the latest allegations, coverage by some journalists has shown the propensity to be complicit in protecting the Canberra bubble, while others (mainly women) endeavour to provide investigative journalistic coverage.</p> <h1><strong>The Outcome to Date</strong></h1> <p>Focus on the behaviour highlighted by “Inside the Canberra Bubble” in November 2020 waned quickly, with journalist Sean Kelly observing:</p> <blockquote> <p>since ABC’s <em>Four Corners</em> broadcast an episode exploring entrenched sexism in Parliament House, and more specifically within the Liberal Party, male politicians have said very, very, very little about it … . The episode in question was broadcast three weeks ago. It’s old news. But in this case that’s the point: every time the issue of sexism in Canberra is raised, it’s quickly rushed past, then forgotten (by men). Nothing happens.</p> </blockquote> <p>As noted earlier, Rachel Miller resigned from her position at Parliament House following the affair with Tudge. Barrister Kathleen Foley had held a position on the Victorian Bar Council, however three days after the <em>Four Corners</em> program went to air, Foley was voted off the council. According to Matilda Boseley from <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/nov/12/barrister-on-four-corners-christian-porter-episode-loses-victorian-bar-council-seat"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, the change of council members was seen more broadly as an effort to remove progressives. Foley has also been vocal about gender issues within the legal profession. With the implementation of the new council, five members held their positions and 16 were replaced, seeing a change from 62 per cent female representation to 32 per cent (Boseley).</p> <p>No action was taken by the Prime Minister in light of the revelations by <em>Four Corners</em>: Christian Porter maintained his position as Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Leader of the House; and Alan Tudge continued as a member of the Federal Cabinet, currently as Minister for Education and Youth. Despite ongoing calls for an independent enquiry into the most recent allegations, and for Porter to stand aside, he continues as Attorney-General, although he has taken sick leave to address mental health impacts of the allegations (<em>ABC News</em>). Reynolds continues to hold the position of Defence Minister following the Higgins allegations, and has also taken sick leave on the advice of her specialist, now extended to after the March 2021 sitting of parliament (Doran).</p> <p>While Scott Morrison stands in support of Porter amid the allegations against him, he has called for an enquiry into the workplace culture of Parliament House. This appears to be in response to claims that a fourth woman was assaulted, allegedly by Higgins’s perpetrator. The enquiry, to be led by Kate Jenkins, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, is focussed on “how to change the culture, how to change the practices, and how to ensure that, in future, we do have the best possible environment for prevention and response” (Murphy). By focussing the narrative of the enquiry on the “culture” of Parliament House, it diverts attention from the allegations of rape by Higgins and against Porter. While the enquiry is broadly welcomed, any outcomes will require more than changes to the workplace: they will require a much broader social change in attitudes towards women.</p> <p>The rage of women, in light of the current gendered political culture, has evolved into a call to action. An initial protest march, planned for outside Parliament House on 15 March 2021, has expanded to rallies in all capital cities and many other towns and cities in Australia. Entitled <a href="https://www.march4justice.com.au/">Women’s March 4 Justice</a>, thousands of people, both women and men, have indicated their intention to participate.</p> <p>It is acknowledged that many residents of Canberra have objected to their entire city being encompassed in the term “Canberra Bubble”. However, the term’s relevance to this current state of affairs reflects the culture of those working in and for the Australian parliament, rather than residents of the city. It also describes the way that those who work in all things related to the federal government carry an apparent assumption that the bubble offers them immunity from the usual behaviour and accountability required of those outside the bubble. It this “bubble” that needs to burst. With a Prime Minister seemingly unable to recognise the hypocrisy of Ministers allegedly acting in ways contrary to “good character”, and for Porter, with ongoing allegations of improper behaviour, as expected for the country’s highest law officer, and in his mishandling of Higgins claims as called out by Tame, the bursting of the “Canberra bubble” may cost him government.</p> <h2>References</h2> <p><em>ABC News. </em>“Christian Porter Denies Historical Rape Allegation.” Transcript. 4 Mar. 2021. 4 Mar. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-03/christian-porter-press-conference-transcript/13212054">https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-03/christian-porter-press-conference-transcript/13212054</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Boseley, Matilda. “Barrister on Four Corners' Christian Porter Episode Loses Victorian Bar Council Seat.” <em>The Guardian</em> 11 Nov. 2020. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/nov/12/barrister-on-four-corners-christian-porter-episode-loses-victorian-bar-council-seat">https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/nov/12/barrister-on-four-corners-christian-porter-episode-loses-victorian-bar-council-seat</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Buttrose, Ita. “The ABC, Democracy and the Importance of Press Freedom.” Lecture. Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. 12 Nov. 2020. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="http://about.abc.net.au/speeches/the-abc-democracy-and-the-importance-of-press-freedom/">http://about.abc.net.au/speeches/the-abc-democracy-and-the-importance-of-press-freedom/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Doran, Matthew. “Linda Reynolds Extends Her Leave.” <em>ABC News</em> 7 Mar. 2021. 7 Mar. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-07/linda-reynolds-extends-her-leave-following-rape-allegation/13224824">https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-07/linda-reynolds-extends-her-leave-following-rape-allegation/13224824</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Evershed, Nick. “Full Results of Australia's Vote for Same-Sex Marriage.” <em>The Guardian</em> 15 Nov. 2017. 10 Dec. 2020. &lt;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/datablog/ng-interactive/2017/nov/15/same-sex-marriage-survey-how-australia-voted-electorate-by-electorate">https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/datablog/ng-interactive/2017/nov/15/same-sex-marriage-survey-how-australia-voted-electorate-by-electorate</a>&gt;.</p> <p><em>Four Corners.</em> “Inside the Canberra Bubble.” ABC Television 9 Nov. 2020. 20 Nov. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/inside-the-canberra-bubble/12864676">https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/inside-the-canberra-bubble/12864676</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Grattan, Michelle. “Porter Rejects Allegations of Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour and Threatens Legal Action.” <em>The Conversation</em> 10 Nov. 2020. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://theconversation.com/porter-rejects-allegations-of-inappropriate-sexual-behaviour-and-threatens-legal-action-after-four-corners-investigation-149774">https://theconversation.com/porter-rejects-allegations-149774</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Gwynn, Mark. “Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2018.” <em>Ozwords</em> 13 Dec. 2018. 10 Dec 2020 &lt;<a href="http://ozwords.org/?p=8643#more-8643">http://ozwords.org/?p=8643#more-8643</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Henderson, Anna. “Same-Sex Marriage: This Is Everyone Who Didn't Vote to Support the Bill.” <em>ABC News</em> 8 Dec. 2017. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-08/same-sex-marriage-who-didnt-vote/9240584">https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-08/same-sex-marriage-who-didnt-vote/9240584</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Heurich, Angelika. “Women in Australian Politics: Maintaining the Rage against the Political Machine”. <em>M/C Journal</em> 22.1 (2019). <a href="https://doi.org/10.5204/mcj.1498">https://doi.org/10.5204/mcj.1498</a>.</p> <p>Hitch, Georgia. “Defence Minister Linda Reynolds Apologises to Brittany Higgins.” <em>ABC News</em> 5 Mar. 2021. 5 Mar. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-05/linda-reynolds-apologises-to-brittany-higgins-lying-cow/13219796">https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-05/linda-reynolds-apologises-to-brittany-higgins-lying-cow/13219796</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Kelly, Sean. “Morrison Should Heed His Own Advice – and Fix His Culture Problem.” <em>Sydney Morning Herald </em>29 Nov. 2020. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/morrison-should-heed-his-own-advice-and-fix-his-culture-problem-20201129-p56iwn.html">https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/morrison-should-heed-his-own-advice-and-fix-his-culture-problem-20201129-p56iwn.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Maasdorp, James. “Scott Morrison Cops Backlash after Interrupting Anne Ruston.” <em>ABC News</em> 11 Nov. 2020. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-11/scott-morrison-anne-ruston-liberal-party-government/12873158">https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-11/scott-morrison-anne-ruston-liberal-party-government/12873158</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Maiden, Samantha. “Christian Porter Hits Back at ‘Totally False’ Claims Aired on Four Corners.” <em>The Australian</em> 10 Nov. 2020. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/current-affairs/christian-porter-hits-back-at-totally-false-claims-aired-on-four-corners/news-story/0bc84b6268268f56d99714fdf8fa9ba2">https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/current-affairs/christian-porter-hits-back-at-totally-false-claims-aired-on-four-corners/news-story/0bc84b6268268f56d99714fdf8fa9ba2</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “Young Staffer Brittany Higgins Says She Was Raped at Parliament House.” <em>News.com.au</em> 15 Sep. 2021. 15 Sep. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.news.com.au/national/politics/parliament-house-rocked-by-brittany-higgins-alleged-rape/news-story/fb02a5e95767ac306c51894fe2d63635">https://www.news.com.au/national/politics/parliament-house-rocked-by-brittany-higgins-alleged-rape/news-story/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Moore, Charlie. “Embattled Minister Christian Porter Admits He Failed to Be 'a Good Husband’.” <em>Daily Mail </em>11 Nov. 2020. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8936197/Christian-Porter-MP-admits-failed-good-husband-parliament.html">https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8936197/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Morrison, Scott. “Doorstop Interview – Parliament House.” Transcript. Prime Minister of Australia. 16 Feb. 2021. 1 Mar. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.pm.gov.au/media/doorstop-interview-australian-parliament-house-act-160221">https://www.pm.gov.au/media/doorstop-interview-australian-parliament-house-act-160221</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Murphy, Katharine. “Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins to Lead Review into Parliament’s Workplace Culture.” <em>The Guardian</em> 5 Mar. 2021. 7 Mar. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/mar/05/sex-discrimination-commissioner-kate-jenkins-to-lead-review-into-parliaments-workplace-culture">https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/mar/05/sex-discrimination-commissioner-kate-jenkins-to-lead-review-into-parliaments-workplace-culture</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Murphy, Katharine, and Anne Davies. “Criticism of Four Corners 'Bonk Ban' Investigation before It Airs 'Extraordinary', ABC Boss Says.” <em>The Guardian</em> 9 Nov. 2020. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/nov/09/abc-under-extreme-political-pressure-over-bonk-ban-investigation-four-corners-boss-says">https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/nov/09/abc-under-extreme-political-pressure-over-bonk-ban-investigation-four-corners-boss-says</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Neighbour, Sally. “The Political Pressure.” <em>Twitter</em> 9 Nov. 2020. 9 Nov. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://twitter.com/neighbour_s/status/1325545916107927552">https://twitter.com/neighbour_s/status/1325545916107927552</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Tame, Grace. Address. National Press Club. 3 Mar. 2021. 3 Mar. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJmwOTfjn9U">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJmwOTfjn9U</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Visentin, Lisa, and Zoe Samios. “Morrison Government Asks ABC to Please Explain Controversial Four Corners Episode.” <em>Sydney Morning Herald</em> 1 Dec. 2020. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/morrison-government-asks-abc-to-please-explain-controversial-four-corners-episode-20201201-p56jg2.html">https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/morrison-government-asks-abc-to-please-explain-controversial-four-corners-episode-20201201-p56jg2.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Wilkinson, Lisa. “Interview with Brittany Higgins.” <em>The Project.</em> Channel 10. 15 Sep. 2021. 16 Sep. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyjkjeoO2o4">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyjkjeoO2o4</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Yaxley, Louise. “Malcolm Turnbull Bans Ministers from Sex with Staffers.” <em>ABC News</em> 15 Feb. 2018. 10 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-15/turnbull-slams-joyce-affair-changes-to-ministerial-standards/9451792">https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-15/turnbull-slams-joyce-affair-changes-to-ministerial-standards/9451792</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Yu, Andi. “Rape Allegation against Cabinet Minister.” <em>The Canberra Times</em> 27 Feb. 2021. 1 Mar. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7145324/rape-allegation-against-cabinet-minister/">https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7145324/rape-allegation-against-cabinet-minister/</a>&gt;.</p> 2021-03-15T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Angelika Heurich, Jo Coghlan https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2746 “Bubbling” the Fourth Age in the Time of COVID-19 2021-02-11T03:08:50+00:00 Jodi Brooks j.brooks@unsw.edu.au Fincina Hopgood fhopgood@une.edu.au <h1><strong>Prelude: 2020 in Words</strong></h1> <p>Each year the Australian National Dictionary Centre, based at the Australian National University (ANU), selects “a word or expression that has gained prominence in the Australian social landscape”. In 2020, “iso” took out first place, with “bubble” following close behind. On the Centre’s <a href="https://slll.cass.anu.edu.au/centres/andc/news/2020-word-year">website</a>, Senior Researcher Mark Gywnn explains that “iso” was selected not only for its flexibility, merrily combining with other words to create new compound words (for instance “being in iso”, doing “iso baking” and putting on “iso weight”), but also because it “stood out as a characteristically Aussie abbreviation” (Australian National Dictionary Centre).</p> <p>Alongside the flexibility of the word “iso” and its affinity with the Australian English tradition of producing and embracing diminutives, iso’s appeal might well be that it does not carry the associations that the word “bubble” has acquired in the time of COVID. While COVID-19 has put many of us in various forms of “iso”, the media imagery—and indeed experiences—of many older people living in residential aged care during COVID has shifted some of the associations of the word “bubble”, heightening its associations with fragility and adding vulnerability and helplessness into the mix.</p> <p>2020 was not the first time “bubble” has appeared in the Australian word of the year list. In 2018 “Canberra bubble” took out the first spot. What interests us about bubble’s runner-up position behind “iso” in 2020’s word of the year is what this might also reveal about the way ideas of independence vs dependence, and youthfulness vs aged underlie and inflect new usages of these words. In the era of COVID-19, the buoyancy of “iso” is tied to its association with a particular kind of Aussie-youth-speak, while the sense of heaviness and negative resonances that now accompany the word bubble are tied to its associations with the experiences of those in aged care.</p> <p>In 2020 “bubble”—a word that has primarily been associated with children and the child-like (bubble baths, bubble tea)—took on new associations and overtones. As the pandemic unfolded, “bubble” also became intertwined with media depictions of and popular discourses around those in later life, many of whom experienced “iso” much more brutally than the easy-Aussie-speak of “iso” would convey. There is much less <em>play</em>—and a lot less mingling—in the Australian National Dictionary Centre description of new uses of the word “bubble”: “a district, region, or a group of people viewed as a closed system, isolating from other districts, regions, or groups as a public health measure to limit the spread of Covid-19”.</p> <p>There have been various kinds of “closed system[s]”, isolated groups and regions constructed in the management of the pandemic, but there is one group—and one kind of location—that has been “bubbled” in quite specific ways. While the sectioning off and isolating of older age people in the name of protecting their health has often been ineffectively—and in some places, disastrously—managed in terms of disease prevention, it has been very effective in reducing the rights and voices of those it acts in the name of. Speaking from Ireland but commenting on the situation in the UK and parts of Europe, Anne Fuchs and colleagues write that “the discursive homogenization and ‘frailing’ of the over 65s meant that people in this category were an object of public discourse rather than participants in the debate” (2). In many instances the “bubbling” of older people, particularly those in aged care residences, has served to both isolate and render largely voiceless the residents of these care homes.</p> <p>Although the global impact of COVID-19 on the aged has been significant, including across many affluent societies, it has been particularly disastrous in Australia. At the time of writing (1 January 2021), of the 909 COVID-related deaths in Australia to date, 693 have been of people aged 80 or over: in other words, more than 75% of COVID-related deaths in Australia have been of people over 80. According to the federal government’s records of <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers#cases-and-deaths-by-age-and-sex">COVID-19 deaths by age group and sex</a>, 685 of these deaths have been of aged care residents. It is not surprising therefore that many speak of the heavy impact of COVID-19 on older people as a form of genocide.</p> <p>Public discourse and government policies and priorities around COVID-19 have thrown into relief and exacerbated some of the deeply troubling ways that older people, particularly those living in aged care residences, are not recognised or treated as “equal partners in our future” (Royal Commission into Aged Care 1). Both the management of and public discourse around COVID-19 have highlighted and escalated the forms of ageism, especially ageism around later life, that have become embedded in Australian culture. In late 2019 the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety released its Interim Report, titled simply <em>Neglect.</em> In the Foreword, the commissioners write:</p> <blockquote> <p>the Australian community generally accepts that older people have earned the chance to enjoy their later years, after many decades of contribution and hard work. Yet the language of public discourse is not respectful towards older people. Rather, it is about burden, encumbrance, obligation and whether taxpayers can afford to pay for the dependence of older people. (Royal Commission into Aged Care 1)</p> </blockquote> <p>Written and released before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Interim Report highlighted the “fundamental fact that our aged care system essentially depersonalises older people” (Royal Commission into Aged Care 6) and identified many ways “the aged care system fails to meet the needs of our older, often very vulnerable, citizens” (Royal Commission into Aged Care 1). In 2020 we saw some of the effects of these failures in the often disastrous mismanagement of disease transmission prevention in many aged care residences in Australia. Equally troubling, the resulting deaths have at times been accompanied by a general acceptance of the loss of so many in later life to COVID-19. The fact that these deaths are often regarded as somehow more inevitable, or as less significant than the deaths of others, is an indication of how deeply “Australia has drifted into an ageist mindset that undervalues older people and limits their possibilities” (Royal Commission into Aged Care 1). It assumes that one’s later-life years are of less significance and value (to oneself, to the community) than one’s younger years.</p> <p>At various times in the pandemic, sizable parts of the global population have been variously asked, advised, or required by their governments to remain within their household or residential “bubble”. These COVID-related “bubbles” are more buoyant for some. Jackie Gulland has written a feminist analysis of the ways that the UK COVID-19 lockdown rules are premised on “neo-liberal assumptions about the family as autonomous and sufficient for the provision of reproductive labour” (330). In many places the requirement to stay within one’s “household bubble” both assumes that the home is safe for all, and that most care and dependency requirements are provided and received within a household. As Gulland’s essay demonstrates, the idea of the household bubble constructs an image or idea of who and what constitutes a household, and which relationships “count”. Drawing on critiques of neo-liberal and able-ist ideas about autonomy by feminist and disability scholars, Gulland “shows how the failure of policymakers to take account of interdependency has made lockdown more difficult for carers and those in receipt of care” (330).</p> <p>In this essay we look at some of the ways that the required and/or imagined COVID-19 bubbles for people in later life are thought of differently to the COVID-19 bubbles that younger, and mixed age, households are imagined as forming. This is particularly the case, we argue, for those in aged care residences. Younger and mixed age COVID bubbles often include extended or linked households (as we will discuss below in relation to the idea of the compassionate bubble) and function as a bubble that can link and enclose. In contrast, COVID bubbles in and for aged care and those in later life, work to isolate and separate. They function as bubbles that close off and shut out, as if placing the older person and older people behind glass (in some cases, quite literally). Likewise, while the COVID-19 bubbles for the “general” population (a category from which those in later life are often excluded) are regarded as temporary structures that will in time be dissolved to re-allow social movement and intermingling, the later life and aged care COVID-19 bubble is imagined very differently. This is because it is overlaid upon a pre-existing conception of later life—and in particular the fourth age—as itself a kind of bubbled existence, a fragile state held somewhat separate and apart from the general population and moving inexorably toward death—a bubble that pops.</p> <h1><strong>Bubbling the Fourth Age</strong></h1> <p>The idea that later life can be divided into different stages and ages has a long history, although the shape, meaning and valuing of different ages in later life is historically specific. Back in the late 1980s the Cambridge historian Peter Laslett proposed that rather than falling into three main stages—childhood, adulthood and old age—there are in fact four stages and that “later life can be divided into a ‘third age’ and a ‘fourth age’” (Gilleard and Higgs, “The Fourth Age” 368). Laslett’s distinction between a third age (active and characterised by personal fulfillment) and a fourth age (for Laslett an age of infirmity) has become increasingly significant in both age studies and in the provision and imagining of aged care. While the third age is increasingly depicted as something that, when managed “successfully”, can expand and fill with rich experiences and rewards (assuming one has the economic and social privilege and mobility to embrace these rich offerings—see Katz and McHugh cited in Zeilig, “Critical Use of Narrative”), the fourth age, on the other hand, is associated with frailty, increased dependence, vulnerability, precarity (see <a href="https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9780203097090.ch33">Lloyd</a>; Gilleard and Higgs; and <a href="https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9780203097090.ch3">Morganroth Gullette</a> on the fourth age).</p> <p>Of course, experiences of vulnerability, dependency and precarity run throughout the life course and cannot be reduced to chronological age. However, the distinction between a third and fourth age tends to assume that once one “leaves” the third age, it is a one-way path to “the three ‘Ds’: decrepitude, dependence, and death” (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK184354/">Laslett</a>). The fourth age becomes associated with those aspects of ageing that are culturally rejected and pushed aside—in particular physical dependence which, as in much able-ist thinking, is rendered abject. As Morganroth Gullette has argued, a “savage contradiction” underlies and fuels this distinction, as “fantasies of the longevity bonanza proliferate alongside growing terrors of living too long” and becoming a “‘burden’” (21). In other words, those aspects of ageing—indeed those aspects of being human—that are seen as undesirable and/or abject are associated with the fourth age and imagined as somehow exclusive to it: they are placed elsewhere, contained in a fourth age “bubble”<em>.</em></p> <p>The understanding of the fourth age as a kind of bubble is evident in and enabled by various kinds of cultural representations and institutional discourses around later life, including the kind of language used (particularly language connoting precarity and fragility and liminality) and recurrent media imagery in which people in their “fourth age” are depicted as mentally and physically out of reach (for instance isolated behind glass). Legislation around the movements of residents, visitors, and staff in aged care residence does not simply <em>create </em>“protective” bubbles around aged care residences but also constructs and imagines these residences and their inhabitants as “bubbled”, removed, and voiceless.</p> <p>Vulnerability, ephemerality, precarity and decline have become increasingly significant in representations of and discourses around ageing. Much of the media coverage of those in later life, particularly those living in aged care residences, has further fuelled what Sally Chivers has called the “nursing home specter” and delivered, in heightened and often spectacularised form, the “life-course narrative that dominant culture provides—an unliveable mind and unrecognizable body, mountainous expense” (Morganroth Gullette, 24).</p> <p>The discourse on ageing is characterised by the use of metaphor and metonymy, of which “the bubble” or “bubbling” is only one notable example. The culture of fear that surrounds the fourth age stems from the presumption that ageing inevitably leads to decay and decline in quality of life, and that the experience of ageing is characterised by various forms of physical and cognitive deterioration, such as dementia. Cultural gerontologist Hannah Zeilig has drawn attention to the pervasive use of metaphors—in both medical journals and mass media reports—to describe the experience of living with dementia. These metaphors attempt to capture and simplify the complexities of being, speaking, and knowing experienced by people with dementia. They are frequently used to communicate these experiences to people who do <em>not</em> live with dementia.</p> <p>The cultural metaphors of dementia are potent examples of ageism. They are not neutral in their connotations or implicit value judgements. These metaphors reveal wider social anxieties around ageing, despite the fact that people in their 40s and 50s can have dementia (Dementia Australia). As Zeilig has pointed out, many of these metaphors have presented a negative framing of dementia, describing the rising numbers of dementia diagnoses in apocalyptic, biblical terms such as “plague”, “crisis”, and “epidemic” (“Cultural Metaphor” 260). While this hyperbole may be grounded in statistics and the realities of an ageing population, it has nevertheless been alarming. This rhetoric has often been a necessary tactic for dementia organisations as part of their efforts to secure media coverage, raise public awareness of dementia, and lobby for increased government and private investment in funding research and support services.</p> <p>Despite these noble intentions, this rhetoric can risk excluding or marginalising the voices of people living with dementia. Some of the metaphors that have been used to describe dementia are particularly dehumanising and stigmatising, such as the perception of Alzheimer’s disease as a form of “living death”. This conception of Alzheimer’s, which Susan M. Behuniak has observed in both scholarly and popular discourse, elicits strong negative emotional responses of revulsion and fear. It constructs people with Alzheimer’s as abject zombie-like figures living a half-life or twilight existence.</p> <p>These trends in dementia discourse that Zeilig and Behuniak identified in the first half of the 2010s are also apparent in media imagery and discourse about older people in the COVID-19 pandemic. Much like the cultural narratives of dementia, these representations often reinforce the fourth age’s association with forms of vulnerability, decline and decay that are rendered abject. In contrast to this negative framing of both dementia and the fourth age, the trope of “living in a bubble” can also present a more ambivalent conception of both living with dementia and, by extension, the sociocultural experience of living in the fourth age during the time of COVID-19.</p> <p>“Bubbling” can serve a protective function for the person living with dementia by reducing sensory overload and cognitive confusion that may lead to anxiety and emotional distress. In dementia care, bubble wands and bubble wrap are two of the most commonly used tools in sensory therapy for reducing anxiety and agitation, and providing comfort (<a href="https://dailycaring.com/6-alzheimers-sensory-activities-reduce-anxiety-without-medication/%3E">DailyCaring</a>). These examples remind us of the materiality of the bubble, which functions as both cultural trope and material condition that affects people’s lives (to borrow from Helen Deutsch and Felicity Nussbaum, cited in Vivian Sobchack’s essay on metaphor and materiality). Within the diversity and range of caring practices encompassed by the trope of “bubbling”, there is clear potential for the bubble to be enabling, rather than disabling, if it is used to enhance quality of life and wellbeing for older people, rather than to separate, marginalise and isolate.</p> <p>Despite the multivalent possibilities of the bubble for enhancing quality of life for people with dementia, the bubble’s association with precarity has been heightened by its deployment to protect older people during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a source of ambivalence around the COVID-19 bubble, a public health response that is acknowledged as having both protective and harmful effects. It involves “bubbling” older people, especially those living in residential care, by physically isolating them and limiting their contact with family and friends to conversations mediated by digital technology or a windowpane. By restricting physical and direct contact with the outside world in order to reduce and contain transmission of the virus, the COVID-19 bubble is intended to protect the physical health of older adults. But as Karra Harrington and Martin J. Sliwinski <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-loneliness-of-social-isolation-can-affect-your-brain-and-raise-dementia-risk-in-older-adults-141752">caution</a>, this can also risk the cognitive health and mental wellbeing of older people by creating social isolation. These concerns about the negative health impacts of the COVID-19 bubble compound the existing popular understanding of late life as isolated and isolating, perpetuating the ageist assumptions that characterise the social imaginary around the fourth age.</p> <h1><strong>Creating Compassionate Bubbles </strong></h1> <p>The distress of separation caused by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions is felt by all generations, not just older people. Recognising the costs to our emotional and mental wellbeing of living in isolation to protect our bodies and our communities from viral invasion, Australian epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws has called for “a compassionate germ bubble”, modelled on New Zealand’s concept of an extended bubble that allows close contacts beyond one household. This alternative approach to “bubbling” is designed to strike a better balance between physical and mental health. <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-the-covid-bubble-concept-and-could-it-work-in-australia-144938">Writing</a> during Melbourne’s strict and prolonged lockdown following a second wave of cases in the winter of 2020, McLaws argued that “a compassionate germ bubble may foster resilience by reducing a sense of isolation for people living alone and friends, extended family and partners distressed by the separation”.</p> <p>There have been a number of creative and compassionate responses to the necessity of the COVID-19 bubble for protecting those most vulnerable to the virus. Aged care residences have developed innovative ways to safely maintain in-person visits and provide opportunities for face-to-face contact between residents and their families and friends. One example reported in the Australian media (Steger) is “<a href="https://thewest.com.au/news/coronavirus/coronavirus-crisis-oryx-communities-aged-care-home-creates-window-of-love-to-help-residents-stay-connected-to-families-ng-b881510245z">The Window of Love</a>” in Perth, which demonstrates the positive potential of the bubble—represented here as a pane of glass bordered by a painted frame—for facilitating social connection and supporting wellbeing despite restrictions on physical contact.</p> <p>The media reporting of these innovations tends to spectacularise the residents of these homes, reinforcing their fragility and vulnerability as they are framed behind plastic or glass. In December 2020, international media outlets <em><a href="https://youtu.be/PypegtO0zFg">The Guardian</a></em>, <em><a href="https://youtu.be/2TJE_dFJjlM">RTE News</a></em>, and <em><a href="https://youtu.be/5QsIowyUau8">Star Media</a></em> posted a Reuters video story on their respective <em>YouTube</em> channels about a “hug bubble” created in an aged care home in Jeumont, France. This inflatable plastic tunnel allows physical touch between those living in the home and those outside it through hermetically sealed sleeves. Separating the resident from their visitors is a clear plastic sheet, which is disinfected by staff in between each visit. Recognising the importance of physical contact for wellbeing, nursing staff reported that the hug bubble has brought comfort to the residents, whose previous contact with family and friends since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 had been limited to video calls or talking through a window.</p> <p>Viewer comments reveal divergent responses to this media story across all three <em>YouTube</em> channels. Some viewers applaud the innovation while others disparage the hug bubble as “cruel” and “disgraceful”. Other comments register viewers’ ambivalence, recognising the good intentions behind the idea while despairing at the need for it. Several comments offer a snapshot of the cynical, often incoherent views about the pandemic commonly found on social media platforms like <em>Facebook</em> and <em>Twitter</em>, while also demonstrating the persistence of ageist attitudes that regard the elderly as a burden. These negative responses are striking in contrast with the positive framing of the original media report, which is presented as a “feel good” human interest story through brief interviews with family members and nursing home staff, reflecting on the residents’ experiences using the hug bubble. This positive framing is reinforced by the gentle music track accompanying the video posted on the <em>RTE News</em> channel.</p> <p>Beyond the institutional context of aged care residences, many families and communities have also engineered solutions to reduce the stress of separation. Craving physical contact after months of isolation, they have embraced the materiality and tactility inherent in the bubble trope. People have improvised using household objects, such as plastic sleeves attached to transparent shower curtains, to build “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wX8W_KZAK0">cuddle curtains</a>”, and “<a href="https://youtu.be/P0oV7y6eM9A">hug machines</a>” to enable safe—and playful—physical contact. These innovations and adaptations tap into the bubble’s playful qualities, while also “going viral” as families document their creativity, delight and joy through their own video stories shared on <em>YouTube</em>.</p> <p>As we move into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with case numbers and the death toll continuing to climb globally, the concept of the COVID-19 bubble and its role in protecting the community will continue to be debated, refined and reconfigured in both public health responses and media discourse. Despite Australia’s relatively good fortune in terms of total number of COVID-related deaths compared to other Western nations such as the US and the UK, the disproportionately high number of deaths among Australians in aged care is a sobering reminder of the systemic failures in Australia’s aged care residences. As we move in and out of periods of social isolation, restrictions and lockdowns, it will become increasingly important to address the mental health impacts of “living in a bubble” and to consider creative, compassionate alternatives that challenge ageism and maintain quality of life for fourth age Australians.</p> <h1 style="text-align: center;">***</h1> <p>As COVID-19 and its management continue to reshape our world(s) and our relations to each other, its impacts continue to be unevenly felt, particularly for those in later life. For this reason, it becomes increasingly important to be alert to the ways in which “bubbling” the fourth age in response to COVID-19 risks reinforcing a homogenising view of older people as vulnerable and isolated, defenceless against viral invasion and voiceless in expressing agency and maintaining social connection.</p> <p>This essay responds to Hannah Zeilig’s earlier call to “radically rethink the ways in which age and ageing have been culturally configured” (“Critical Use of Narrative” 16). One of the purposes of this essay has been to critically assess some of the ways that the relatively new discourse of a fourth age—as somehow both qualitatively and quantifiably different to and separate from the third age—entails a homogenising view of older people. This view has enabled forms of ageism that have often been particularly brutal in their impact during the pandemic.</p> <p>In this essay we have argued that popular conceptions of and public health discourse and policy around the fourth age have often enabled—or, at the very least, supported—forms of ageism. This ageism has been further heightened through both the discourse and the imagery of the COVID-19 bubble. The fourth age, we argued, has often been understood as bubble-like: as a “stage” of life when one is somehow separated from the larger community and culture. The fourth age is configured as physically fragile and precarious, transient and temporary, ephemeral, and enclosed in—and as—its own world. Created in the name of protecting “our most vulnerable”, the bubble in the time of COVID-19 has heightened these pre-existing social anxieties around the fourth age. The challenge, as we move into the second year of the pandemic in Australia, is to find new ways of protecting the health and wellbeing of people in later life, while creating opportunities for connection, agency and play that are supported, rather than hindered, by the COVID-19 bubble.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Australian National Dictionary Centre. “2020 Word of the Year.” Canberra: School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University. 17 Nov. 2020. 12 Jan. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://slll.cass.anu.edu.au/centres/andc/news/2020-word-year">https://slll.cass.anu.edu.au/centres/andc/news/2020-word-year</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Behuniak, Susan M. “The Living Dead? The Construction of People with Alzheimer’s Disease as Zombies.” <em>Ageing &amp; Society</em> 21 (2011): 70–92.</p> <p>Chivers, Sally. “‘Blind People Don’t Run’: Escaping the ‘Nursing Home Specter’ in <em>Children of Nature</em> and <em>Cloudburst</em>.” <em>Journal of Aging Studies</em> 34 (2015): 134–41.</p> <p>“COVID-19 Deaths by Age Group and Sex.” Australian Government Department of Health: Coronovirus (COVID-19) Current Situation and Case Numbers. 1 Jan. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers#cases-and-deaths-by-age-and-sex">https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers#cases-and-deaths-by-age-and-sex</a>&gt;.</p> <p><em>DailyCaring</em>. “6 Alzheimer’s Sensory Activities Reduce Anxiety without Medication.” 12 Jan. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://dailycaring.com/6-alzheimers-sensory-activities-reduce-anxiety-without-medication/">https://dailycaring.com/6-alzheimers-sensory-activities-reduce-anxiety-without-medication/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Dementia Australia. “What Is Dementia?” 12 Jan. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.dementia.org.au/about-dementia/what-is-dementia">https://www.dementia.org.au/about-dementia/what-is-dementia</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Fuchs, Anne, Desmond O'Neill, Mary Cosgrove, and Julia Langbein. “Report on COVID-19 – Reframing Ageing Webinar 12 June 2020.” Preprint. Aug. 2020. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.34508.44161.</p> <p>Gilleard, Chris, and Paul Higgs. “Aging without Agency: Theorizing the Fourth Age.” <em>Aging and Mental Health</em> 14.2 (2010): 121–28.</p> <p>Gilleard, Chris, and Paul Higgs. “Ageing Abjection and Embodiment in the Fourth Age.” <em>Journal of Aging Studies</em> 25.2 (2011): 135–42.</p> <p>Gilleard, Chris, and Paul Higgs. “The Fourth Age and the Concept of a ‘Social Imaginary’: A Theoretical Excursus.” <em>Journal of Aging Studies </em>27 (2013): 368–76.</p> <p>Gulland, Jackie. “Households, Bubbles, and Hugging Grandparents: Caring and Lockdown Rules during COVID-19.” <em>Feminist Legal Studies</em> 28 (2020): 329–39.</p> <p>Harrington, Karra, and Martin J. Sliwinski. “The Loneliness of Social Isolation Can Affect Your Brain and Raise Dementia Risk in Older Adults.” <em>The Conversation</em> 4 Aug. 2020. 12 Jan. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://theconversation.com/the-loneliness-of-social-isolation-can-affect-your-brain-and-raise-dementia-risk-in-older-adults-141752">https://theconversation.com/the-loneliness-of-social-isolation-can-affect-your-brain-and-raise-dementia-risk-in-older-adults-141752</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Laslett, Peter. <em>A Fresh Map of Life: The Emergence of the Third Age</em>. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.</p> <p>Lloyd, Liz. “The Fourth Age.” <a href="https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9780203097090"><em>Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology</em></a>. Eds. Julia Twigg and Wendy Martin. London: Routledge, 2015. 20 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9780203097090.ch33">https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9780203097090.ch33</a>&gt;.</p> <p>McLaws, Mary-Louise. “What Is the COVID ‘Bubble’ Concept, and Could It Work in Australia?” <em>The Conversation</em> 1 Sep. 2020. 12 Jan. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-the-covid-bubble-concept-and-could-it-work-in-australia-144938">https://theconversation.com/what-is-the-covid-bubble-concept-and-could-it-work-in-australia-144938</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Morganroth Gullette, Margaret. “Aged by Culture.” <a href="https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9780203097090"><em>Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology</em></a>. Eds. Julia Twigg and Wendy Martin. London: Routledge, 2015. 28 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9780203097090.ch3">https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9780203097090.ch3</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.<em> Neglect. </em>Interim Report Volume 1. Canberra: Commonwealth Government of Australia, 31 Oct. 2019. 12 Jan. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/publications/interim-report">https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/publications/interim-report</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Sobchack, Vivian. “A Leg to Stand On: Prosthetics, Metaphor, and Materiality.” In <em>The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future</em>. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006. 17–41.</p> <p>Steger, Sarah. “Coronavirus Crisis: Oryx Communities Aged Care Home Creates ‘Window of Love’ to Help Residents Stay Connected to Families.” <em>The West Australian</em> 5 Apr. 2020. 12 Jan. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://thewest.com.au/news/coronavirus/coronavirus-crisis-oryx-communities-aged-care-home-creates-window-of-love-to-help-residents-stay-connected-to-families-ng-b881510245z">https://thewest.com.au/news/coronavirus/coronavirus-crisis-oryx-communities-aged-care-home-creates-window-of-love-to-help-residents-stay-connected-to-families-ng-b881510245z</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Zeilig, Hannah. “The Critical Use of Narrative and Literature in Gerontology.” <em>International Journal of Ageing and Later Life</em> 6.2 (2011): 7-37.</p> <p>———. “Dementia as a Cultural Metaphor.” <em>The Gerontologist</em> 54.2 (2013): 258–67.</p> <p>———. “What Do We Mean When We Talk about Dementia? Exploring Cultural Representations of ‘Dementia’.” <em>Working with Older People</em> 19.1 (2015): 12–20.</p> 2021-03-24T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Dr Fincina Hopgood, Dr Jodi Brooks https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2745 ‘Staying in the Nationalist Bubble’ 2021-01-30T05:32:25+00:00 Xiang Gao xgao5@une.edu.au <h1>Introduction</h1> <p>The highly contagious COVID-19 virus has presented particularly difficult public policy challenges. The relatively late emergence of an effective treatments and vaccines, the structural stresses on health care systems, the lockdowns and the economic dislocations, the evident structural inequalities in effected societies, as well as the difficulty of prevention have tested social and political cohesion. Moreover, the intrusive nature of many prophylactic measures have led to individual liberty and human rights concerns. As noted by the Victorian (Australia) Ombudsman Report on the COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne,</p> <blockquote> <p>we may be tempted, during a crisis, to view human rights as expendable in the pursuit of saving human lives. This thinking can lead to dangerous territory. It is not unlawful to curtail fundamental rights and freedoms when there are compelling reasons for doing so; human rights are inherently and inseparably a consideration of human lives. (5)</p> </blockquote> <p>These difficulties have raised issues about the importance of social or community capital in fighting the pandemic. This article discusses the impacts of social and community capital and other factors on the governmental efforts to combat the spread of infectious disease through the maintenance of social distancing and household ‘bubbles’. It argues that the beneficial effects of social and community capital towards fighting the pandemic, such as mutual respect and empathy, which underpins such public health measures as social distancing, the use of personal protective equipment, and lockdowns in the USA, have been undermined as preventive measures because they have been transmogrified to become a salient aspect of the “culture wars” (Peters). In contrast, states that have relatively lower social capital such a China have been able to more effectively arrest transmission of the disease because the government was been able to generate and personify a nationalist response to the virus and thus generate a more robust social consensus regarding the efforts to combat the disease.</p> <h1>Social Capital and Culture Wars</h1> <p>The response to COVID-19 required individuals, families, communities, and other types of groups to refrain from extensive interaction – to stay in their bubble. In these situations, especially given the asymptomatic nature of many COVID-19 infections and the serious imposition lockdowns and social distancing and isolation, the temptation for individuals to breach public health rules in high. From the perspective of policymakers, the response to fighting COVID-19 is a collective action problem. In studying collective action problems, scholars have paid much attention on the role of social and community capital (Ostrom and Ahn 17-35). Ostrom and Ahn comment that social capital “provides a synthesizing approach to how cultural, social, and institutional aspects of communities of various sizes jointly affect their capacity of dealing with collective-action problems” (24). Social capital is regarded as an evolving social type of cultural trait (Fukuyama; Guiso <em>et al</em>.). Adger argues that social capital “captures the nature of social relations” and “provides an explanation for how individuals use their relationships to other actors in societies for their own and for the collective good” (387). The most frequently used definition of social capital is the one proffered by Putnam who regards it as “features of social organization, such as networks, norms and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit” (Putnam, “Bowling Alone” 65). All these studies suggest that social and community capital has at least two elements: “objective associations” and subjective ties among individuals. Objective associations, or social networks, refer to both formal and informal associations that are formed and engaged in on a voluntary basis by individuals and social groups. Subjective ties or norms, on the other hand, primarily stand for trust and reciprocity (Paxton).</p> <p>High levels of social capital have generally been associated with democratic politics and civil societies whose institutional performance benefits from the coordinated actions and civic culture that has been facilitated by high levels of social capital (Putnam, <em>Democracy</em> 167-9). Alternatively, a “good and fair” state and impartial institutions are important factors in generating and preserving high levels of social capital (Offe 42-87). Yet social capital is not limited to democratic civil societies and research is mixed on whether rising social capital manifests itself in a more vigorous civil society that in turn leads to democratising impulses. Castillo argues that various trust levels for institutions that reinforce submission, hierarchy, and cultural conservatism can be high in authoritarian governments, indicating that high levels of social capital do not necessarily lead to democratic civic societies (Castillo <em>et al</em>.). Roßteutscher concludes after a survey of social capita indicators in authoritarian states that social capital has little effect of democratisation and may in fact reinforce authoritarian rule:</p> <blockquote> <p>in nondemocratic contexts, however, it appears to throw a spanner in the works of democratization. Trust increases the stability of nondemocratic leaderships by generating popular support, by suppressing regime threatening forms of protest activity, and by nourishing undemocratic ideals concerning governance (752).</p> </blockquote> <p>In China, there has been ongoing debate concerning the presence of civil society and the level of social capital found across Chinese society. If one defines civil society as an intermediate associational realm between the state and the family, populated by autonomous organisations which are separate from the state that are formed voluntarily by members of society to protect or extend their interests or values, it is arguable that the PRC had a significant civil society or social capital in the first few decades after its establishment (White). However, most scholars agree that nascent civil society as well as a more salient social and community capital has emerged in China’s reform era. This was evident after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, where the government welcomed community organising and community-driven donation campaigns for a limited period of time, giving the NGO sector and bottom-up social activism a boost, as evidenced in various policy areas such as disaster relief and rural community development (F. Wu 126; Xu 9).</p> <p>Nevertheless, the CCP and the Chinese state have been effective in maintaining significant control over civil society and autonomous groups without attempting to completely eliminate their autonomy or existence. The dramatic economic and social changes that have occurred since the 1978 Opening have unsurprisingly engendered numerous conflicts across the society. In response, the CCP and State have adjusted political economic policies to meet the changing demands of workers, migrants, the unemployed, minorities, farmers, local artisans, entrepreneurs, and the growing middle class. Often the demands arising from these groups have resulted in policy changes, including compensation. In other circumstances, where these groups remain dissatisfied, the government will tolerate them (ignore them but allow them to continue in the advocacy), or, when the need arises, supress the disaffected groups (F. Wu 2). At the same time, social organisations and other groups in civil society have often “refrained from open and broad contestation against the regime”, thereby gaining the space and autonomy to achieve the objectives (F. Wu 2).</p> <p>Studies of Chinese social or community capital suggest that a form of modern social capital has gradually emerged as Chinese society has become increasingly modernised and liberalised (despite being non-democratic), and that this social capital has begun to play an important role in shaping social and economic lives at the local level. However, this more modern form of social capital, arising from developmental and social changes, competes with traditional social values and social capital, which stresses parochial and particularistic feelings among known individuals while modern social capital emphasises general trust and reciprocal feelings among both known and unknown individuals. The objective element of these traditional values are those government-sanctioned, formal mass organisations such as Communist Youth and the All-China Federation of Women's Associations, where members are obliged to obey the organisation leadership. The predominant subjective values are parochial and particularistic feelings among individuals who know one another, such as <em>guanxi</em> and <em>zongzu</em> (Chen and Lu, 426).</p> <p>The concept of social capital emphasises that the underlying cooperative values found in individuals and groups within a culture are an important factor in solving collective problems. In contrast, the notion of “culture war” focusses on those values and differences that divide social and cultural groups. Barry defines culture wars as increases in volatility, expansion of polarisation, and conflict between</p> <blockquote> <p>those who are passionate about religiously motivated politics, traditional morality, and anti-intellectualism, and…those who embrace progressive politics, cultural openness, and scientific and modernist orientations. (90)</p> </blockquote> <p>The contemporary culture wars across the world manifest opposition by various groups in society who hold divergent worldviews and ideological positions. Proponents of culture war understand various issues as part of a broader set of religious, political, and moral/normative positions invoked in opposition to “elite”, “liberal”, or “left” ideologies. Within this Manichean universe opposition to such issues as climate change, Black Lives Matter, same sex rights, prison reform, gun control, and immigration becomes framed in binary terms, and infused with a moral sensibility (Chapman 8-10). In many disputes, the culture war often devolves into an epistemological dispute about the efficacy of scientific knowledge and authority, or a dispute between “practical” and theoretical knowledge. In this environment, even facts can become partisan narratives. For these “cultural” disputes are often how electoral prospects (generally right-wing) are advanced; “not through policies or promises of a better life, but by fostering a sense of threat, a fantasy that something profoundly pure … is constantly at risk of extinction” (Malik). This “zero-sum” social and policy environment that makes it difficult to compromise and has serious consequences for social stability or government policy, especially in a liberal democratic society.</p> <p>Of course, from the perspective of cultural materialism such a reductionist approach to culture and political and social values is not unexpected. “Culture” is one of the many arenas in which dominant social groups seek to express and reproduce their interests and preferences. “Culture” from this sense is “material” and is ultimately connected to the distribution of power, wealth, and resources in society. As such, the various policy areas that are understood as part of the “culture wars” are another domain where various dominant and subordinate groups and interests engaged in conflict express their values and goals. Yet it is unexpected that despite the pervasiveness of information available to individuals the pool of information consumed by individuals who view the “culture wars” as a touchstone for political behaviour and a narrative to categorise events and facts is relatively closed. This lack of balance has been magnified by social media algorithms, conspiracy-laced talk radio, and a media ecosystem that frames and discusses issues in a manner that elides into an easily understood “culture war” narrative. From this perspective, the groups (generally right-wing or traditionalist) exist within an information bubble that reinforces political, social, and cultural predilections.</p> <h1>American and Chinese Reponses to COVID-19</h1> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic first broke out in Wuhan in December 2019. Initially unprepared and unwilling to accept the seriousness of the infection, the Chinese government regrouped from early mistakes and essentially controlled transmission in about three months. This positive outcome has been messaged as an exposition of the superiority of the Chinese governmental system and society both domestically and internationally; a positive, even heroic performance that evidences the populist credentials of the Chinese political leadership and demonstrates national excellence. The recently published White Paper entitled “Fighting COVID-19: China in Action” also summarises China’s “strategic achievement” in the simple language of numbers: in a month, the rising spread was contained; in two months, the daily case increase fell to single digits; and in three months, a “decisive victory” was secured in Wuhan City and Hubei Province (Xinhua). This clear articulation of the positive results has rallied political support. Indeed, a recent survey shows that 89 percent of citizens are satisfied with the government’s information dissemination during the pandemic (C Wu).</p> <p>As part of the effort, the government extensively promoted the provision of “political goods”, such as law and order, national unity and pride, and shared values. For example, severe publishments were introduced for violence against medical professionals and police, producing and selling counterfeit medications, raising commodity prices, spreading ‘rumours’, and being uncooperative with quarantine measures (Xu). Additionally, as an extension the popular anti-corruption campaign, many local political leaders were disciplined or received criminal charges for inappropriate behaviour, abuse of power, and corruption during the pandemic (<em>People.cn</em>, 2 Feb. 2020). Chinese state media also described fighting the virus as a global “competition”. In this competition a nation’s “material power” as well as “mental strength”, that calls for the highest level of nation unity and patriotism, is put to the test. This discourse recalled the global competition in light of the national mythology related to the formation of Chinese nation, the historical “hardship”, and the “heroic Chinese people” (<em>People.cn</em>, 7 Apr. 2020). Moreover, as the threat of infection receded, it was emphasised that China “won this competition” and the Chinese people have demonstrated the “great spirit of China” to the world: a result built upon the “heroism of the whole Party, Army, and Chinese people from all ethnic groups” (<em>People.cn</em>, 7 Apr. 2020).</p> <p>In contrast to the Chinese approach of emphasising national public goods as a justification for fighting the virus, the U.S. Trump Administration used nationalism, deflection, and “culture war” discourse to undermine health responses — an unprecedented response in American public health policy. The seriousness of the disease as well as the statistical evidence of its course through the American population was disputed. The President and various supporters raged against the COVID-19 “hoax”, social distancing, and lockdowns, disparaged public health institutions and advice, and encouraged protesters to “liberate” locked-down states (Russonello). “Our federal overlords say ‘no singing’ and ‘no shouting’ on Thanksgiving”, Representative Paul Gosar, a Republican of Arizona, wrote as he retweeted a Centers for Disease Control list of Thanksgiving safety tips (Weiner). People were encouraged, by way of the White House and Republican leadership, to ignore health regulations and not to comply with social distancing measures and the wearing of masks (Tracy). This encouragement led to threats against proponents of face masks such as Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s foremost experts on infectious diseases, who required bodyguards because of the many threats on his life. Fauci’s critics — including President Trump — countered Fauci’s promotion of mask wearing by stating accusingly that he once said mask-wearing was not necessary for ordinary people (Kelly). Conspiracy theories as to the safety of vaccinations also grew across the course of the year.</p> <p>As the 2020 election approached, the Administration ramped up efforts to downplay the serious of the virus by identifying it with “the media” and illegitimate “partisan” efforts to undermine the Trump presidency. It also ramped up its criticism of China as the source of the infection. This political self-centeredness undermined state and federal efforts to slow transmission (Shear <em>et al</em>.). At the same time, Trump chided health officials for moving too slowly on vaccine approvals, repeated charges that high infection rates were due to increased testing, and argued that COVID-19 deaths were exaggerated by medical providers for political and financial reasons. These claims were amplified by various conservative media personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham of <em>Fox News</em>.</p> <p>The result of this “COVID-19 Denialism” and the alternative narrative of COVID-19 policy told through the lens of culture war has resulted in the United States having the highest number of COVID-19 cases, and the highest number of COVID-19 deaths. At the same time, the underlying social consensus and social capital that have historically assisted in generating positive public health outcomes has been significantly eroded. According to the Pew Research Center, the share of U.S. adults who say public health officials such as those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are doing an excellent or good job responding to the outbreak decreased from 79% in March to 63% in August, with an especially sharp decrease among Republicans (Pew Research Center 2020).</p> <h1>Social Capital and COVID-19</h1> <p>From the perspective of social or community capital, it could be expected that the American response to the Pandemic would be more effective than the Chinese response. Historically, the United States has had high levels of social capital, a highly developed public health system, and strong governmental capacity. In contrast, China has a relatively high level of governmental and public health capacity, but the level of social capital has been lower and there is a significant presence of traditional values which emphasise parochial and particularistic values. Moreover, the antecedent institutions of social capital, such as weak and inefficient formal institutions (Batjargal <em>et al</em>.), environmental turbulence and resource scarcity along with the transactional nature of <em>guanxi</em> (gift-giving and information exchange and relationship dependence) militate against finding a more effective social and community response to the public health emergency. Yet China’s response has been significantly more successful than the Unites States’.</p> <p>Paradoxically, the American response under the Trump Administration and the Chinese response both relied on an externalisation of the both the threat and the justifications for their particular response. In the American case, President Trump, while downplaying the seriousness of the virus, consistently called it the “China virus” in an effort to deflect responsibly as well as a means to avert attention away from the public health impacts. As recently as 3 January 2021, Trump tweeted that the number of “China Virus” cases and deaths in the U.S. were “far exaggerated”, while critically citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's methodology: “When in doubt, call it COVID-19. Fake News!” (Bacon). The Chinese Government, meanwhile, has pursued a more aggressive foreign policy across the South China Sea, on the frontier in the Indian sub-continent, and against states such as Australia who have criticised the initial Chinese response to COVID-19. To this international criticism, the government reiterated its sovereign rights and emphasised its “victimhood” in the face of “anti-China” foreign forces. Chinese state media also highlighted China as “victim” of the coronavirus, but also as a target of Western “political manoeuvres” when investigating the beginning stages of the pandemic.</p> <p>The major difference, however, is that public health policy in the United States was superimposed on other more fundamental political and cultural cleavages, and part of this externalisation process included the assignation of “otherness” and demonisation of internal political opponents or characterising political opponents as bent on destroying the United States. This assignation of “otherness” to various internal groups is a crucial element in the culture wars. While this may have been inevitable given the increasingly frayed nature of American society post-2008, such a characterisation has been activity pushed by local, state, and national leadership in the Republican Party and the Trump Administration (Vogel <em>et al</em>.). In such circumstances, minimising health risks and highlighting civil rights concerns due to public health measures, along with assigning blame to the democratic opposition and foreign states such as China, can have a major impact of public health responses. The result has been that social trust beyond the bubble of one’s immediate circle or those who share similar beliefs is seriously compromised — and the collective action problem presented by COVID-19 remains unsolved.</p> <p>Daniel Aldrich’s study of disasters in Japan, India, and US demonstrates that pre-existing high levels of social capital would lead to stronger resilience and better recovery (Aldrich). Social capital helps coordinate resources and facilitate the reconstruction collectively and therefore would lead to better recovery (Alesch <em>et al</em>.). Yet there has not been much research on how the pool of social capital first came about and how a disaster may affect the creation and store of social capital. Rebecca Solnit has examined five major disasters and describes that after these events, survivors would reach out and work together to confront the challenges they face, therefore increasing the social capital in the community (Solnit). However, there are studies that have concluded that major disasters can damage the social fabric in local communities (Peacock <em>et al</em>.).</p> <p>The COVID-19 epidemic does not have the intensity and suddenness of other disasters but has had significant knock-on effects in increasing or decreasing social capital, depending on the institutional and social responses to the pandemic. In China, it appears that the positive social capital effects have been partially subsumed into a more generalised patriotic or nationalist affirmation of the government’s policy response. Unlike civil society responses to earlier crises, such as the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, there is less evidence of widespread community organisation and response to combat the epidemic at its initial stages. This suggests better institutional responses to the crisis by the government, but also a high degree of porosity between civil society and a national “imagined community” represented by the national state. The result has been an increased legitimacy for the Chinese government. Alternatively, in the United States the transformation of COVID-19 public health policy into a culture war issue has seriously impeded efforts to combat the epidemic in the short term by undermining the social consensus and social capital necessary to fight such a pandemic. Trust in American institutions is historically low, and President Trump’s untrue contention that President Biden’s election was due to “fraud” has further undermined the legitimacy of the American government, as evidenced by the attacks directed at Congress in the U.S. capital on 6 January 2021. As such, the lingering effects the pandemic will have on social, economic, and political institutions will likely reinforce the deep cultural and political cleavages and weaken interpersonal networks in American society.</p> <h1>Conclusion</h1> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated global public health and impacted deeply on the world economy. Unsurprisingly, given the serious economic, social, and political consequences, different government responses have been highly politicised. Various quarantine and infection case tracking methods have caused concern over state power intruding into private spheres. The usage of face masks, social distancing rules, and intra-state travel restrictions have aroused passionate debate over public health restrictions, individual liberty, and human rights. Yet underlying public health responses grounded in higher levels of social capital enhance the effectiveness of public health measures. In China, a country that has generally been associated with lower social capital, it is likely that the relatively strong policy response to COVID-19 will both enhance feelings of nationalism and Chinese exceptionalism and help create and increase the store of social capital. In the United States, the attribution of COVID-19 public health policy as part of the culture wars will continue to impede efforts to control the pandemic while further damaging the store of American community social capital that has assisted public health efforts over the past decades.</p> <h2>References</h2> <p>Adger, W. 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Mainstream media are often discussed as opposed to disinformation (Glasser; Benkler <em>et al</em>.). While the disinformation phenomenon is related to the intentional production and spread of misleading and false information to influence public opinion (Fallis; Benkler <em>et al</em>.), mainstream media news is expected to be based on facts and investigation and focussed on values such as authenticity, accountability, and autonomy (Hayes <em>et al</em>.). However, journalists might contribute to the spread of disinformation when they skip some stage of information processing and reproduce false or misleading information (Himma-Kadakas). Besides, even when the purpose of the news is to correct disinformation, media coverage might contribute to its dissemination by amplifying it (Tsfati <em>et al</em>.). This could be particularly problematic in the context of social media, as users often just read headlines while scrolling through their timelines (Newman <em>et al</em>.; Ofcom). Thus, some users might share news from the mainstream media to legitimate disinformation about Covid-19. The pandemic creates a delicate context, as journalists are often pressured to produce more information and, therefore, are more susceptible to errors.</p> <p>In this research, we focussed on the hypothesis that legitimate news can contribute to the spread of disinformation on social media through headlines that reinforce disinformation discourses, even though the actual piece may frame the story differently. The research questions that guide this research are: are URLs with headlines that reinforce disinformation discourses and other mainstream media links shared into the same Facebook groups? Are the headlines that support disinformation discourses shared by Facebook users to reinforce disinformation narratives? </p> <p>As a case study, we look at the Brazilian disinformation context on Covid-19. The discussion about the disease in the country has been highly polarised and politically framed, often with government agents and scientists disputing the truth about facts on the disease (Araújo and Oliveira; Recuero and Soares; Recuero <em>et al</em>.). Particularly, the social media ecosystem seems to play an important role in these disputes, as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters use it as a key channel to spread disinformation about the virus (Lisboa <em>et al</em>.; Soares <em>et al</em>.). We use data from public groups on Facebook collected through CrowdTangle and a combination of social network analysis and content analysis to analyse the spread and the content of URLs and posts. </p> <h1><strong>Theoretical Background</strong></h1> <p>Disinformation has been central to the Covid-19 “infodemic”, created by the overabundance of information about the pandemic, which makes it hard for people to find reliable guidance and exacerbates the outbreak (Tangcharoensathien <em>et al</em>.). We consider disinformation as distorted, manipulated, or false information intentionally created to mislead someone (Fallis; Benkler <em>et al</em>.). Disinformation is often used to strengthen radical political ideologies (Benkler <em>et al</em>.).</p> <p>Around the world, political actors politically framed the discussion about the pandemic, which created a polarised public debate about Covid-19 (Allcott <em>et al.</em>, Gruzd and Mai; Recuero and Soares). On social media, contexts of polarisation between two different political views often present opposed narratives about the same fact that dispute public attention (Soares <em>et al</em>.). This polarisation creates a suitable environment for disinformation to thrive (Benkler <em>et al.</em>)</p> <p>The polarised discussions are often associated with the idea of “bubbles”, as the different political groups tend to share and legitimate only discourses that are aligned with the group's ideological views. Consequently, these groups might turn into ideological bubbles (Pariser). In these cases, content shared within one group is not shared within the other and vice versa. Pariser argues that users within the bubbles are exposed exclusively to content with which they tend to agree. However, research has shown that Pariser’s concept of bubbles has limitations (Bruns), as most social media users are exposed to a variety of sources of information (Guess <em>et al</em>.).</p> <p>Nevertheless, polarisation might lead to different media diets and disinformation consumption (Benkler <em>et al</em>.). That is, users would have contact with different types of information, but they would choose to share certain content over others because of their political alignment (Bruns). Therefore, we understand that bubbles are created by the action of social media users who give preference to circulate (through retweets, likes, comments, or shares) content that supports their political views, including disinformation (Recuero <em>et al</em>.). Thus, bubbles are ephemeral structures (created by users’ actions in the context of a particular political discussion) with permeable boundaries (users are exposed to content from the outside) in discussions on social media.</p> <p>This type of ephemeral bubble might use disinformation as a tool to create a unique discourse that supports its views. However, it does not mean that actors within a “disinformation bubble” do not have access to other content, such as the news from the mainstream media. It means that the group acts to discredit and to overlap this content with an “alternative” story (Larsson). In addition, the mainstream media might disseminate false or inaccurate disinformation (Tsfati <em>et al</em>.). Particularly, we focus on inaccurate headlines that reinforce disinformation narratives, as social media users often only read news headlines (Newman <em>et al</em>.; Ofcom). This is especially problematic because a large number of social media users are exposed to mainstream media content, while exposure to disinformation websites is heavily concentrated on only a few users (Guess <em>et al</em>.; Tsfati <em>et al</em>.). Therefore, when the mainstream media disseminate disinformation, it is more likely that a larger number of social media users will be exposed to this content and share it into ideological bubbles. Based on this discussion, we aim to understand how the mainstream media contribute to the spread of disinformation discourses about Covid-19.</p> <h1><strong>Methods</strong></h1> <p>This study is about how mainstream media coverage might contribute to the spread of disinformation about Covid-19 on Facebook. We propose two hypotheses, as follows: H1: When mainstream media headlines frame the information in a way that reinforces the disinformation narrative, the links go into a “disinformation bubble”. H2: In these cases, Facebook users might use mainstream media coverage to legitimate disinformation narratives.</p> <p>We selected three case studies based on events that created both political debate and high media coverage in Brazil. We chose them based on the hypothesis that part of the mainstream media links could have produced headlines that support disinformation discourses, as the political debate was high. The events are: </p> <ul> <li>On 24 March 2020, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro made a public pronouncement on live television. In the week before the pronouncement, Brazilian governors decided to follow World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols and closed non-essential business. <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-brazil-idUSKBN21B2H2">In his speech, Bolsonaro criticised social distancing measures</a>. The mainstream media reproduced some of <a href="https://www.correiobraziliense.com.br/app/noticia/politica/2020/03/22/interna_politica,835990/desemprego-e-crise-muito-pior-do-que-coronavirus-diz-bolsonaro.shtml">his claims</a> and <a href="https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/mercado/2020/03/consequencias-economicas-serao-maiores-do-que-5-ou-7-mil-que-vao-morrer-diz-dono-do-madero.shtml">claims from other public personalities, such as entrepreneurs</a> who also said the protocols would harm the economy. </li> <li>On 8 June 2020, a WHO official said that it <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/08/health/coronavirus-asymptomatic-spread-who-bn/index.html">“seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person transmits [Covid-19] onward to a secondary individual”</a>. Part of the mainstream media <a href="https://noticias.r7.com/saude/pacientes-assintomaticos-nao-impulsionam-coronavirus-diz-oms-09062020">reproduced the claim out of context</a>, which could promote the misperception that both asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic persons (early stages of an illness, before the first symptoms) do not transmit Covid-19 at all. </li> <li>On 9 November 2020, Brazil’s national sanitary watchdog Anvisa reported that they had <a href="https://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/en/saude/noticia/2020-11/anvisa-halts-coronavac-studies-after-grave-adverse-event">halted the clinical studies on the CoronaVac vaccine</a>, developed by the Chinese company Sinovac. <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-brazil-bolsonaro-idUSKBN29I1YL">Bolsonaro often criticised CoronaVac</a> because it was being produced in partnership with São Paulo’s Butantan Institute and became the subject of a political dispute between Bolsonaro and the Governor of São Paulo, João Dória. Bolsonaro said the halt of the CoronaVac trial was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/10/jair-bolsonaro-claims-victory-after-suspension-of-chinese-covid-vaccine-trial">"another victory for Jair Bolsonaro"</a>. Anvisa halted the trail after a "severe adverse event". The mainstream media rapidly reverberated the decision. Later, it was revealed that the incident was a death that had nothing to do with the vaccine. </li> </ul> <p>Before we created our final dataset that includes links from the three events together, we explored the most shared URLs in each event. We used keywords to collect posts shared in the public groups monitored by CrowdTangle, a tool owned by Facebook that tracks publicly available posts on the platform. We collected posts in a timeframe of three days for each event to prevent the collection of links unrelated to the cases. We collected only posts containing URLs. Table 1 summarises the data collected.</p> <p><em>Table 1: Data collected</em></p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>Dates</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>March 24-26 2020</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>June 8-10 2020</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>November 9-11 2020</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>Keywords</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>“Covid-19” or “coronavirus” and “isolation” or “economy”</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>“Covid-19” or “coronavirus” and “asymptomatic”</p> </td> <td style="border-style: solid; border-color: gray; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: left; vertical-align: top;" width="142"> <p>“vaccine” and “Anvisa” or “CoronaVac”</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>Number of posts</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>4780</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>2060</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="142"> <p>3273</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>From this original dataset, we selected the 60 most shared links from each period (<em>n</em>=180). We then filtered for those which sources were mainstream media outlets (<em>n</em>=74). We used content analysis (Krippendorff) to observe which of these URLs headlines could reinforce disinformation narratives (two independent coders, Krippendorff’s Alpha = 0.76). We focussed on headlines because when these links are shared on Facebook, often it is the headline that appears to other users. We considered that a headlined reinforced disinformation discourses only when it was flagged by both coders (<em>n</em>=21 – some examples are provided in Table 3 in the Results section). Table 2 provides a breakdown of this analysis.</p> <p><em>Table 2: Content analysis</em></p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" rowspan="2"> <p>Event</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" rowspan="2"> <p>Mainstream media links</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" colspan="2"> <p>Headlines that support disinformation discourses</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>Number of links</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>Number of posts</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>Economy and quarantine</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>24</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>7</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>112</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>Asymptomatic</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>22</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>7</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>163</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>Vaccine trial</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>28</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>7</p> </td> <td style="border-style: solid; border-color: gray; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>120</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>Total</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>74</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>21</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;"> <p>395</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>As the number of posts that shared URLs with headlines that supported disinformation was low (<em>n</em>=395), we conducted another CrowdTangle search to create our final dataset. We used a sample of the links we classified to create a “balanced” dataset. Out of the 21 links with headlines that reinforced disinformation, we collected the 10 most shared in public groups monitored by CrowdTangle (this time, without any particular timeframe) (<em>n</em>=1346 posts). In addition, we created a “control group” with the 10 most shared links that neither of the coders considered could reinforce disinformation (<em>n</em>=1416 posts). The purpose of the “control group” was to identify which Facebook groups tend to share mainstream media links without headlines that reinforce disinformation narratives. Therefore, our final dataset comprises 20 links and 2762 posts. </p> <p>We then used social network analysis (Wasserman and Faust) to map the spread of the 20 links. We created a bipartite network, in which nodes are (1) Facebook groups and (2) URLs; and edges represent when a post within a group includes a URL from our dataset. We applied a modularity metric (Blondel <em>et al</em>.) to identify clusters. The modularity metric allows us to identify “communities” that share the same or similar links in the network map. Thus, it helped us to identify if there was a “bubble” that only shares the links with headlines that support disinformation (H1). </p> <p>To understand if the disinformation was supporting a larger narrative shared by the groups, we explored the political alignments of each cluster (H2). We used Textometrica (Lindgreen and Palm) to create word clouds with the most frequent words in the names of the cluster groups (at least five mentions) and their connections. Finally, we also analysed the posts that shared each of the 10 links with headlines that reinforced disinformation. This also helped us to identify how the mainstream media links could legitimate disinformation narratives (H2). Out of the 1346 posts, only 373 included some message (the other 973 posts only shared the link). We used content analysis to see if these posts reinforced the disinformation (two independent coders – Krippendorff’s Alpha = 0.723). There were disagreements in the categorisation of 27 posts. The two coders reviewed and discussed the classification of these posts to reach an agreement.</p> <h1><strong>Results</strong></h1> <h2><strong style="font-size: 14px;">Bubbles of information</strong></h2> <p> In the graph (Figure 1), red nodes are links with headlines that support disinformation discourses, blue nodes are the other mainstream media links, and black nodes are Facebook groups. Our first finding is that groups that shared headlines that support disinformation rarely shared the other mainstream media links. Out of the 1623 groups in the network, only 174 (10.7%) shared both a headline that supports disinformation discourse, and another mainstream media link; 712 groups (43.8%) only shared headlines that support disinformation; and 739 groups (45.5%) only shared other links from the mainstream media. Therefore, users’ actions created two bubbles of information.</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/lisa/figure-1.png" alt="" width="541" height="491" /></p> <p><em>Figure 1: Network graph</em></p> <p>The modularity metric confirmed this tendency of two “bubbles” in the network (Figure 2). The purple cluster includes seven URLs with headlines that support disinformation discourse. The green cluster includes three headlines that support disinformation discourse and the other 10 links from the mainstream media. This result partially supports H1: When mainstream media headlines frame the information in a way that reinforces the disinformation narrative, the links go into a “disinformation bubble”. As we identified, most of the headlines that support disinformation discourse went into a separate “bubble”, as users within the groups of this bubble did not share the other links from the mainstream media.</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/lisa/figure-2.png" alt="" width="593" height="542" /></p> <p><em>Figure 2: Network graph with modularity</em></p> <p>This result shows that users’ actions boost the creation of bubbles (Bakshy <em>et al</em>.), as they choose to share one type of content over the other. The mainstream media are the source of all the URLs we analysed. However, users from the purple cluster chose to share only links with headlines that supported disinformation discourses. This result is also related to the political framing of the discussions, as we explore below.</p> <h1><strong> Disinformation and Political Discourse</strong></h1> <p>We used word clouds (Lindgreen and Palm) to analyse the Facebook groups’ names to explore the ideological affiliation of the bubbles. The purple bubble is strongly related to Bolsonaro and his discourse (Figure 3). Bolsonaro is the most frequent word. Other prevalent words are Brazil, patriots (both related to his nationalist discourse), right-wing, conservative, military (three words related to his conservative discourse and his support of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985), President, support, and Alliance [for Brazil] (the name of his party). Some of the most active groups within the purple bubble are “Alliance for Brazil”, “Bolsonaro 2022 [next presidential election]”, “Bolsonaro’s nation 2022”, and “I am right-wing with pride”.</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/lisa/figure-3.png" alt="" width="578" height="543" /></p> <p><em>Figure 3: Purple cluster word cloud</em></p> <p>Bolsonaro is also a central word in the green cluster word cloud (Figure 4). However, it is connected to other words such as “against” and “out”, as many groups are anti-Bolsonaro. Furthermore, words such as left-wing, Workers’ Party (centre-left party), Lula and Dilma Rousseff (two Workers’ Party ex-presidents) show another ideological alignment in general. In addition, there are many local groups (related to locations such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais, and others), and groups to share news (news, newspaper, radio, portal). “We are 70 per cent [anti-Bolsonaro movement]”, “Union of the Left”, “Lula president”, and “Anti-Bolsonaro” are some of the most active groups within the green cluster.</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/lisa/figure-4.png" alt="" width="592" height="540" /></p> <p><em>Figure 4: Green cluster word cloud</em></p> <p>Then, we analysed how users shared the mainstream media links with headlines that support disinformation discourses. In total, we found that 81.8% of the messages in the posts that shared these links also reproduced disinformation narratives. The frequency was higher (86.2%) when considering only posts that shared one of the seven links from the purple cluster (based on the modularity metric). Consequently, it was lower (64%) in the messages that shared one of the other three links. </p> <p>The messages often showed support for Bolsonaro; criticised other political and health authorities (the WHO, São Paulo Governor João Dória, and others), China, and the “leftists” (all opposition to Bolsonaro); claimed that quarantine and social distancing measures were unnecessary; and framed vaccines as dangerous. We provide some examples of headlines and posts in Table 3 (we selected the most-shared URL for each event to illustrate). This result supports H2 as we found that users shared mainstream media headlines that reinforce disinformation discourse to legitimate the disinformation narrative; and that it was more prevalent in the purple bubble. </p> <p><em>Table 3: Examples of headlines and posts</em></p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="283"> <p><strong>Headline</strong></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="283"> <p><strong>Post</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" rowspan="2" width="283"> <p><a href="https://www.correiobraziliense.com.br/app/noticia/politica/2020/03/22/interna_politica,835990/desemprego-e-crise-muito-pior-do-que-coronavirus-diz-bolsonaro.shtml">"Unemployment is a crisis much worse than coronavirus", says Bolsonaro</a></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="283"> <p>Go to social media to support the President. Unemployment kills. More than any virus... hunger, depression, despair and everything</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="283"> <p>UNEMPLOYMENT, THE DEPUTIES CHAMBER, THE SENATE AND THE SUPREME COURT KILL MORE THAN COVID19</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" rowspan="2" width="283"> <p><a href="https://noticias.r7.com/saude/pacientes-assintomaticos-nao-impulsionam-coronavirus-diz-oms-09062020">Asymptomatic patients do not boost coronavirus, says WHO</a></p> </td> <td style="border-style: solid; border-color: gray; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: left; vertical-align: top;" width="283"> <p>QUARANTINE IS FAKE #StayHome, the lie of the century!</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="283"> <p>THIS GOES TO THE PUPPETS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTIES THE AND FUNERARY MEDIA</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" rowspan="2" width="283"> <p><a href="https://noticias.uol.com.br/videos/2020/11/09/anvisa-interrompe-os-estudos-clinicos-da-vacina-coronavac-apos-evento-adverso-grave.htm">Anvisa halts Coronavac vaccine trial after "serious adverse event"</a></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="283"> <p>[The event] is adverse and serious, so the vaccine killed the person by covid</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top; border-style: solid; border-color: gray;" width="283"> <p>And Doria [Governor of São Paulo and political adversary of Bolsonaro] wants to force you to take this shit</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>This result shows that mainstream media headlines that support disinformation narratives may be used to reinforce disinformation discourses when shared on Facebook, making journalists potential agents of disinformation (Himma-Kadakas; Tsfati <em>et al</em>.). In particular, the credibility of mainstream news is used to support an opposing discourse, that is, a disinformation discourse. This is especially problematic in the context of Covid-19 because the mainstream media end up fuelling the infodemic (Tangcharoensathien <em>et al</em>.) by sharing inaccurate information or reverberating false claims from political actors. </p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p>In this article, we analysed how the mainstream media contribute to the spread of disinformation about Covid-19. In particular, we looked at how links from the mainstream media with headlines that support disinformation discourse spread on Facebook, compared to other links from the mainstream media. Two research questions guided this study: Are URLs with headlines that reinforce disinformation discourses and other mainstream media links shared into the same Facebook groups? Are the headlines that support disinformation discourses shared by Facebook users to reinforce disinformation narratives? </p> <p>We identified that (1) some Facebook groups only shared links with headlines that support disinformation narratives. This created a “disinformation bubble”. In this bubble, (2) Facebook users shared mainstream media links to reinforce disinformation – in particular, pro-Bolsonaro disinformation, as many of these groups had a pro-Bolsonaro alignment. In these cases, the mainstream media contributed to the spread of disinformation. Consequently, journalists ought to take extra care when producing news, especially headlines, which will be the most visible part of the stories on social media.</p> <p>This study has limitations. We analysed only a sample of links (<em>n</em>=20) based on three events in Brazil. Other events and other political contexts might result in different outcomes. Furthermore, we used CrowdTangle for data collection. CrowdTangle only provides information about public posts in groups monitored by the tool. 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Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.</p> 2021-03-15T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Felipe Soares, Raquel Recuero https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2736 The Sporting Bubble as Gilded Cage 2021-01-28T23:48:06+00:00 Adele Pavlidis a.pavlidis@griffith.edu.au David Rowe d.rowe@westernsydney.edu.au <h1><strong>Introduction: Bubbles and Sport</strong></h1> <p>The ephemeral materiality of bubbles – beautiful, spectacular, and distracting but ultimately fragile – when applied to protect or conserve in the interests of sport-media profit, creates conditions that exacerbate existing inequalities in sport and society. Bubbles are usually something to watch, admire, and chase after in their brief yet shiny lives. There is supposed to be, technically, nothing inside them other than one or more gasses, and yet we constantly refer to people and objects being inside bubbles. The metaphor of the bubble has been used to describe the life of celebrities, politicians in purpose-built capital cities like Canberra, and even leftist, environmentally activist urban dwellers. The metaphorical and material qualities of bubbles are aligned—they cannot be easily captured and are liable to change at any time.</p> <p>In this article we address the metaphorical sporting bubble, which is often evoked in describing life in <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/culture/tv-and-radio/michael-jordan-pierces-the-bubble-of-elite-sport-in-juicy-espn-doco-20200511-p54rwc.html">professional sport</a>. This is a vernacular term used to capture and condemn the conditions of life of elite sportspeople (usually men), most commonly after there has been a sport-related scandal, especially of a sexual nature (Rowe). It is frequently paired with connotatively loaded adjectives like pampered and indulged. The sporting bubble is rarely interrogated in academic literature, the concept largely being left to the media and moral entrepreneurs. It is represented as involving a highly privileged but also pressurised life for those who live inside it. A sporting bubble is a world constructed for its most prized inhabitants that enables them to be protected from insurgents and to set the terms of their encounters with others, especially sport fans and disciplinary agents of the state. The Covid-19 pandemic both reinforced and reconfigured the operational concept of the bubble, re-arranging tensions between safety (protecting athletes) and fragility (short careers, risks of injury, etc.) for those within, while safeguarding those without from bubble contagion.</p> <h1>Privilege and Precarity</h1> <p>Bubble-induced social isolation, critics argue, encourages a loss of perspective among those under its protection, an entitled disconnection from the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-29/scathing-report-released-into-cricket-australia-culture/10440972">usual rules and responsibilities of everyday life</a>. For this reason, the denizens of the sporting bubble are seen as being at risk to themselves and, more troublingly, to those allowed temporarily to penetrate it, especially young women who are first exploited by and then ejected from it (Benedict). There are many well-documented cases of professional male athletes “behaving badly” and trying to rely on institutional status and various versions of the sporting bubble for shelter (Flood and Dyson; Reel and Crouch; Wade). In the age of mobile and social media, it is increasingly difficult to keep misbehaviour in-house, resulting in a slew of media stories about, for example, drunkenness and sexual misconduct, such as when then-Sydney Roosters co-captain Mitchell Pearce was <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/sydney-roosters-mitchell-pearce-involved-in-a-drunken-incident-with-a-dog-and-your-point-is--20160127-gmfemh.html">suspended and fined</a> in 2016 after being filmed trying to force an unwanted kiss on a woman and then simulating a lewd act with her dog while drunk. There is contestation between those who condemn such behaviour as aberrant and those who regard it as the conventional expression of youthful masculinity as part of the familiar “boys will be boys” dictum. The latter naturalise an inequitable gender order, frequently treating sportsmen as victims of predatory women, and ignoring asymmetries of power between men and women, especially in homosocial environments (Toffoletti).</p> <p>For those in the sporting bubble (predominantly elite sportsmen and highly paid executives, also mostly men, with an array of service staff of both sexes moving in and out of it), life is reflected for those being protected via an array of screens (small screens in homes and indoor places of entertainment, and even smaller screens on theirs and others’ phones, as well as huge screens at sport events). These male sport stars are paid handsomely to use their skill and strength to perform for the sporting codes, their every facial expression and bodily action watched by the media and relayed to audiences. This is often a precarious existence, the usually brief career of an athlete worker being dependent on health, luck, age, successful competition with rivals, networks, and club and coach preferences.</p> <p>There is a large, aspirational reserve army of athletes vying to play at the elite level, despite risks of injury and invasive, life-changing medical interventions. Responsibility for avoiding performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs) also weighs heavily on their shoulders (Connor). Professional sportspeople, in their more reflective moments, know that their time in the limelight will soon be up, meaning that getting a ticket to the sporting bubble, even for a short time, can make all the difference to their post-sport lives and those of their families. The most vulnerable of the small minority of participants in sport who make a good, short-term living from it are those for whom, in the absence of quality education and prior social status, it is their sole likely means of upward social mobility (Spaaij).</p> <p>Elite sport performers are surrounded by minders, doctors, fitness instructors, therapists, coaches, advisors and other service personnel, all supporting athletes to stay focussed on and maximise performance quality to satisfy co-present crowds, broadcasters, sponsors, sports bodies and mass media audiences. The shield offered by the sporting bubble supports the teleological win-at-all-costs mentality of professional sport. The stakes are high, with athlete and executive salaries, sponsorships and broadcasting deals entangled in a complex web of investments in keeping the “talent” pivotal to the “attention economy” (Davenport and Beck)—the players that provide the content for sale—in top form. Yet, the bubble cannot be entirely secured and poor behaviour or performance can have devastating effects, including permanent injury or disability, mental illness and loss of reputation (Rowe, “Scandals and Sport”). Given this fragile materiality of the sporting bubble, it is striking that, in response to the sudden shutdown following the economic and health crisis caused by the 2020 global pandemic, the leaders of professional sport decided to create more of them and seek to seal the metaphorical and material space with unprecedented efficiency. The outcome was a multi-sided tale of mobility, confinement, capital, labour, and the gendering of sport and society.</p> <h1>The Covid-19 Gilded Cage</h1> <p>Sociologists such as Zygmunt Bauman and John Urry have analysed the socio-politics of mobilities, whereby some people in the world, such as tourists, can traverse the globe at their leisure, while others remain fixed in geographical space because they lack the means to be mobile or, in contrast, are involuntarily displaced by war, so-called “ethnic cleansing”, famine, poverty or environmental degradation. The Covid-19 global pandemic re-framed these matters of mobilities (Rowe, “Subjecting Pandemic Sport”), with conventional moving around—between houses, businesses, cities, regions and countries—suddenly subjected to the imperative to be static and, in perniciously unreflective technocratic discourse, “socially distanced” (when what was actually meant was to be “physically distanced”). The late-twentieth century analysis of the “risk society” by Ulrich Beck, in which the mysterious consequences of humans’ predation on their environment are visited upon them with terrifying force, was dramatically realised with the coming of Covid-19. In another iteration of the metaphor, it burst the bubble of twenty-first century <a href="https://www.openforum.com.au/all-sport-is-global-a-hard-lesson-from-the-pandemic/">global sport</a>. What we today call sport was formed through the process of sportisation (Maguire), whereby hyper-local, folk physical play was reconfigured as multi-spatial industrialised sport in modernity, becoming increasingly reliant on individual athletes and teams travelling across the landscape and well over the horizon. Co-present crowds were, in turn, overshadowed in the sport economy when sport events were taken to much larger, dispersed audiences via the media, especially in broadcast mode (Nicholson, Kerr, and Sherwood). This lucrative mediation of professional sport, though, came with an unforgiving obligation to generate an uninterrupted supply of spectacular live sport content.</p> <p>The pandemic closed down most sports events and those that did take place lacked the crucial participation of the co-present crowd to provide the requisite event atmosphere demanded by those viewers accustomed to a sense of occasion. Instead, they received a strange spectacle of sport performers operating in empty “cathedrals”, often with a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AlD63s26sQ&amp;feature=youtu.be&amp;t=827">“faked” crowd</a> presence. The <a href="https://www.openforum.com.au/and-the-winner-istelevision-spectacle-and-sport-in-a-pandemic/">mediated sport spectacle under the pandemic</a> involved cardboard cut-out and sex doll spectators, Zoom images of fans on large screens, and sampled sounds of the crowd recycled from sport video games. Confected co-presence produced simulacra of the “real” as <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/16/sports/coronavirus-stadium-fans-crowd-noise.html">Baudrillardian</a> visions came to life. The sporting bubble had become even more remote. For elite sportspeople routinely isolated from the “common people”, the live sport encounter offered some sensory experience of the social – the sounds, sights and even smells of the crowd. Now the sporting bubble closed in on an already insulated and insular existence. It exposed the irony of the bubble as a sign of both privileged mobility and incarcerated athlete work, both refuge and prison. Its logic of contagion also turned a structure intended to protect those inside from those outside into, as already observed, a mechanism to manage the threat of insiders to outsiders.</p> <p>In Australia, as in many other countries, the populace was enjoined by governments and health authorities to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 through isolation and immobility. There were various exceptions, principally those classified as <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/who-is-deemed-an-essential-worker-under-australia-s-covid-19-rules">essential workers</a>, a heterogeneous cohort ranging from supermarket shelf stackers to pharmacists. People in the cultural, leisure and sports industries, including musicians, actors, and athletes, were not counted among this crucial labour force. Indeed, the performing arts (including dance, theatre and music) were put on ice with quite devastating effects on the <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-3-in-4-australians-employed-in-the-creative-and-performing-arts-could-lose-their-jobs-136505">livelihoods</a> and <a href="https://news.griffith.edu.au/2020/06/18/new-research-shows-why-musicians-among-the-hardest-hit-by-covid-19/">wellbeing</a> of those involved. So, with all major sports shut down (the exception being horse racing, which received the benefit both of <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-03/racing-victoria-emergency-coronavirus-covid-funding/12838012">government subsidies and expanding online gambling revenue</a>), sport organisations began to represent themselves as essential services that could help sustain collective mental and even spiritual wellbeing. This case was made most aggressively by Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman, Peter V’landys, in contending that “<a href="https://7news.com.au/sport/rugby-league/nrl-makes-desperate-plea-to-government-as-it-announces-season-will-go-ahead-c-745711">an Australia without rugby league is not Australia</a>”. In similar vein, prominent sport and media figure Phil Gould insisted, when describing rugby league fans in Western Sydney’s Penrith, “they’re lost, because the football’s not on … . It holds their families together. People don’t understand that … . Their life begins in the second week of March, and it ends in October”.</p> <p>Despite misgivings about public safety and equality before the pandemic regime, sporting bubbles were allowed to form, re-form and circulate. The indefinite shutdown of the National Rugby League (NRL) on 23 March 2020 was followed <a href="https://www.nrl.com/news/2020/05/25/from-shutdown-to-restart-how-nrl-walked-tightrope-to-get-season-going-again/">after negotiation between multiple entities</a> by its reopening on 28 May 2020. The competition included a team from another nation-state (the Warriors from Aotearoa/New Zealand) in creating an international sporting bubble on the Central Coast of New South Wales, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-08/nz-warriors-open-up-about-relocation-to-australia-for-nrl/12531074">separating them from their families and friends</a> across the Tasman Sea. Appeals to the mental health of fans and the importance of the NRL to myths of “Australianness” notwithstanding, the league had not prudently maintained a financial reserve and so could not afford to shut down for long. Significant gambling revenue for leagues like the NRL and Australian Football League (AFL) also influenced the push to return to sport business as usual. Sport contests were needed in order to exploit the gambling opportunities – especially online and mobile – stimulated by home “confinement”. During the coronavirus lockdowns, Australians’ weekly spending on gambling <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/sport/gambling-s-share-of-nrl-revenue-could-well-double-that-brings-power-20200515-p54tbg.html">went up by 142 per cent</a>, and the NRL earned significantly more than usual from gambling revenue—<a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/nrl/the-nrl-is-set-to-finish-the-season-on-a-high-after-stunning-financial-results/news-story/1ce9c2f9b598441d88daaa8cc2b44dc1">potentially $10 million above forecasts</a> for 2020.</p> <p>Despite the clear financial imperative at play, including heavy reliance on gambling, sporting bubble-making involved special licence. The state of Queensland, which had pursued a hard-line approach by closing its borders for most of those wishing to cross them for biographical landmark events like family funerals and even for <a href="https://www.echo.net.au/2020/08/ray-of-hope-for-medical-care-across-border/">medical treatment</a> in border communities, became “<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-29/coronavirus-queensland-rules-for-sports-teams-explainer/12542634">the nation's sporting hub</a>”. Queensland became the home of most teams of the men’s AFL (notably the women’s AFLW season having been cancelled) following a large Covid-19 second wave in Melbourne. The women’s National Netball League was based exclusively in Queensland. This state, which for the first time hosted the AFL Grand Final, deployed sport as a tool in both national sports tourism marketing and internal pre-election politics, sponsoring a documentary, <a href="https://www.dicksonfilms.com.au/thesportingbubble"><em>The Sporting Bubble 2020</em></a>, via its Tourism and Events arm.</p> <p>While Queensland became the larger bubble incorporating many other sporting bubbles, both the AFL and the NRL had versions of the “fly in, fly out” labour rhythms conventionally associated with the mining industry in remote and regional areas. In this instance, though, the bubble experience did not involve long stays in miners’ camps or even the one-night hotel stopovers familiar to the popular music and sport industries. Here, the bubble moved, usually by plane, to fulfil the requirements of a live sport “gig”, whereupon it was immediately returned to its more solid bubble hub or to domestic self-isolation. In the space created between disciplined expectation and deplored non-compliance, the sporting bubble inevitably became the scrutinised object and subject of scandal.</p> <h1>Sporting Bubble Scandals</h1> <p>While people with a very low risk of spreading Covid-19 (coming from areas with no active cases) were denied entry to Queensland for even the most serious of reasons (for example, the <a href="https://www.mygc.com.au/bailey-defends-qld-border-rules-after-grieving-mother-denied-exemption-to-bury-son/">death of a child</a>), images of AFL players and their families socialising and enjoying swimming at the Royal Pines Resort sporting bubble <a href="https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/footage-shows-relaxed-scenes-from-afl-hub-amid-calls-for-exemption-overhaul-20200903-p55s74.html">crossed our screens</a>. Yet, despite their (players’, officials’ and families’) relative privilege and freedom of movement under the AFL Covid-Safe Plan, some players and others inside the bubble were involved in “scandals”. <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/sport/afl/i-own-the-consequences-stack-apologises-for-gold-coast-incident-20200905-p55spq.html">Most notable</a> was the case of a drunken brawl outside a Gold Coast strip club which led to two Richmond players being “banished”, suspended for 10 matches, and the club fined $100,000. But it was not only players who breached Covid-19 bubble protocols: Collingwood coaches Nathan Buckley and Brenton Sanderson paid the $50,000 fine imposed on the club <a href="https://www.afl.com.au/news/479118/buckley-sanderson-to-pay-pies-huge-fine-for-covid-breach">for playing tennis in Perth</a> outside their bubble, while Richmond was fined $45,000 after Brooke Cotchin, wife of team captain Trent, posted an image to Instagram of a Gold Coast <a href="https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/how-an-afl-star-wifes-instagram-post-led-to-a-hefty-fine-and-a-journalist-being-stood-down/7IDR4SXQ6QW5WDFBV42BK3M7YQ/">day spa that she had visited</a> outside the “hub” (the institutionally preferred term for bubble). She was subsequently distressed after being <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8674083/AFL-WAG-Brooke-Cotchin-breached-COVID-19-quarantine-spa-cops-abuse-trolls.html">trolled</a>. <a href="https://au.sports.yahoo.com/afl-2020-uproar-out-of-control-quarantine-party-224251554.html">Also of concern</a> was the lack of physical distancing, and the range of people allowed into the sporting bubble, including babysitters, grandparents, and swimming coaches (for children).</p> <p>There were other cases of players being caught leaving the bubble to attend parties and sharing videos of their “antics” on social media. Biosecurity breaches of bubbles by players occurred relatively frequently, with stern words from both the AFL and NRL leaders (and their clubs) and fines accumulating in the <a href="https://www.foxsports.com.au/nrl/nrl-premiership/teams/broncos/nrl-2020-brisbane-broncos-pub-covid19-bubble-breach-fine-sanctions-who-was-at-the-pub/news-story/d3bd3c559289a8b83bc3fccbceaffe78">thousands</a> of dollars. Some people were also caught <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8638959/WAG-AFL-star-sacked-season-coronavirus-breach-reveals-easy-sneak-in.html">sneaking <em>in</em><em>to</em></a> bubbles, with Lekahni Pearce, the girlfriend of Swans player Elijah Taylor, stating that it was easy in Perth, “no security, I didn’t see a security guard” (in Barron, Stevens, and Zaczek) (a month later, outside the bubble, they had broken up and he pled guilty to <a href="https://www.afl.com.au/news/526677/axed-swan-spared-jail-over-ex-girlfriend-assault">unlawfully assaulting her</a>; Ramsey). Flouting the rules, despite <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/the-future-of-the-season-is-in-their-hands-palaszczuk-s-nrl-warning-20200810-p55k7j.html">stern threats from government</a>, did not lead to any bubble being popped. The sport-media machine powering sporting bubbles continued to run, the attendant emotional or health risks accepted in the name of national cultural therapy, while sponsorship, advertising and gambling revenue continued to accumulate mostly for the benefit of men.</p> <h1>Gendering Sporting Bubbles</h1> <p>Designed as biosecurity structures to maintain the supply of media-sport content, keep players and other vital cogs of the machine running smoothly, and to exclude Covid-19, sporting bubbles were, in their most advanced form, exclusive luxury camps that illuminated the elevated socio-cultural status of sportsmen. The ongoing inequalities between men’s and women’s sport in Australia and around the world were clearly in evidence, as well as the politics of gender whereby women are obliged to “care” and men are enabled to be “careless” – or at least to manage carefully their “duty of care”. In Australia, the only sport for women that continued during the height of the Covid-19 lockdown was netball, which operated in a bubble that was one of sacrifice rather than privilege. With minimum salaries of only <a href="https://au.sports.yahoo.com/wnba-disturbing-conditions-coronavirus-bubble-slammed-003557243.html">$30,000</a> – significantly less than the lowest-paid “rookies” in the AFL – and some being mothers of small children and/or with professional jobs juggled alongside their netball careers, these elite sportswomen wanted to continue to play despite the personal inconvenience or cost (Pavlidis). Not one breach of the netballers out of the bubble was reported, indicating that they took their responsibilities with appropriate seriousness and, perhaps, were subjected to less scrutiny than the sportsmen accustomed to attracting front-page headlines.</p> <p>National Netball League (also known after its Queensland-based naming rights sponsor as Suncorp Super Netball) players could be regarded as fortunate to have the opportunity to be in a bubble and to participate in their competition. The <a href="https://www.nrl.com/news/2020/10/24/three-peat-not-driving-broncos-in-nrlw-grand-final/">NRL Women’s (NRLW) Premiership season</a> was also completed, but only involved four teams subject to fly in, fly out and bubble arrangements, and being played in so-called curtain-raiser games for the NRL. As noted earlier, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/mar/22/afl-nrl-and-a-league-press-on-despite-restrictions">AFLW</a> season was truncated, despite all the prior training and sacrifice required of its players. Similarly, because of their resource advantages, the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-54876198">UK</a> men’s and boy’s top six tiers of association football were allowed to continue during lockdown, compared to only two for women and girls. In the United States, inequalities between men’s and women’s sports were clearly demonstrated by the conditions afforded to those elite sportswomen inside the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) <a href="https://au.sports.yahoo.com/wnba-disturbing-conditions-coronavirus-bubble-slammed-003557243.html">sport bubble</a> in the <em>IMG Academy</em> in Florida. Players shared photos of rodent traps in their rooms, insect traps under their mattresses, inedible food and blocked plumbing in their bubble accommodation. These conditions were a far cry from the luxury usually afforded <a href="https://robbreport.com/travel/hotels/lebron-james-nba-bubble-suite-1234569303/">elite sportsmen</a>, including in Florida’s <em>Walt Disney World</em> for the men’s NBA, and is just one of the many instances of how gendered inequality was both reproduced and exacerbated by Covid-19.</p> <h1>Bursting the Bubble</h1> <p>As we have seen, governments and corporate leaders in sport were able to create material and metaphorical bubbles during the Covid-19 lockdown in order to transmit stadium sport contests into home spaces. The rationale was the importance of sport to national identity, belonging and the routines and rhythms of life. But for whom? Many women, who still <a href="https://www.ywca.org.au/opinion/womens-unpaid-care-work-in-australia/">carry the major responsibilities of “care”</a>, found that Covid-19 intensified the affective relations and gendered inequities of “home” as a leisure site (Fullagar and Pavlidis). <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/dec/01/the-worst-year-domestic-violence-soars-in-australia-during-covid-19">Rates of domestic violence surged</a>, and many women experienced significant anxiety and depression related to the stress of home confinement and home schooling. During the pandemic, <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.569935/full">women</a> were also more likely to experience the stress and trauma of being first responders, witnessing virus-related sickness and death as the majority of nurses and care workers. They also bore the brunt of much of the <a href="https://australiainstitute.org.au/report/gender-experiences-during-the-covid-19-lockdown/">economic and employment loss</a> during this time. Also, as noted above, livelihoods in the arts and cultural sector did not receive the benefits of the “bubble”, despite having a comparable claim to sport in contributing significantly to societal wellbeing. This sector’s workforce is substantially female, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2012/mar/05/women-in-the-arts-introduction">although men dominate its senior roles</a>.</p> <p>Despite these inequalities, after the late March to May hiatus, many elite male sportsmen – and some sportswomen - operated in a bubble. Moving in and out of them was not easy. Life inside could be mentally stressful (especially in long stays of up to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/nov/08/cricket-prepares-for-mental-health-challenges-thrown-up-by-bubble-life">150 days in sports like cricket</a>), and tabloid and social media troll punishment awaited those who were caught going “over the fence”. But, life in the sporting bubble was generally preferable to the daily realities of those afflicted by the <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30460-8/fulltext">trauma arising from forced home confinement</a>, and for whom watching moving sports images was scant compensation for compulsory immobility. The ethical foundation of the sparkly, ephemeral fantasy of the sporting bubble is questionable when it is placed in the service of a voracious “media sports cultural complex” (Rowe, <em>Global Media Sport</em>) that consumes sport labour power and rolls back progress in gender relations as a default response to a global pandemic.</p> <p>Covid-19 dramatically highlighted social inequalities in many areas of life, including medical care, work, and sport. For the small minority of people involved in sport who are elite professionals, the only thing worse than being in a sporting bubble during the pandemic was not being in one, as being outside precluded their participation. Being inside the bubble was a privilege, albeit a dubious one. But, as in wider society, not all sporting bubbles are created equal. Some are more opulent than others, and the experiences of the supporting and the supported can be very different. The surface of the sporting bubble may be impermanent, but when its interior is opened up to scrutiny, it reveals some very durable structures of inequality.</p> <p>Bubbles are made to burst. They are, by nature, temporary, translucent structures created as spectacles. As a form of luminosity, bubbles “allow a thing or object to exist only as a flash, sparkle or shimmer” (Deleuze, 52). In echoing Deleuze, Angela McRobbie (54) argues that luminosity “softens and disguises the regulative dynamics of neoliberal society”. The sporting bubble was designed to discharge that function for those millions rendered immobile by home confinement legislation in Australia and around the world, who were having to deal with the associated trauma, risk and disadvantage. Hence, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jan/06/australias-summer-of-cricket-during-covid-is-about-money-and-power-and-men">gender and class inequalities</a> exacerbated by Covid-19, and the precarious and pressured lives of elite athletes, were obscured. We contend that, in the final analysis, the sporting bubble mainly serves those <em>inside</em>, floating tantalisingly out of reach of most of those <em>outside</em> who try to grasp its elusive power. 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Sport</em> 9 July 2020. 8 Mar. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://au.sports.yahoo.com/wnba-disturbing-conditions-coronavirus-bubble-slammed-003557243.html">https://au.sports.yahoo.com/wnba-disturbing-conditions-coronavirus-bubble-slammed-003557243.html</a>&gt;.</p> 2021-03-15T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Dr Adele Pavlidis, Emeritus Professor David Rowe https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2738 ‘More than a Thought Bubble…’ 2021-01-31T22:43:20+00:00 Bronwyn Fredericks B.Fredericks@uq.edu.au Abraham Bradfield a.bradfield@uq.edu.au <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p>In 2017, 250 Indigenous delegates from across the country convened at the National Constitution Convention at Uluru to discuss a strategy towards the implementation of constitutional reform and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Referendum Council). Informed by community consultations arising out of 12 regional dialogues conducted by the government appointed Referendum Council, the resulting <em>Uluru Statement from the Heart</em> was unlike any constitutional reform previously proposed (Appleby &amp; Synot). Within the Statement, the delegation outlined that to build a more equitable and reconciled nation, an enshrined Voice to Parliament was needed. Such a voice would embed Indigenous participation in parliamentary dialogues and debates while facilitating further discussion pertaining to truth telling and negotiating a Treaty between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.</p> <p>The reforms proposed are based on the collective input of Indigenous communities that were expressed in good faith during the consultation process. Arising out of a government appointed and funded initiative that directly sought Indigenous perspectives on constitutional reform, the trust and good faith invested by Indigenous people was quickly shut down when the Prime Minster, Malcolm Turnbull, rejected the reforms without parliamentary debate or taking them to the people via a referendum (Wahlquist <em>Indigenous Voice Proposal</em>; Appleby and McKinnon). </p> <p>In this article, we argue that through its dismissal the government treated the Uluru Statement from the Heart as a passing phase or mere “thought bubble” that was envisioned to disappear as quickly as it emerged. The Uluru Statement is a gift to the nation. One that genuinely offers new ways of envisioning and enacting reconciliation through equitable relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. Indigenous voices lie at the heart of reconciliation but require constitutional enshrinement to ensure that Indigenous peoples and cultures are represented across all levels of government.</p> <h1><strong>Filter Bubbles of Distortion</strong></h1> <p>Constitutional change is often spoken of by politicians, its critics, and within the media as something unachievable. For example, in 2017, before even reading the accompanying report, MP Barnaby Joyce (in Fergus) publicly denounced the Uluru Statement as “unwinnable” and not “saleable”. He stated that “if you overreach in politics and ask for something that will not be supported by the Australian people such as another chamber in politics or something that sort of sits above or beside the Senate, that idea just won't fly”. Criticisms such as these are laced with paternalistic rhetoric that suggests its potential defeat at a referendum would be counterproductive and “self-defeating”, meaning that the proposed changes should be rejected for a more digestible version, ultimately saving the movement from itself.</p> <p>While efforts to communicate the necessity of the proposed reforms continues, presumptions that it does not have public support is simply unfounded. The Centre for Governance and Public Policy shows that 71 per cent of the public support constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians. Furthermore, an online survey conducted by Cox Inall Ridgeway found that the majority of those surveyed supported constitutional reform to curb racism; remove section 25 and references to race; establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament; and formally recognise Indigenous peoples through a statement of acknowledgment (Referendum Council). In fact, public support for constitutional reform is growing, with Reconciliation Australia’s reconciliation barometer survey showing an increase from 77 per cent in 2018 to 88 per cent in 2020 (Reconciliation Australia).</p> <p>Media – whether news, social, databases, or search engines – undoubtedly shape the lens through which people come to encounter and understand the world. The information a person receives can be the result of what Eli Pariser has described as “filter bubbles”, in which digital algorithms determine what perspectives, outlooks, and sources of information are considered important, and those that are readily accessible. Misinformation towards constitutional reform, such as that commonly circulated within mainstream and social media and propelled by high profile voices, further creates what neuroscientist Don Vaughn calls “reinforcement bubbles” (Rose Gould). This propagates particular views and stunts informed debate.</p> <p>Despite public support, the reforms proposed in the Uluru Statement continue to be distorted within public and political discourses, with the media used as a means to spread misinformation that equates an Indigenous Voice to Parliament to the establishment of a new “third chamber” (Wahlquist ‘Barnaby’; Karp). In a 2018 interview, PM Scott Morrison suggested that advocates and commentators in favour of constitutional reform were engaging in spin by claiming that a Voice did not function as a third chamber (Prime Minister of Australia). Morrison claimed, “people can dress it up any way they like but I think two chambers is enough”. After a decade of consultative work, eight government reports and inquiries, and countless publications and commentaries, the Uluru Statement continues to be played down as if it were a mere thought bubble, a convoluted work in progress that is in need of refinement. In the same interview, Morrison went on to say that the proposal as it stands now is “unworkable”.</p> <p>Throughout the ongoing movement towards constitutional reform, extensive effort has been invested into ensuring that the reforms proposed are achievable and practical. The Uluru Statement from the Heart represents the culmination of decades of work and proposes clear, concise, and relatively minimal constitutional changes that would translate to potentially significant outcomes for Indigenous Australians (Fredericks &amp; Bradfield).</p> <p>International examples demonstrate how such reforms can translate into parliamentary and governing structures. The <em>Treaty of Waitangi </em>(Palmer) for example seeks to inform Māori and Pākehā (non-Maori) relationships in New Zealand/Aotearoa, whilst designated “Māori Seats” ensure Indigenous representation in parliament (Webster &amp; Cheyne). More recently, 17 of 155 seats were reserved for Indigenous delegates as Chile re-writes its own constitution (Bartlett; Reuters).</p> <p>Indigenous communities and its leaders are more than aware of the necessity of working within the realms of possibility and the need to exhibit caution when presenting such reforms to the public. An expert panel on constitutional reform (Dodson 73), before the conception of the Uluru Statement, acknowledged this, stating “any proposal relating to constitutional recognition of the sovereign status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples would be highly contested by many Australians, and likely to jeopardise broad public support for the Panel’s recommendations”.</p> <p>As outlined in the Joint Select Committee’s final report on Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Referendum Council), the Voice to parliament would have no veto powers over parliamentary votes or decisions. It operates as a non-binding advisory body that remains external to parliamentary processes. Peak organisations such as the Law Council of Australia (Dolar) reiterate the fact that the proposed reforms are for a voice <em>to</em> Parliament rather than a voice <em>in</em> Parliament. Although not binding, the Voice should not be dismissed as symbolic or something that may be easily circumvented. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to place parliament in a position where they are forced to confront and address Indigenous questions, concerns, opinions, and suggestions within debates <em>before</em> decisions are made. </p> <h1><strong>Bursting the ‘Self-Referential Bubble’ </strong></h1> <p>Indigenous affairs continue to be one of the few areas where a rhetoric of bipartisan agreement is continuously referenced by both major parties. Disagreement, debate, and conflict is often avoided as governments seek to portray an image of unity, and in doing so, circumvent accusations of turning Indigenous peoples into the subjects of political point scoring. Within parliamentary debates, there is an understandable reservation and discomfort associated with discussions about what is often seen as an Indigenous “other” (Moreton-Robinson) and the policies that a predominantly white government enact over their lives. Yet, it is through rigorous, open, and informed debate that policies may be developed, challenged, and reformed. Although bipartisanship can portray an image of a united front in addressing a so-called “Indigenous problem”, it also stunts the conception of effective and culturally responsive policy. In other words, it often overlooks Indigenous voices.</p> <p>Whilst education and cultural competency plays a significant role within the reconciliation process, the most pressing obstacle is not necessarily non-Indigenous people’s inability to fully comprehend Indigenous lives and socio-cultural understandings. Even within an ideal world where non-Indigenous peoples attain a thorough understanding of Indigenous cultures, they will never truly comprehend what it means to be Indigenous (Fanon; de Sousa Santos). For non-Indigenous peoples, accepting one’s own limitations in fully comprehending Indigenous ontologies – and avoiding filling such gaps with one’s own interpretations and preconceptions – is a necessary component of decolonisation and the movement towards reconciliation (Grosfoguel; Mignolo).</p> <p>As parliament continues to be dominated by non-Indigenous representatives, structural changes are necessary to ensure that Indigenous voices are adequality represented. The structural reforms not only empower Indigenous voices through their inclusion within the parliamentary process but alleviates some of the pressures that arise out of non-Indigenous people having to make decisions in attempts to solve so-called Indigenous “problems”.</p> <p>Government response to constitutional reform, however, is ridden with symbolic piecemeal offerings that equate recognition to a form of acknowledgment without the structural changes necessary to protect and enshrine Indigenous Voices and parliamentary participation. Davis and her colleagues (Davis et al. “The Uluru Statement”) note how the Referendum Council’s recommendations were rejected by the then minister of Indigenous affairs Nigel Scullion on account that it <em>privileged </em>Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. They note that,</p> <blockquote> <p>until the Referendum Council's report, the nation had no real assessment of what communities wanted. Yet by all accounts, the government had spent too much time talking to elites who have regular access to them and purport to speak on the mob's behalf. If he [Scullion] got the sense constitutional symbolism and minimalism was going to fly, then it says a lot about the self-referential bubble in which the Canberra elites live.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Uluru Statement from the Heart stands as testament to Indigenous people’s refusal to be the passive recipients of the decisions of the non-Indigenous political elite. As suggested, “symbolism and minimalism was not going to fly”. Ken Wyatt, Scullion’s replacement, reiterated the importance of co-design, the limitations of government bureaucracy, and the necessity of moving beyond the “Canberra bubble”. Wyatt stated that the Voice</p> <blockquote> <p>is saying clearly that government and the bureaucracy does not know best. It can not be a Canberra-designed approach in the bubble of Canberra. We have to co-design with Aboriginal communities in the same way that we do with state and territory governments and the corporate sector.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Voice would be the mechanism through which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interests and perspectives may be strategically placed within parliamentary dialogues. Despite accusations of it operating as a “third chamber”, Indigenous representatives have no interest in functioning in a similar manner to a political party. The language associated with our current parliamentary system demonstrates the constrictive nature of political debate. Ministers are expected to “toe the party line”, “crossing the floor” is presented as an act of defiance, and members must be granted permission to enter a “conscience vote”. An Indigenous Voice to Parliament would be an advisory body that works alongside, but remains external to political ideologies. Their priority is to seek and implement the best outcome for their communities. Negotiations would be fluid, with no floor to cross, whilst a conscience vote would be reflected in every perspective gifted to the parliament.</p> <p>In the 2020 Australia and the World Annual Lecture, Pat Turner described the Voice’s co-design process as convoluted and a continuing example of the government’s neglect to hear and respond to Indigenous peoples’ interests. In the address, Turner points to the Coalition of the Peaks as an exemplar of how co-design negotiations may be facilitated by and through organisations entirely formed and run by Indigenous peoples. The Coalition of the Peaks comprises of fifty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak organisations and was established to address concerns relating to closing the gap targets.</p> <p>As Indigenous peak organisations are accountable to their membership and reliant on government funding, some have questioned whether they are appropriate representative bodies; cautioning that they could potentially compromise the Voice as a community-centric body free from political interference. While there is some debate over which Indigenous representatives should facilitate the co-design of a treaty and Makarrata (truth-telling), there remains a unanimous call for a <em>constitutionally</em> <em>enshrined</em> Voice to Parliament that may lead negotiations and secure its place within decision-making processes.</p> <h1><strong>Makarrata, Garma, </strong><strong>and the Bubbling of New Possibilities </strong></h1> <p>An Indigenous Voice to Parliament can be seen as the bubbling spring that provides the source for greater growth and further reform. The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for a three-staged approach comprising of establishing an Indigenous Voice, followed by Treaty, and then Truth-Telling. This sequence has been criticised by some who prioritise Truth and Treaty as the foundation for reform and reconciliation. Their argument is based on the notion that Indigenous Sovereignty must first be acknowledged <em>in</em> Parliament through an agreement-making process and signing of a Treaty.</p> <p>While the Uluru Statement has never lost sight of treaty, the agreement-making process must begin with the acknowledgment of Indigenous people’s inherent right to participate in the conversation. This very basic and foundational right is yet to be acknowledged within Australia’s constitution. The Uluru Statement sets the Voice as its first priority as the Voice establishes the structural foundation on which the conversation pertaining to treaty may take place.</p> <p>It is through the Voice that a Makarrata Commission can be formed and Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples may “come together after a struggle” – the translation of the word’s Yolngu origins (Gaykamangu; Pearson). Only then may we engage in truth telling and forge new paths towards agreement-making and treaty. This however raises the question as to how a Voice to Parliament may look and what outcomes it aims to achieve. As discussed in the previous section, it is a question that is often distorted by disinformation and conjecture within public, political, and news-media discourses. In order to unpack what a Voice to Parliament may entail, we turn to another Yolngu word, <em>Garma</em>.</p> <p>Garma refers to an epistemic and ontological positioning in which knowledge is attained from a point where differences converge and new insights arise. For Yolngu people, Garma is the place where salt and fresh water intersect within the sea. Fresh and Salt water are the embodiments of two Yolngu clans, the Dhuwa and Yirritja, with Garma referring to the point where the knowledge and laws of each clan come into contact, seeking harmonious balance.</p> <p>When the ebb and flow of the tides are in balance, it causes the water to foam and bubble taking on new form and representing innovative ideas and possibilities. Yolngu embrace this phenomenon as an epistemology that teaches responsibility and obligations towards the care of Country. It acknowledges the autonomy of others and finds a space where all may mutually benefit. When the properties of either water type, or the knowledge belonging a single clan dominates, ecological, social, political, and cosmological balance is overthrown. Raymattja Marika-Munungguritj (5) describes Garma as</p> <blockquote> <p>a dynamic interaction of knowledge traditions. Fresh water from the land, bubbling up in fresh water springs to make waterholes, and salt water from the sea are interacting with each other with the energy of the tide and the energy of the bubbling spring. When the tide is high the water rises to its full. When the tide goes out the water reduces its capacity. In the same way Milngurr ebbs and flows. In this way the Dhuwa and Yirritja sides of Yolngu life work together. And in this way Balanda and Yolngu traditions can work together. There must be balance, if not either one will be stronger and will harm the other. The Ganma Theory is Yirritja, the Milngurr Theory is Dhuwa.</p> </blockquote> <p>Like the current push for constitutional change and its rejection of symbolic reforms, Indigenous peoples have demanded real-action and “not just talk” (Synott “The Uluru statement”). In doing so, they implored that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples be involved in all decision-making processes, for they are most knowledgeable of their community’s needs and the most effective methods of service delivery and policy. Indigenous peoples have repeatedly expressed this mandate, which is also legislated under international law through the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.</p> <p>Coming together after a struggle does not mean that conflict and disagreement between and amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities will cease. In fact, in alignment with political theories such as agonism and pluralism, coming together within a democratic system necessitates a constructive and responsive embrace of different, competing, and in some cases incommensurable views. A Voice to Parliament will operate in a manner where Indigenous perspectives and truths, as well as disagreements, may be included within negotiations and debates (Larkin &amp; Galloway). Governments and non-Indigenous representatives will no longer speak for or on behalf of Indigenous peoples, for an Indigenous body will enact its own autonomous voice. Indigenous input therefore will not be reduced to reactionary responses and calls for reforms after the damage of mismanagement and policy failure has been caused. Indigenous voices will be permanently documented within parliamentary records and governments forced to respond to the agendas that Indigenous peoples set. Collectively, this amounts to greater participation within the democratic process and facilitates a space where “salt water” and the “bubbling springs” of fresh water may meet, mitigating the risk of harm, and bringing forth new possibilities.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p>When salt and fresh water combine during Garma, it begins to take on new form, eventually materialising as foam. Appearing as a singular solid object from afar, foam is but a cluster of interlocking bubbles that gain increased stability and equilibrium through sticking together. When a bubble stands alone, or a person remains within a figurative bubble that is isolated from its surroundings and other ways of knowing, doing, and being, its vulnerabilities and insecurities are exposed. Similarly, when one bubble bursts the collective cluster becomes weaker and unstable.</p> <p>The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a vision conceived and presented by Indigenous peoples in good faith. It offers a path forward for not only Indigenous peoples and their future generations but the entire nation (Synott “Constitutional Reform”). It is a gift and an invitation “to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future”. Through calling for the establishment of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, a Makarrata Commission, and seeking Truth, Indigenous advocates for constitutional reform are looking to secure their own foothold and self-determination.</p> <p>The Uluru Statement from the Heart is more than a “thought bubble”, for it is the culmination of Indigenous people’s diverse lived experiences, outlooks, perspectives, and priorities. When the delegates met at Uluru in 2017, the thoughts, experiences, memories, and hopes of Indigenous peoples converged in a manner that created a unified front and collectively called for Voice, Treaty, and Truth. Indigenous people will never cease to pursue self-determination and the best outcomes for their peoples and all Australians. As an offering and gift, the Uluru Statement from the Heart provides the structural foundations needed to achieve this. 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Hackett lhacket3@myune.edu.au Jo Coghlan jo.coghlan@une.edu.au <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p>Many people’s knowledge of history is gleaned through popular culture. As a result there is likely a blurring of history with myth. This is one of the criticisms of historical romance novels, which blur historical details with fictional representations. As a result of this the genre is often dismissed from serious academic scholarship. The other reason for its disregard may be that it is largely seen as women’s fiction. As ‘women’s fiction’ it is largely relegated to that of ‘low culture’ and considered to have little literary value. Yet the romance genre remains popular and lucrative. Research by the Romance Writers of America in 2016 found that the genre represents 23% of the US fiction market and generates in excess of US$1 billion per year (Romance Writers of America). Since the onset of COVID-19, sales of romance novels in the US have soared, increasing by 17% between January and May 2020. The most popular genre was the historical romance genre. In total during that period, 16.2 million romance e-books were purchased by consumers (NPD). Yet despite its popularity, romance fiction remains stuck in the pulp fiction bubble. This article draws upon an international survey conducted in June 2020 by the authors. The study aimed to understand how readers of historical romance novels (<em>n</em>=813) engage with historical representations in popular culture, and how they navigate issues of authenticity.</p> <h1><strong>Consuming History through Popular Culture: “Historical Romance Novels Bring History to Life”</strong></h1> <p>Popular culture presents a tangible way in which audiences can engage with history and historical practices. “The spaces scholars have no idea about – the gaps between verifiable fact – are the territory for the writer of fictional history” (de Groot 217). Historical romance writer Georgette Heyer, for example, was influenced by her father’s conviction that “the historical novel was a worthy medium for learning about the past” (Kloester 102), and readers of historical romance often echo this view. One participant in this study considered the genre a way to “learn about history, the mores and customs, the food and clothing of that particular era … and how it contrasts to modern times”. For another participant, “most historical romances are set in countries other than my own. I like learning about these other countries and cultures”. The historical romance genre, in some instances, was not the reason for reading the novel: it was the historical setting. The romance itself was often incidental: “I am more interested in the history than the romance, but if the romance is done well … [then] the tensions of the romance illustrate and highlight historical divisions”. While a focus on history rather than romance, it posits that authors are including historically accurate details, and this is recognised by readers of the genre. In fact, one contributor to the survey argued that as a member of a writers’ group they were aware of that the “majority of the writers of that genre were voracious researchers, so much so that writers of other genres (male western writers for one) were going to them for information”.</p> <p>While fiction provides entertainment and relaxation, reading historical romance provides an avenue for accessing history without engaging it in a scholarly environment. Participants offered examples of this, saying “I like learning about the past and novels are an easy and relaxing way to do it” and “I enjoy historical facts but don’t necessarily need to read huge historical texts about Elizabeth Woodville when I can read <em>The White Queen</em>.” Social and political aspects of an era were gleaned from historical romance novels that may be less evident in historical texts. For one respondent, “I enjoy the description of the attire … behaviours … the social strata, politics, behaviours toward women and women who were ahead of their time”. Yet at the same time, historical fiction provides a way for readers to learn about historical events and places that spurred them to access more factual historical sources: “when I read a novel that involves actual historic happenings, it drives me to learn if the author is representing them correctly and to learn more about the topics”. For another, the historical romance “makes me want to do some more research”.</p> <p>Hence, historical fiction can provide new ways of seeing the past: “I enjoy seeing the similarities between people of the past and present. Hist[orical] Fic[tion] brings us hope that we can learn and survive our present.” A consciousness of how ancestors “survived and thrived” was evident among many participants. For one,</p> <blockquote> <p>history is best learned through the eyes of the people who lived through the era. School doesn’t teach history in a way that I can grasp, but putting myself into the shoes of the ordinary people who experienced, I have a better understanding of the time.</p> </blockquote> <p>Being able to access different perspectives on history and historical events and make an emotional connection with the past allowed readers to better understand the lived experiences of those from the past. This didn’t mean that readers were ignoring the fictional nature of the genre; rather, readers were clearly aware that the author was often taking liberties with history in order to advance the plot. Yet they still enjoyed the “glimpses of history that is included in the story”, adding that the “fictional details makes the history come alive”.</p> <h1><strong>The Past Represents a Different Society</strong></h1> <p>For some, historical romances presented a different society, and in some ways a nostalgia for the past. This from one participant:</p> <blockquote> <p>I like the attention to eloquence, to good speech, to manners, to responsibility toward each other, to close personal relationships, to value for education and history, to an older, more leisurely, more thoughtful way of life.</p> </blockquote> <p>A similar view was offered by another participant: “I like the language. I like the slowness, the courtship. I like the olden time social rules of honour and respect. I like worlds in which things like sword fights might occur”. For these respondents, there is a nostalgia where things were better then than now (Davis 18). Readers clearly identified with the different social and moral behaviours that they experienced in the novels they are reading, with one identifying more with the “historical morals, ethics, and way of life than I do modern ones”. Representations of a more respectful past were one aspect that appealed to readers: “people are civil to each other”, they are “generally kinder” and have a “more traditional moral code”. An aspect of escapism is also evident: “I enjoy leaving the present day for a while”. It is a past where readers find “time and manners [that are] now lost to us”. The genre reflects time that “seemed simpler” but “of course it helps if you are in the upper class”.</p> <p>Many historical romance novels are set within the social sphere of the elites of a society. And these readers’ views clearly indicate this:</p> <blockquote> <p>honestly, the characters are either wealthy or will be by the end, which releases from the day to day drudgeries and to the extent possible ensures an economic “happily ever after” as well as a romantic one … . I know the reality of even the elite wasn’t as lovely as portrayed in the books. But they are a charming and sometimes thrilling fantasy to escape inside …</p> </blockquote> <p>It is in the elite social setting that a view emerges in historical romance novels that “things are simpler and you don’t have today’s social issues to deal with”. No one period of history appears to reflect this narrative; rather, it is a theme across historical periods. The intrigue is in how the storyline develops to cope with social mores. “I enjoy reading about characters who wind their way around rules and the obstacles of their society … . Nothing in a historical romance can be fixed with a quick phone call”. The historical setting is actually an advantage because history places constrictions upon a plot: “no mobile phones, no internet, no fast cars. Many a plot would be over before it began if the hero and heroine had a phone”. Hence history and social mores “limit the access of characters and allow for interesting situations”. Yet another perspective is how readers draw parallels to the historic pasts they read about: “I love being swept away into a different era and being able to see how relevant some social issues are today”.</p> <p>There are however aspects that readers are less enamoured with, namely the lack of sex. While wholesome, particularly in the case of Christian authors, other characters are heroines who are virgins until after marriage, but even then may be virgins for “months or years after the wedding”. Similarly, “I deplore the class system and hate the inequalities of the past, yet I love stories where dukes and earls behave astonishingly well and marry interesting women and where all the nastiness is overcome”.</p> <h1><strong>The Problem with Authenticity</strong></h1> <p>The results of the international historical romance survey that forms the basis of this research indicate that most readers and writers alike were concerned with authenticity. Writers of historical romance novels often go to great lengths to ensure that their stories are imbued with historically accurate details. For readers, this “brings the characters and locales to life”. For readers, “characters can be fictional, but major events and ways of living should be authentic … dress, diet, dances, customs, historic characters”. Portraying historical accuracy is appreciated by readers: “I appreciate the time and effort the author takes to research subjects and people from a particular time period to make their work seem more authentic and believable”.</p> <p>Georgette Heyer, whose works were produced between 1921 and 1974, is considered as the doyenne of regency romance novels (Thurston 37), with a reputation for exacting historical research (Kloester 209). Heyer’s sway is such that 88 (10.8%) of the respondents to the romance survey cited her when asked who their favourite author is, with some also noting that she is a standard for other authors to aspire to. For one participant,</p> <blockquote> <p>I only read one writer of historical romance: Georgette Heyer. Why? Sublime writing skills, characterisation, delicious Wodehousian humour and impeccable accurate and research into the Regency period.</p> </blockquote> <p>Despite this prevailing view, “Heyer’s Regency is a selective one, and much of the broader history of the period is excluded from it” (Kloester 210). Heyer’s approach to history is coloured by the various approaches and developments to historiography that occurred throughout the period in which she was writing (Kloester 103). There is little evidence that she approached her sources with a critical eye and it appears that she often accepted her sources as historical fact (Kloester 112). Heyer’s works are devoid of information as to what is based in history and what was drawn from her imagination (Kloester 110).</p> <p>Despite the omissions above, Heyer has a reputation for undertaking meticulous research for her novels. This, however, is problematic in itself, as Alexandra Stirling argues: “in trying to recreate Regency patterns of speech by applying her knowledge of historical colloquialism, she essentially created her own dialect” that has come to “dominate the modern genre” (Stirling). Heyer is also highly criticised for both her racism (particularly anti-Semitism), which is reflected in her characterisation of Regency London as a society of “extreme whiteness”, which served to erase “the reality of Regency London as a cosmopolitan city with people of every skin colour and origin, including among the upper classes” (Duvezin-Caubet 249). Thus Heyer’s Regency London is arguably a fantasy world that has little grounding in truth, despite her passion for historical research. Historical romance author Felicia Grossman argues that this paradox occurs as “mixed in with [Heyer’s] research is a lot of pure fiction done to fit her personal political views” (Grossman), where she deliberately ignores historical facts that do not suit her narrative, such as the sociological implications of the slave trade and the very public debate about it that occurred during the regency. The legacy of these omissions can be found in contemporary romances set in that period. By focussing on, and intensifying, a narrow selection of historical facts, “the authentic is simultaneously inauthentic” (Hackett 38). For one participant, “I don’t really put much stock into “historical accuracy” as a concept, when I read a historical romance, I read it almost in the way that one would read a genre fantasy novel, where each book has its own rules and conventions”.</p> <h1><strong>Diversifying the Bubble </strong></h1> <p>The intertwining of history and narrative posits how readers separate fact from fiction. Historical romance novels have often been accused by both readers and critics of providing a skewed view on the past. In October 2019 the <em>All about Romance</em> blog asked its readers: “Does Historical Romance have a quality problem?”, leading to a strong debate with many contributors noting how limited the genre had developed, with the lack of diversity being a particular strain of discussion. Just a few weeks later, the peak industry body, the Romance Writers Association of America, became embroiled in a racism controversy. Cultural products such as romance novels are products of a wider white heteronormative paradigm which has been increasingly challenged by movements such as the LGBTQI+, Me Too, and Black Lives Matter, which have sought to address the evident racial imbalance. The lack of racial representation and racial equality in historical novels also provides an opportunity to consider contemporary ideals. Historical romance novels for one participant provided a lens through which to understand the “challenges for women and queers”.</p> <p>Being a genre that is dominated by both female writers and readers (the Romance Writers Association claims that 82% of readers are female), it is perhaps no surprise that many respondents were concerned with female issues. For one reader, the genre provides a way to “appreciate the freedom that women have today”. Yet it remains that the genre is fictional, allowing readers to fantasise about different social and racial circumstances: “I love the modern take on historical novels with fearless heroines living lives (they maybe couldn’t have) in a time period that intrigues me”. Including strong women and people of colour in the genre means those once excluded or marginalised are centralised, suggesting historical romance novels provide a way of fictionally going some way to re-addressing gender and racial imbalances. Coupled with romance’s guarantee of a happy ending, the reader is assured that the heroine has a positive outcome, and can “have it all”, surely a mantra that should appeal to feminists. “Historical romance offers not just escape, but a journey – emotional, physical or character change”; in this view, readers positively respond to a narrative in which plots engage with both the positive and negative sides of history. One participant put it this way: “I love history especially African American history. Even though our history is painful it is still ours and we loved just like we suffered”.</p> <h1><strong>Expanding the Bubble </strong></h1> <p><em>Bridgerton</em> (2020–), the popular Netflix show based upon Julia Quinn’s bestselling historical romance series, challenges the whitewashing of history by presenting an alternative history. Choosing a colour-blind cast and an alternate reality where racism was dispelled when the King marries a woman of colour and bestowed honours on citizens of all colours, <em>Bridgerton’s</em> depiction of race has generally been met with positive reviews. The author of the series of books that <em>Bridgerton</em> is adapted from addressed this point:</p> <blockquote> <p>previously, I’ve gotten dinged by the historical accuracy police. So in some ways, I was fearful – if you do that, are you denying real things that happened? But you know what? This is already romantic fantasy, and I think it’s more important to show that as many people as possible deserve this type of happiness and dignity. So I think they made the absolutely right choice, bringing in all this inclusivity (Quinn cited in Flood).</p> </blockquote> <p>Despite the critics, and there have been some, Netflix claims that the show has placed “number one in 83 countries including the US, UK, Brazil, France, India and South Africa”, which they credited partly to audiences who “want to see themselves reflected on the screen” (Howe). There is no claim to accuracy, as Howe argues that the show’s “Regency reimagined isn’t meant to be history. It’s designed to be more lavish, sexier and funnier than the standard period drama”. As with the readers surveyed above, this is a knowing audience who are willing to embrace an alternate vision of the past. Yet there are aspects which need to remain, such as costume, class structure, technology, which serve to signify the past. As one participant remarked, “I love history. I love reading what is essentially a fantasy-realism setting. I read for escapism and it’s certainly that”.</p> <h1><strong>“The Dance of History and Fiction”</strong></h1> <p>What is evident in this discussion is what Griffiths calls the “dance of history and fiction”, where “history and fiction … are a tag team, sometimes taking turns, sometimes working in tandem, to deepen our understanding and extend our imagination” (Griffiths). He reminds us that “historians and novelists do not constitute inviolable, impermeable categories of writers. Some historians are also novelists and many novelists are also historians. Historians write fiction and novelists write history”. More so, “history doesn’t own truth, and fiction doesn’t own imagination”. Amongst other analysis of the intersections and juxtaposition of history and fiction, Griffiths provides one poignant discussion, that of Kate Grenville’s novel <em>The Secret River</em> (2006). According to the author's own <a href="https://kategrenville.com.au/books/the-secret-river/">Website</a>,</p> <blockquote> <p><em>The Secret River</em> caused controversy when it first appeared, and become a pawn in the “history wars” that continues to this day. How should a nation tell its foundation story, when that story involves the dispossession of other people? Is there a path between the “black armband” and the “white blindfold” versions of a history like ours?</p> </blockquote> <p>In response to the controversy Grenville made an interesting if confusing argument that she does not make a distinction between “story-telling history” and “the discipline of History”, and between “writing true stories” and “writing History” (Griffiths). The same may be said for romance novelists; however, it is in their pages that they are writing a history. The question is if it is an authentic history, and does that really matter?</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Davis, Fred. <em>Yearning for Yesterday: A Sociology of Nostalgia.</em> Free Press, 1979.</p> <p>De Groot, Jerome. <em>Consuming History Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture.</em> Florence Taylor and Francis, 2009.</p> <p>Duvezin-Caubet, Caroline. "Gaily Ever After: Neo-Victorian M/M Genre Romance for the Twenty-First Century." <em>Neo-Victorian Studies</em> 13.1 (2020).</p> <p>Flood, Alison. "Bridgerton Author Julia Quinn: 'I've Been Dinged by the Accuracy Police – but It's Fantasy!'." <em>The Guardian </em>12 Jan. 2021. 15 Jan. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jan/12/bridgerton-author-julia-quinn-accuracy-fantasy-feisty-rakish-artistocrats-jane-austen">https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jan/12/bridgerton-author-julia-quinn-accuracy-fantasy-feisty-rakish-artistocrats-jane-austen</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Griffiths, Tom. "The Intriguing Dance of History and Fiction." <em>TEXT</em> 28 (2015).</p> <p>Grossman, Felicia. "Guest Post: Georgette Heyer Was an Antisemite and Her Work Is Not Foundational Historical Romance." <em>Romance Daily News</em> 2021 (2020). &lt;<a href="https://romancedailynews.medium.com/guest-post-georgette-heyer-was-an-antisemite-and-her-work-is-not-foundational-historical-romance-fc00bfc7c26">https://romancedailynews.medium.com/guest-post-georgette-heyer-was-an-antisemite-and-her-work-is-not-foundational-historical-romance-fc00bfc7c26</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Hackett, Lisa J. "Curves &amp; a-Lines: Why Contemporary Women Choose to Wear Nostalgic 1950s Style Clothing." <em>Sociology</em>. Doctor of Philosophy, University of New England, 2020. 320.</p> <p>Howe, Jinny. "'Bridgerton': How a Bold Bet Turned into Our Biggest Series Ever." Netflix, 27 Jan. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://about.netflix.com/en/news/bridgerton-biggest-series-ever">https://about.netflix.com/en/news/bridgerton-biggest-series-ever</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Kloester, Jennifer V. "Georgette Heyer: Writing the Regency: History in Fiction from Regency Buck to Lady of Quality 1935-1972." 2004.</p> <p>NPD. "Covid-19 Lockdown Gives Romance a Lift, the NPD Group Says." NPD Group, 2020. 2 Feb. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2020/covid-19-lockdown-gives-romance-a-lift--the-npd-group-says/">https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2020/covid-19-lockdown-gives-romance-a-lift--the-npd-group-says/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Romance Writers of America. "About the Romance Genre." 2016. 2 Feb. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.rwa.org/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx">https://www.rwa.org/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Stirling, Alexandra. "Love in the <em>Ton</em>: Georgette Heyer's Legacy in Regency Romance World-Building." <em>Nursing Clio</em>. Ed. Jacqueline Antonovich. 13 Feb. 2020. &lt;<a href="https://nursingclio.org/2020/02/13/love-in-the-ton-georgette-heyers-legacy-in-regency-romance-world-building/">https://nursingclio.org/2020/02/13/love-in-the-ton-georgette-heyers-legacy-in-regency-romance-world-building/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Thurston, Carol. <em>The Romance Revolution : Erotic Novels for Women and the Quest for a New Sexual Identity.</em> Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.</p> 2021-03-15T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Lisa J. Hackett, Jo Coghlan https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2742 The Disney ‘Princess Bubble’ as a Cultural Influencer 2021-03-03T02:52:29+00:00 Amanda Rutherford amanda.rutherford@aut.ac.nz Sarah Baker sarah.baker@aut.ac.nz <p>The Walt Disney Company has been creating magical fairy tales since the early 1900s and is a trusted brand synonymous with wholesome, family entertainment (Wasko). Over time, this reputation has resulted in the Disney brand’s huge financial growth and influence on audiences worldwide. (Wohlwend). As the largest global media powerhouse in the Western world (Beattie), Disney uses its power and influence to shape the perceptions and ideologies of its audience. In the twenty-first century there has been a proliferation of retellings of Disney fairy tales, and Kilmer suggests that although the mainstream perception is that these new iterations promote gender equity, new cultural awareness around gender stereotypes, and cultural insensitivity, this is illusory. <em>Tangled</em>, for example, was a popular film selling over 10 million DVD copies and positioned as a bold new female fairy tale character; however, academics took issue with this position, writing articles entitled “Race, Gender and the Politics of Hair: Disney’s Tangled Feminist Messages”, “Tangled: A Celebration of White Femininity”, and “Disney’s Tangled: Fun, But Not Feminist”, berating the film for its lack of any true feminist examples or progressiveness (Kilmer).</p> <p>One way to assess the impact of Disney is to look at the use of shape shifting and transformation in the narratives – particularly those that include women and young girls. Research shows that girls and women are often stereotyped and sexualised in the mass media (Smith et al.; Collins), and Disney regularly utilises body modification and metamorphosis within its narratives to emphasise what good and evil ‘look’ like. These magical transformations evoke what Marina Warner refers to as part of the necessary surprise element of the fairy tale, while creating suspense and identity with storylines and characters. In early Disney films such as the 1937 version of <em>Snow White</em>, the queen becomes the witch who brings a poison apple to the princess; and in the 1959 film <em>Sleeping Beauty</em> the ‘bad’ fairy Maleficent shapeshifts into a malevolent dragon. Whilst these ‘good to evil’ (and vice versa) tropes are easily recognised, there are additional transformations that are arguably more problematic than those of the increasingly terrifying monsters or villains. </p> <p>Disney has created what we have coined the ‘princess bubble’, where the physique and behaviour of the leading women in the tales has become a predictor of success and good fortune, and the impression is created of a link between their possession of beauty and the ‘happily-ever-after’ outcome received by the female character. The value, or worth, of a princess is shown within these stories to often increase according to her ability to attract men. For example, in <em>Brave</em>, Queen Elinor showcases the extreme measures taken to ‘present’ her daughter Merida to male suitors. Merida is preened, dressed, and shown how to behave to increase her value to her family, and whilst she manages to persuade them to set aside their patriarchal ideologies in the end, it is clear what is expected from Merida in order to gain male attention. Similarly, Cinderella, Aurora, and Snow White are found to be of high ‘worth’ by the princes on account of their beauty and form.</p> <p>We contend, therefore, that the impression often cast on audiences by Disney princesses emphasises that beauty = worth, no matter how transgressive Disney appears to be on the surface. These princesses are flawlessly beautiful, capable of winning the heart of the prince by triumphing over their less attractive rivals – who are often sisters or other family members. This creates the illusion among young audiences that physical attractiveness is enough to achieve success, and emphasises beauty as the priority above all else. Therefore, the Disney ‘princess bubble’ is highly problematic. It presents a narrow range of acceptability for female characters, offers a distorted view of gender, and serves to further engrain into popular culture a flawed stereotype on how to look and behave that negates a fuller representation of female characters. In addition, Armando Maggi argues that since fairy tales have been passed down through generations, they have become an intrinsic part of many people’s upbringing and are part of a kind of universal imaginary and repository of cultural values. This means that these iconic cultural stories are “unlikely to ever be discarded because they possess both a sentimental value and a moral ‘soundness’” (Rutherford 33), albeit that the lessons to be learnt are at times antiquated and exclusionary in contemporary society.</p> <p>The marketing and promotion of the Disney princess line has resulted in these characters becoming an extremely popular form of media and merchandise for young girls (Coyne et al. 2), and Disney has received great financial benefit from the success of its long history of popular films and merchandise. As a global corporation with influence across multiple entertainment platforms, from its streaming channel to merchandise and theme parks, the gender portrayals therefore impact on culture and, in particular, on how young audiences view gender representation. Therefore, it could be argued that Disney has a social responsibility to ensure that its messages and characters do not skew or become damaging to the psyche of its young audiences who are highly impressionable. When the representation of gender is examined, however, Disney tends to create highly gendered performances in both the early and modern iterations of fairy tales, and the princess characters remain within a narrow range of physical portrayals and agency.</p> <h1>The Princess Bubble</h1> <p>Although there are twelve official characters within the Disney princess umbrella, plus Elsa and Anna from the Disney <em>Frozen</em> franchise, this article examines the eleven characters who are either born or become royalty through marriage, and exhibit characteristics that could be argued to be the epitome of feminine representation in fairy tales. The characters within this ‘princess bubble’ are Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Elsa, and Anna. The physical appearance of those in the princess bubble also connects to displays around the physical aspects of ethnicity. Nine out of eleven are white skinned, with Jasmine having lightened in skin tone over time, and Tiana now having a tanned look rather than the original dark African American complexion seen in 2009 (Brucculieri). This reinforces an ideology that being white is superior. Every princess in our sample has thick and healthy long hair, the predominant colour being blonde. Their eyes are mostly blue, with only three possessing a dark colour, a factor which reinforces the characteristics and representation of white ethnic groups. Their eyes are also big and bulbous in shape, with large irises and pupils, and extraordinarily long eyelashes that create an almost child-like look of innocence that matches their young age. These princesses have an average age of sixteen years and are always naïve, most without formal education or worldly experience, and they have additional distinctive traits which include poise, elegance and other desired feminine characteristics – like kindness and purity. Ehrenreich and Orenstein note that the physical attributes of the Disney princesses are so evident that the creators have drawn criticism for over-glamorising them, and for their general passiveness and reliance on men for their happiness. Essentially, these women are created in the image of the ultimate male fantasy, where an increased value is placed on the virginal look, followed by a perfect tiny body and an ability to follow basic instructions.</p> <p>The slim bodies of these princesses are disproportionate, and include long necks, demure shoulders, medium- to large-sized perky breasts, with tiny waists, wrists, ankles and feet. Thus, it can be argued that the main theme for those within the princess bubble is their physical body and beauty, and the importance of being attractive to achieve success. The importance of the physical form is so valued that the first blessing given by the fairies to Aurora from <em>Sleeping Beauty</em> is the gift of physical beauty (Rutherford). Furthermore, Tanner et al. argue that the "images of love at first sight in the films encourage the belief that physical appearance is the most important thing", and these fairy tales often reflect a pattern that the prince cannot help but to instantly fall in love with these women because they are so striking. In some instances, like the stories of Cinderella and Snow White, these princesses have not uttered a single word to their prince before these men fall unconditionally and hopelessly in love. Cinderella need only to turn up at the ball as the best dressed (Parks), while Snow White must merely “wait prettily, because someday her prince will come" (Inge) to reestablish her as royalty. Disney emphasises that these princesses win their man solely on the basis that they are the most beautiful girls in the land. In <em>Sleeping Beauty</em>, the prince overhears Aurora’s singing and that sets his heart aflame to the point of refusing to wed the woman chosen for him at birth by the king. Fortunately, she is one and the same person, so the patriarchy survives, but this idea of beauty, and of 'love at first sight', continues to be a central part of Disney movies today, and shows that “Disney Films are vehicles of powerful gender ideologies” (Hairianto).</p> <p>These princesses within the bubble of perfection have priority placed on their physical and sexual beauty (Dietz), formulating a kind of ‘beauty contest motif’. Examples include Gaston, who does not love Belle in <em>Beauty and the Beast</em>, but simply wants her as his trophy wife because he deems her to be the most beautiful girl in the town. Ariel, from <em>The Little Mermaid</em>, looks as if she "was modeled after a slightly anorexic Barbie doll with thin waist and prominent bust. This representation portrays a dangerous model for young women" (Zarranz). The sexualisation of the characters continues as Jasmine has “a delicate nose and small mouth" (Lacroix), with a dress that can be considered as highly sexualised and unsuitable for a girl of sixteen (Lacroix).</p> <p>In <em>Tangled</em>, Rapunzel is held hostage in the tower by Mother Gothel because she is ‘as fragile as a flower’ and needs to be ‘kept safe’ from the harms in the world. But it is her beauty that scares the witch the most, because losing Rapunzel would leave the old woman without her magical anti-aging hair. She uses scare tactics to ensure that Rapunzel remains unseen to the world. These examples are all variations of the beauty theme, as the princesses all fall within narrow and predictable tropes of love at first sight where the woman is rescued and initiated into womanhood by being chosen by a man.</p> <h1>Disney’s Progressive Representation?</h1> <p>At times Disney’s portrayal of princesses appears illusively progressive, by introducing new and different variations of princesses into the fold – such as Merida in the 2012 film <em>Brave</em>. Unfortunately, this is merely an illusion as the ‘body-perfect’ image remains an all-important ideal to snare a prince. Merida, the young and spirited teenage princess, begins her tale determined not to conform to the desired standards set for a woman of her standing; however, when the time comes for her to be married, there is no negotiating with her mother, the queen, on dress compliance. Merida is clothed against her will to re-identify her in the manner which her parents deem appropriate. Her ability to express her identity and individuality removed, now replaced by a masked version, and thus with the true Merida lost in this transformation, her parents consider Merida to be of renewed merit and benefit to the family. This shows that Disney remains unchanged in its depiction of who may ‘fit’ within the princess bubble, because the rubric is unchanged on how to win the heart of the man. In fact, this film is possibly more troublesome than the rest because it clearly depicts her parents to deem her to be of more value only after her mother has altered her physical appearance. It is only after the total collapse of the royal family that King Fergus has a change of patriarchal heart, and in fact Disney does not portray this rumpled, ripped-sleeved version of the princess in its merchandising campaign.</p> <p>While the fantasy of fairy tales provides enthralling adventures that always end in happiness for the pretty princesses that encounter them, consideration must be given to all those women who have not met the standard and are left in their wake. If women do not conform to the standards of representation, they are presented as outcasts, and happiness eludes them. Cinderella, for example, has two ugly stepsisters, who, no matter how hard they might try, are unable to match her in attractiveness, kindness, or grace. Disney has embraced and not shunned Perrault’s original retelling of the tale, by ensuring that these stepsisters are ugly. They have not been blessed with any attributes whatsoever, and cannot sing, dance, or play music; nor can they sew, cook, clean, or behave respectably. These girls will never find a suitor, let alone a prince, no matter how eager they are to do so. On the physical comparison, Anastasia and Drizella have bodies that are far more rounded and voluptuous, with feet, for example, that are more than double the size of Cinderella’s magical slipper. These women clearly miss the parameters of our princess bubble, emphasising that Disney is continuing to promote dangerous narratives that could potentially harm young audience conceptions of femininity at an important period in their development. Therefore, despite the ‘progressive’ strides made by Disney in response to the vast criticism of their earlier films, the agency afforded to their new generation of princesses does not alter the fact that success comes to those who are beautiful. These beautiful people continue to win every time.</p> <p>Furthermore, Hairianto has found that it is not uncommon for the media to directly or indirectly promote “mental models of how a woman should look, speak and interact with others”, and that Disney uses its pervasive princess influence “to shape perceptions of female identity and desirability. Females are made to measure themselves against the set of values that are meted out by the films” (Hairianto). In the 2017 film <em>Beauty and the Beast</em>, those outside of the princess bubble are seen in the characters of the three maidens from the village who are always trying to look their very best in the hope of attracting Gaston (Rutherford). Gaston is not only disinterested but shows borderline contempt at their glances by permitting his horse to spray mud and dirt all over their fine clothing. They do not meet the beauty standard set, and instead of questioning his cruelty, the audience is left laughing at the horse’s antics. Interestingly, the earlier version of Disney’s <em>Beauty and the Beast</em> portrays these maidens as blonde, slim, and sexy, closely fitting the model of beauty displayed in our princess bubble; however, none match the beauty of Belle, and are therefore deemed inferior. In this manner, Disney is being irresponsible, placing little interest in the psychological ‘safety’ or affect the messages have upon young girls who will never meet these expectations (Ehrenreich; Best and Lowney; Orenstein).</p> <p>Furthermore, bodies are shaped and created by culture. They are central to self-identity, becoming a projection of how we see ourselves. Grosz (xii) argues that our notions of our bodies begin in physicality but are forever shaped by our interactions with social realities and cultural norms. The media are constantly filled with images that “glorify and highlight some kinds of bodies (for example, the young, able-bodied and beautiful) while ignoring or condemning others” (Jones 193), and these influences on gender, ethnicity, sexuality, race, and religion within popular culture therefore play a huge part in identity creation. In Disney films, the princess bubble constantly sings the same song, and “children view these stereotypical roles as the right and only way to behave” (Ewert). In <em>The Princess and the Frog</em>, Tiana’s friend Charlotte is so desperate to ‘catch’ a prince that "she humorously over-applies her makeup and adjusts her ball gown to emphasize her cleavage" (Breaux), but the point is not lost.</p> <p>Additionally, “making sure that girls become worthy of love seems central to Disney’s fairy tale films” (Rutherford 76), and because their fairy tales are so pervasive and popular, young viewers receive a consistent message that being beautiful and having a tiny doll-like body type is paramount. “This can be destructive for developing girls’ views and images of their own bodies, which are not proportioned the way that they see on screen” (Cordwell 21). “The strongly gendered messages present in the resolutions of the movies help to reinforce the desirability of traditional gender conformity” (England et al. 565).</p> <h1>Conclusion</h1> <p>The princess bubble is a phenomenon that has been seen in Disney’s representation of female characters for decades. Within this bubble there is a narrow range of representation permitted, and attempts to make the characters more progressive have instead resulted in narrow and restrictive constraints, reinforcing dangerous female stereotypes. Kilmer suggests that ultimately these representations fail to break away from “hegemonic assumptions about gender norms, class boundaries, and Caucasian privileging”. Ultimately this presents audiences with strong and persuasive messages about gender performance. Audiences conform their bodies to societal ‘rules’: “as to how we ‘wear’ and ‘use’ our bodies” (Richardson and Locks x), including for example how we should dress, what we should weigh, and how to become popular. In our global hypermediated society, viewers are constantly exposed to princesses and other appropriate bodies. These become internalised ideals and aid in positive and negative thoughts and self-identity, which in turn creates additional pressure on the female body in particular. The seemingly innocent stories with happy outcomes are therefore unrealistic and ultimately excluding of those who cannot or will not ‘fit into the princess bubble’. The princess bubble, we argue, is therefore predictable and restrictive, promoting female passiveness and a reliance of physical traits over intelligence. The dominance of beauty over all else remains the road to female success in the Disney fairy tale film.</p> <h2>References</h2> <p><em>Beauty and the Beast</em>. Dirs. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. Walt Disney Productions, 1991. Film.</p> <p><em>Beauty and the Beast</em>. Dir. Bill Condon. Walt Disney Pictures, 2017. Film.</p> <p>Best, Joel, and Kathleen S. Lowney. “The Disadvantage of a Good Reputation: Disney as a Target for Social Problems Claims.” <em>The Sociological Quarterly</em> 50 (2009): 431–449. doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.2009.01147.x.</p> <p><em>Brave</em>. Dirs. Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Walt Disney Pictures, 2012. Film.</p> <p>Breaux, Richard, M. “After 75 Years of Magic: Disney Answers Its Critics, Rewrites African American History, and Cashes in on Its Racist Past.” <em>Journal of African American Studies</em> 14 (2010): 398-416.</p> <p><em>Cinderella</em>. Dirs. Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske. Walt Disney Productions, 1950. Film.</p> <p>Collins, Rebecca L. “Content Analysis of Gender Roles in Media: Where Are We Now and Where Should We Go?” <em>Sex Roles</em> 64 (2011): 290–298. doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9929-5.</p> <p>Cordwell, Caila Leigh. <em>The Shattered Slipper Project: The Impact of the Disney Princess Franchise on Girls Ages 6-12</em>. Honours thesis, Southeastern University, 2016.</p> <p>Coyne, Sarah M., Jennifer Ruh Linder, Eric E. Rasmussen, David A. Nelson, and Victoria Birkbeck. “Pretty as a Princess: Longitudinal Effects of Engagement with Disney Princesses on Gender Stereotypes, Body Esteem, and Prosocial Behavior in Children.” <em>Child Development</em> 87.6 (2016): 1–17.</p> <p>Dietz, Tracey, L. “An Examination of Violence and Gender Role Portrayals in Video Games: Implications for Gender Socialization and Aggressive Behavior.” <em>Sex Roles</em> 38 (1998): 425–442. doi:10.1023/a:1018709905920.</p> <p>England, Dawn Elizabeth, Lara Descartes, and Melissa A. Collier-Meek. "Gender Role Portrayal and the Disney Princesses." <em>Sex Roles</em> 64 (2011): 555-567.</p> <p>Ewert, Jolene. “A Tale as Old as Time – an Analysis of Negative Stereotypes in Disney Princess Movies.” <em>Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences</em> 13 (2014).</p> <p>Grosz, Elizabeth. <em>Volatile Bodies</em>. London, Routledge, 1994.</p> <p>Inge, M. Thomas. “Art, Adaptation, and Ideology: Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” <em>Journal of Popular Film and Television</em> 32.3 (2004): 132-142.</p> <p>Jones, Meredith. “The Body in Popular Culture.” <em>Being Cultural</em>. Ed. Bruce M.Z. Cohen. Auckland University, 2012. 193-210.</p> <p>Kilmer, Alyson. <em>Moving Forward? Problematic Ideology in Twenty-First Century Fairy Tale Films</em>. Central Washington University, 2015.</p> <p>Lacroix, Celeste. “Images of Animated Others: The Orientalization of Disney's Cartoon Heroines from The Little Mermaid to The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” <em>Popular Communications</em> 2.4 (2004): 213-229.</p> <p><em>Little Mermaid, The</em>. Dirs. Ron Clements and John Musker. Walt Disney Pictures, 1989. Film.</p> <p>Maggi, Armando. <em>Preserving the Spell: Basile's "The Tale of Tales" and Its Afterlife in the Fairy-Tale Tradition</em>. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.</p> <p>Orenstein, Peggy. <em>Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture</em>. New York: HarperCollins, 2011.</p> <p>Parks, Kari. <em>Mirror, Mirror: A Look at Self-Esteem &amp; Disney Princesses</em>. Honours thesis. Ball State University, 2012.</p> <p><em>Pinocchio</em>. Dirs. Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Norm Ferguson, Bill Roberts, and T. Lee. Walt Disney Productions, 1940. Film.</p> <p><em>Princess and the Frog, The</em>. Dirs. Ron Clements and John Musker. Walt Disney Pictures, 2009. Film.</p> <p>Richardson, Niall, and Adam Locks. <em>Body Studies: The Basics</em>. Routledge, 2014.</p> <p>Rutherford, Amanda M. <em>Happily Ever After? A Critical Examination of the Gothic in Disney Fairy Tale Films</em>. Auckland University of Technology, 2020.</p> <p><em>Sleeping Beauty</em>. Dirs. Clyde Geronimi, Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Les Clark. Walt Disney Productions, 1959. Film.</p> <p>Smith, Stacey L., Katherine M. Pieper, Amy Granados, and Mark Choueite. “Assessing Gender-Related Portrayals in Topgrossing G-Rated Films.” <em>Sex Roles</em> 62 (2010): 774–786.</p> <p><em>Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs</em>. Dirs. David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Ben Sharpsteen, William Cottrell, Perce Pearce, and Larry Morey. Walt Disney Productions, 1937. Film.</p> <p><em>Tangled</em>. Dirs. Nathan Greno and Byron Howard. Walt Disney Pictures, 2010. Film.</p> <p>Tanner, Litsa RenÉe, Shelley A. Haddock, Toni Schindler Zimmerman, and Lori K. Lund. “Images of Couples and Families in Disney Feature-Length Animated Films.” <em>The American Journal of Family Therapy</em> 31 (2003): 355-373.</p> <p>Warner, Marina. <em>Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds</em>. London: Oxford UP, 2002.</p> <p>Wasko, Janet. <em>Understanding Disney: The Manufacture of Fantasy</em>. Polity Press, 2001.</p> <p>Wohlwend, Karen E. “Damsels in Discourse: Girls Consuming and Producing Identity Texts through Disney Princess Play.” <em>Reading Research Quarterly</em> 44.1 (2009): 57-83.</p> <p>Zarranaz, L. Garcia. “Diswomen Strike Back? The Evolution of Disney's Femmes in the 1990s.” <em>Atenea</em> 27.2 (2007) 55-65.</p> 2021-03-15T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Amanda Rutherford, Sarah Baker https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2741 Fabricating Effervescence 2021-02-11T22:45:30+00:00 Anna-Mari Almila a.almila@fashion.arts.ac.uk <h1><strong>Introduction </strong></h1> <p>In November 2020, upon learning that the company’s Covid-19 vaccine trial had been successful, the head of Pfizer’s Vaccine Research and Development, Kathrin Jansen, celebrated with champagne – “some really good stuff” (Cohen). Bubbles seem to go naturally with celebration, and champagne is fundamentally associated with bubbles. Yet, until the late-seventeenth century, champagne was a still wine, and it only reached the familiar levels of bubbliness in the late-nineteenth century (Harding). During this period and on into the early twentieth century, “champagne” was in many ways created, defined, and defended. A “champagne bubble” was created, within which the “nature” of champagne was contested and constructed. Champagne today is the result of hundreds of years of labour by many sorts of bubble-makers: those who make the bubbly drink, and those who construct, maintain, and defend the champagne bubble. In this article, I explore some elements of the champagne bubble, in order to understand both its fragility and rigidity over the years and today.</p> <h1><strong>Creating the Champagne Bubble – the Labour of Centuries</strong></h1> <p>It is difficult to separate the physical from the mythical as regards champagne. Therefore the categorisations below are always overlapping, and embedded in legal, political, economic, and socio-cultural factors. Just as <em>assemblage</em> – the mixing of wine from different grapes – is an essential element of champagne wine, the champagne bubble may be called heterogeneous assemblage. Indeed, the champagne bubble, as we will see below, is a myriad of different sorts of bubbles, such as <em>terroir</em>, <em>appellation</em>, myth and brand. And just as any assemblage, its heterogeneous elements exist and operate in relation to each other. Therefore the “champagne bubble” discussed here is both one and many, all of its elements fundamentally interconnected, constituting that “one” known as “champagne”. It is not my intention to be comprehensive of all the elements, historical and contemporary. Indeed, that would not be possible within such a short article. Instead, I seek to demonstrate some of the complexity of the champagne bubble, noting the elaborate labour that has gone into its creation.</p> <h2>The Physical Champagne and Champagne – from Soil to Bubbles</h2> <p>Champagne means both a legally protected geographical area (Champagne), and the wine (here: champagne) produced in this area from grapes defined as acceptable: most importantly pinot noir, pinot meunier (“black” grapes), and chardonnay (“white” grape). The method of production, too, is regulated and legally protected: <em>méthode champenoise</em>. Although the same method is used in numerous locations, these must be called something different: <em>metodo classico</em> (Italy), <em>método tradicional</em> (Spain), <em>Methode Cap Classique</em> (South Africa).</p> <p>The geographical area of Champagne was first legally defined in 1908, when it only included the areas of Marne and Aisne, leaving out, most importantly, the area of Aube. This decision led to severe unrest and riots, as the Aube <em>vignerons</em> revolted in 1911, forcing the inclusion of “zone 2”: Aube, Haute-Marne, and Seine-et-Marne (Guy). Behind these regulations was a surge in fraudulent production in the early twentieth century, as well as falling wine prices resulting from increasing supply of cheap wines (Colman 18). These first <em>appellations d’origine</em> had many consequences – they proved financially beneficial for the “zone 1”, but less so for the “zone 2”. When both these areas were brought under the same <em>appellation</em> in 1927, the financial benefits were more limited – but this may have been due to the Great Depression triggered in 1929 (Haeck et al.).</p> <p>It is a long-standing belief that the soil and climate of Champagne are key contributors to the quality of champagne wines, said to be due to “conditions … most suitable for making this type of wine” (Simon 11). Already in the end of the nineteenth century, the editor of <em>Vigneron champenois</em> attributed champagne’s quality to “a fortunate combination of … chalky soil … [and] unrivalled exposure [to the sun]” (Guy 119) among other things. Factors such as soil and climate, commonly included in and expressed through the idea of <em>terroir</em>, undoubtedly influence grapes and wines made thereof, but the extent remains unproven. Indeed, <em>terroir</em> itself is a very contested concept (Teil; Inglis and Almila). It is also the case that climate change has had, and will continue to have, devastating effects on wine production in many areas, while benefiting others. The highly successful English sparkling wine production, drawing upon know-how from the Champagne area, has been enabled by the warming climate (Inglis), while Champagne itself is at risk of becoming too hot (Robinson).</p> <p>Champagne is made through a process more complicated than most wines. I present here the bare bones of it, to illustrate the many challenges that had to be overcome to enable its production in the scale we see today. Freshly picked grapes are first pressed and the juice is fermented. Grape juice contains natural yeasts and therefore will ferment spontaneously, but fermentation can also be started with artificial yeasts. In fermentation, alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO<sub>2</sub>) are formed, but the latter usually escapes the liquid. The secret of champagne is its second fermentation, which happens in bottles, after wines from different grapes and/or vineyards have been blended for desired characteristics (<em>assemblage</em>). For the second fermentation, yeast and sugar are added. As the fermentation happens inside a bottle, the CO<sub>2</sub> that is created does not escape, but dissolves into the wine. The average pressure inside a champagne bottle in serving temperature is around 5 bar – 5 times the pressure outside the bottle (Liger-Belair et al.).</p> <p>The obvious challenge this method poses has to do with managing the pressure. Exploding bottles used to be a common problem, and the manner of sealing bottles was not very developed, either. Seventeenth-century developments in bottle-making, and using corks to seal bottles, enabled sparkling wines to be produced in the first place (Leszczyńska; Phillips 137). Still today, champagne comes in heavy-bottomed bottles, sealed with characteristically shaped cork, which is secured with a wire cage known as <em>muselet</em>. Scientific innovations, such as calculating the ideal amount of sugar for the second fermentation in 1836, also helped to control the amount of gas formed during the second fermentation, thus making the behaviour of the wine more predictable (Leszczyńska 265).</p> <p>Champagne is characteristically a “manufactured” wine, as it involves several steps of interference, from <em>assemblage</em> to <em>dosage</em> – sugar added for flavour to most champagnes after the second fermentation (although there are also <em>zero dosage</em> champagnes). This lends champagne particularly suitable for branding, as it is possible to make the wine taste the same year after year, harvest after harvest, and thus create a distinctive and recognisable house style. It is also possible to make champagnes for different tastes. During the nineteenth century, champagnes of different <em>dosage</em> were made for different markets – the driest for the British, the sweetest for the Russians (Harding).</p> <p>Bubbles are probably the most striking characteristic of champagne, and they are enabled by the complicated factors described above. But they are also formed when the champagne is poured in a glass. Natural impurities on the surface of the glass provide channels through which the gas pockets trapped in the wine can release themselves, forming strains of rising bubbles (Liger-Belair et al.). Champagne glasses have for centuries differed from other wine glasses, often for aesthetic reasons (Harding). The bubbles seem to do more than give people aesthetic pleasure and sensory experiences. It is often claimed that champagne makes you drunk faster than other drinks would, and there is, indeed, some (limited) research showing that this may well be the case (Roberts and Robinson; Ridout et al.).</p> <h2>The Mythical Champagne – from Dom Pérignon to Modern Wonders</h2> <p>Just as the bubbles in a champagne glass are influenced by numerous forces, so the metaphorical champagne bubble is subject to complex influences. Myth-creation is one of the most significant of these. The origin of champagne as sparkling wine is embedded in the myth of Dom Pérignon of Hautvillers monastery (1638–1715), who according to the legend would have accidentally developed the bubbles, and then enthusiastically exclaimed “I am drinking the stars!” (Phillips 138). In reality, bubbles are a natural phenomenon provoked by winter temperatures deactivating the fermenting yeasts, and spring again reactivating them. The myth of Dom Pérignon was first established in the nineteenth century and quickly embraced by the champagne industry. In 1937, Moët et Chandon launched a premium champagne called Dom Pérignon, which enjoys high reputation until this day (Phillips).</p> <p>The champagne industry has been active in managing associations connected with champagne since the nineteenth century. Sparkling champagnes had already enjoyed fashionability in the later seventeenth and early eighteenth century, both in the French Court, and amongst the British higher classes. In the second half of the nineteenth century, champagne found ever increasing markets abroad, and the clientele was not aristocratic anymore. Before the 1860s, champagne’s association was with high status celebration, as well as sexual activity and seduction (Harding; Rokka). As the century went on, and champagne sales radically increased, associations with “modernity” were added: “hot-air balloons, towering steamships, transcontinental trains, cars, sports, and other ‘modern’ wonders were often featured in quickly proliferating champagne advertising” (Rokka 280). During this time, champagne grew both drier and more sparkling, following consumer tastes (Harding).</p> <p>Champagne’s most important markets in later nineteenth century included the UK, where the growing middle classes consumed champagne for both celebration and hospitality (Harding), the US, where (upper) middle-class women were served champagne in new kinds of consumer environments (Smith; Remus), and Russia, where the upper classes enjoyed sweeter champagne – until the Revolution (Phillips 296). The champagne industry quickly embraced the new middle classes in possession of increasing wealth, as well as new methods of advertising and marketing. What is remarkable is that they managed to integrate enormously varied cultural thematics and still retain associations with aristocracy and luxury, while producing and selling wine in industrial scale (Harding; Rokka). This is still true today: champagne retains a reputation of prestige, despite large-scale branding, production, and marketing.</p> <h1><strong>Maintaining and Defending the Bubble: Formulas, Rappers, and the Absolutely Fabulous Tipplers</strong></h1> <p>The falling wine prices and increasing counterfeit wines coincided with Europe’s phylloxera crisis – the pest accidentally brought over from North America that almost wiped out all Europe’s vineyards. The pest moved through Champagne in the 1890s, killing vines and devastating <em>vignerons</em> (Campbell). The <em>Syndicat du Commerce des vins de Champagne</em> had already been formed in 1882 (Rokka 280). Now unions were formed to fight phylloxera, such as the <em>Association Viticole Champenoise</em> in 1898. The 1904 <em>Fédération Syndicale des Vignerons</em> was formed to lobby the government to protect the name of Champagne (Leszczyńska 266) – successfully, as we have seen above. The financial benefits from <em>appellations</em> were certainly welcome, but short-lived. World War I treated Champagne harshly, with battle lines stuck through the area for years (Guy 187).</p> <p>The battle went on also in the lobbying front. In 1935, a new <em>appellation</em> regime was brought into law, which came to be the basis for all European systems, and the <em>Comité National des appellations d'origine</em> (CNAO) was founded (Colman 1922). Champagne’s protection became increasingly international, and continues to be so today under EU law and trade deals (European Commission).</p> <p>The post-war recovery of champagne relied on strategies used already in the “golden years” – marketing and lobbying. Advertising continued to embrace “luxury, celebration, transport (extending from air travel to the increasingly popular automobile), modernity, sports” (Guy 188). Such advertisement must have responded accurately to the mood of post-war, pre-depression Europe. Even in the prohibition US it was known that the “frivolous” French women might go as far as bathe in champagne, like the popular actress Mistinguett (Young 63). Curiously, in the 1930s Soviet Russia, “champagne” (not produced in Champagne) was declared a sign of good living, symbolising the standard of living that any Soviet worker had access to (at least in theory) (Gronow).</p> <p>Today, the reputation of champagne is fiercely defended in legal terms. This is not only in terms of protection against other sparkling wine making areas, but also in terms of exploitation of champagne’s reputation by actors in other commercial fields, and even against mass market products containing genuine champagne (Mahy and d’Ath; Schneider and Nam). At the same time, champagne has been widely “democratised” by mass production, enabled partly by increasing mechanisation and scientification of champagne production from the 1950s onwards (Leszczyńska 266). Yet champagne retains its association with prestige, luxury, and even royalty. This has required some serious adaptation and flexibility. In what follows, I look into three cultural phenomena that illuminate processes of such adaptation: Formula One (F1) champagne spraying, the 1990s sitcom <em>Absolutely Fabulous</em>, and the Cristal racism scandal in 2006.</p> <p>The first champagne bottle is said to have been presented to F1 <em>grand prix</em> winner in Champagne in 1950 (Wheels24). Such a gesture would have been fully in line with champagne’s association with cars, sport, and modernity. But what about the spraying? Surely that is not in line with the prestige of the wine?</p> <p>The first spraying is attributed to Jo Siffert in 1966 and Dan Gurney in 1967, the former described as accidental, the latter as a spontaneous gesture of celebration (Wheels24; Dobie). Moët had become the official supplier of F1 champagnes in 1966, and there are no signs that the new custom would have been problematic for them, as their sponsorship continued until 1999, after which Mumm sponsored the sport for 15 years. Today, the champagne to be popped and sprayed is Chanson, in special bottles “coated in the same carbon fibre that F1 cars are made of” (Wheels24). Such an iconic status has the spraying gained that it features in practically all TV broadcasts concerning F1, although non-alcoholic substitute is used in countries where sale of alcohol is banned (Barker et al., “Quantifying”; Barker et al., “Alcohol”).</p> <p>As disturbing as the champagne spraying might look for a wine snob, it is perfectly in line with champagne’s marketing history and entrepreneurial spirit shown since the nineteenth century. Nor is it unheard of to let champagne spray. The “art” of <em>sabrage</em>, opening champagne bottle with a sable, associated with glamour, spectacle, and myth – its origin is attributed to Napoleon and his officers – is perfectly acceptable even for the snob. Sparkling champagne was always bound up with joy and celebration, not a solemn drink, and the champagne bubble was able to accommodate middle classes as well as aristocrats.</p> <p>This brings us to our second example, the British sitcom <em>Absolutely Fabulous</em>. The show, first released in 1992, featured two women, “Eddy” (Jennifer Saunders) and “Patsy” (Joanna Lumley), who spent their time happily smoking, taking drugs, and drinking large quantities of “Bolly” (among other things). Bollinger champagne may have initially experienced “a bit of a shock” for being thus addressed, but soon came to see the benefits of fame (French). In 2005, they hired PR support to make better use of the brand’s “Ab Fab” recognisability, and to improve its prestige reputation in order to justify their higher price range (Cann). Saunders and Lumley were warmly welcomed by the Bollinger house when filming for their champagne tour <em>Absolutely Champers</em> (2017). It is befitting indeed that such controversial fame came from the UK, the first country to discover sparkling champagne outside France (Simon 48), and where the aspirational middle classes were keen to consume it already in the nineteenth century (Harding).</p> <p>More controversial still is the case of Cristal (made by Louis Roederer) and the US rap world. Enthusiastically embraced by the “bling-bling” world of (black) rappers, champagne seems to fit their ethos well. Cristal was long favoured as both a drink and a word in rap lyrics. But in 2006, the newly appointed managing director at the family owned Roederer, Frédéric Rouzaud, made comments considered racist by many (Woodland). Rouzard told in an interview with <em>The Economist</em> that the house observed the Cristal-rap association “with curiosity and serenity”. He reportedly continued: “but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business”. It was indeed those two brands that the rapper Jay-Z replaced Cristal with, when calling for a boycott on Cristal.</p> <p>It would be easy to dismiss Rouzard’s comments as snobbery, or indeed as racism, but they merit some more reflection. Cristal is the premium wine of a house that otherwise does not enjoy high recognisability. While champagne’s history involves embracing new sorts of clientele, and marketing flexibly to as many consumer groups as possible (Rokka), this was the first spectacular crossing of racial boundaries. It was always the case that different houses and their different champagnes were targeted at different clienteles, and it is apparent that Cristal was not targeted at black rap artists. Whereas Bollinger was able to turn into a victory the questionable fame brought by the white middle-class association of Absolutely Fabulous, the more prestigious Cristal considered the attention of the black rapper world more threatening and acted accordingly. They sought to defend their own brand bubble, not the larger champagne bubble.</p> <p>Cristal’s reputation seems to have suffered little – its 2008 vintage, launched in 2018, was the most traded wine of that year (Schultz). Jay-Z’s purchase of his own champagne brand (Armand de Brignac, nicknamed Ace of Spades) has been less successful reputation-wise (Greenburg). It is difficult to break the champagne bubble, and it may be equally difficult to break into it.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p>In this article, I have looked into the various dilemmas the “bubble-makers” of Champagne encountered when fabricating what is today known as “champagne”. There have been moments of threat to the bubble they formed, such as in the turn of nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and eras of incomparable success, such as from the 1860s to 1880s. The discussion has demonstrated the remarkable flexibility with which the makers and defenders of champagne have responded to challenges, and dealt with material, socio-cultural, economic, and other problems. It feels appropriate to end with a note on the current challenge the champagne industry faces: Covid-19.</p> <p>The pandemic hit champagne sales exceptionally hard, leaving around 100 million bottles unsold (Micallef). This was not very surprising, given the closure of champagne-selling venues, banning of public and private celebrations, and a general mood not particularly prone to (or even likely to frown upon) such light-hearted matters as glamour and champagne.</p> <p>Champagne has survived many dramatic drops in sales during the twentieth century, such as the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the post-financial crisis collapse in 2009. Yet they seem to be able to make astonishing recoveries. Already, there are indicators that many people consumed more champagne during the festive end-of-year season than in previous years (Smithers). For the moment, it looks like the champagne bubble, despite its seeming fragility, is practically indestructible, no matter how much its elements may suffer under various pressures and challenges.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Barker, Alexander, Magdalena Opazo-Breton, Emily Thomson, John Britton, Bruce Granti-Braham, and Rachael L. Murray. “Quantifying Alcohol Audio-Visual Content in UK Broadcasts of the 2018 Formula 1 Championship: A Content Analysis and Population Exposure.” <em>BMJ Open</em> 10 (2020): e037035. &lt;<a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/8/e037035">https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/8/e037035</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Barker, Alexander B., John Britton, Bruce Grant-Braham, and Rachael L. 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Sparkling wine is especially notable for its association with secular and sacred celebrations. Indeed, sparkling wine is rarely drunk as a matter of routine; bottles of such wine signal special occasions, heightened by the formality and excitement associated with opening the bottle and controlling (or not!) the resultant fizz (Faith).</p> <p>Originating in England and France in the late 1600s, sparkling wine marked a dramatic shift in winemaking techniques, with winemakers deliberately adding “fizz” or bubbles to their product (Faith). The resulting effervescent wines were first enjoyed by the social elite of European society, signifying privilege, wealth, luxury and nobility; however, new techniques for producing, selling and distributing the wines created a mass consumer culture (Guy).</p> <p>Production of Australian sparkling wines began in the late nineteenth century and consumption remains popular. As a “new world” country – that is, one not located in the wine producing areas of Europe – Australian sparkling wines cannot directly draw on the same marketing traditions as those of the “old world”. One enterprising company, Treasury Wine Estates, markets a range of wines, including a sparkling variety, called 19 Crimes, that draws, not on European traditions tied to luxury, wealth and prestige, but Australia’s colonial history. </p> <p>Using Augmented Reality and interactive story-telling, 19 Crimes wine labels feature convicts who had committed one or more of 19 crimes punishable by transportation to Australia from Britain. The marketing of sparkling wine using convict images and convict stories of transportation have not diminished the celebratory role of consuming “bubbly”. Rather, in exploring the marketing techniques employed by the company<em>, </em>particularly when linked to the traditional drink of celebration, we argue that 19 Crimes, while fun and informative, nevertheless romanticises convict experiences and Australia’s convict past.</p> <h1><strong>Convict Heritage and Re-Appropriating the Convict Image</strong></h1> <p>Australia’s cultural heritage is undeniably linked to its convict past. Convicts were transported to Australia from England and Ireland over an 80-year period between 1788-1868. While the convict system in Australia was not predominantly characterised by incarceration and institutionalisation (Jones 18) the work they performed was often forced and physically taxing, and food and clothing shortages were common. Transportation meant exile, and “it was a fierce punishment that ejected men, women and children from their homelands into distant and unknown territories” (Bogle 23). </p> <p>Convict experiences of transportation often varied and were dependent not just on the offender themselves (for example their original crime, how willing they were to work and their behaviour), but also upon the location they were sent to. “Normal” punishment could include solitary confinement, physical reprimands (flogging) or hard labour in chain gangs.</p> <p>From the time that transportation ceased in the mid 1800s, efforts were made to distance Australia’s future from the “convict stain” of its past (Jones). Many convict establishments were dismantled or repurposed with the intent of forgetting the past, although some became sites of tourist visitation from the time of closure.</p> <p>Importantly, however, the wider political and social reluctance to engage in discourse regarding Australia’s “unsavoury historical incident” of its convict past continued up until the 1970s (Jones 26). During the 1970s Australia’s convict heritage began to be discussed more openly, and indeed, more favourably (Welch 597). Many today now view Australia’s convicts as “reluctant pioneers” (Barnard 7), and as such they are celebrated within our history. In short, the convict heritage is now something to be celebrated rather than shunned. This celebration has been capitalised upon by tourist industries and more recently by wine label 19 Crimes. </p> <h1><strong>“19 Crimes: Cheers to the Infamous”</strong></h1> <p>The Treasury Wine Estates brand launched 19 Crimes in 2011 to a target population of young men aged between 18 and 34 (Lyons). Two limited edition vintages sold out in 2011 with “virtually no promotion” (19 Crimes, “Canadians”). In 2017, 19 Crimes became the first wine to use an Augmented Reality (AR) app (the app was later renamed <em>Living Wines Labels</em> in 2018) that allowed customers</p> <blockquote> <p>to hover their [smart] phone in front of a bottle of the wine and [watch] mugshots of infamous 18<sup>th</sup> century British criminals come to life as 3D characters who recount <em>their</em> side of the story. Having committed at least one of the 19 crimes punishable by exile to Australia, these convicts now humor and delight wine drinkers across the globe. (Lirie)</p> </blockquote> <p>Given the target audience of the 19 Crimes wine was already 18-34 year old males, AR made sense as a marketing technique. Advertisers are well aware the millennial generation is “digitally empowered” and the AR experience was created to not only allow “consumers to engage with 19 Crimes wines but also explore some of the stories of Australia’s convict past … [as] told by the convicts-turned-colonists themselves!” (Lilley cited in Szentpeteri 1-2). The strategy encourages people to collect convicts by purchasing other 19 Crimes alcohol to experience a wider range of stories.</p> <p>The AR has been highly praised:</p> <blockquote> <p style="text-align: left;">they [the labels] animate, explaining just what went down and giving a richer experience to your beverage; engaging both the mind and the taste buds simultaneously … . ‘A fantastic app that brings a little piece of history to life’, writes one user on the Apple app store. ‘I jumped out of my skin when the mugshot spoke to me’. (Stone)</p> </blockquote> <p>From here, the success of 19 Crimes has been widespread. For example, in November 2020, media reports indicated that 19 Crimes red wine was the most popular supermarket wine in the UK (Lyons; Pearson-Jones). During the UK COVID lockdown in 2020, 19 Crimes sales increased by 148 per cent in volume (Pearson-Jones). This success is in no small part to its innovative marketing techniques, which of course includes the AR technology heralded as a way to enhance the customer experience (Lirie).</p> <p>The 19 Crimes wine label explicitly celebrates infamous convicts turned settlers. The website “19 Crimes: Cheers to the Infamous” incorporates ideas of celebration, champagne and bubbles by encouraging people to toast their mates:</p> <blockquote> <p>the convicts on our wines are not fiction. They were of flesh and blood, criminals and scholars. Their punishment of transportation should have shattered their spirits. Instead, it forged a bond stronger than steel. Raise a glass to our convict past and the principles these brave men and women lived by. (19 Crimes, “Cheers”)</p> </blockquote> <p>While using alcohol, and in particular sparkling wine, to participate in a toasting ritual is the “norm” for many social situations, what is distinctive about the <em>19 Crimes</em> label is that they have chosen to merchandise and market known offenders for individuals to encounter and collect as part of their drinking entertainment. This is an innovative and highly popular concept. According to one marketing company: “19 Crimes Wines celebrate the rebellious spirit of the more than 160,000 exiled men and women, the rule breakers and law defying citizens that forged a new culture and national spirit in Australia” (Social Playground). The implication is that by drinking this brand of [sparkling] wine, consumers are also partaking in celebrating those convicts who “forged” Australian culture and national spirit.</p> <p>In many ways, this is not a “bad thing”. 19 Crimes are promoting Australian cultural history in unique ways and on a very public and international scale. The wine also recognises the hard work and success stories of the many convicts that did indeed build Australia. Further, 19 Crimes are not intentionally minimising the experiences of convicts. They implicitly acknowledge the distress felt by convicts noting that it “should have shattered their spirits”. However, at times, the narratives and marketing tools romanticise the convict experience and culturally reinterpret a difficult experience into one of novelty. They also tap into Australia’s embracement of larrikinism. In many ways, 19 Crimes are encouraging consumers to participate in larrikin behaviour, which Bellanta identifies as being irreverent, mocking authority, showing a disrespect for social subtleties and engaging in boisterous drunkenness with mates. Celebrating convict history with a glass of bubbly certainly mocks authority, as does participating in cultural practices that subvert original intentions. </p> <p>Several companies in the US and Europe are now reportedly offering the service of selling wine bottle labels with customisable mugshots. Journalist Legaspi suggests that the perfect gift for anyone who wants a sparkling wine or cider to toast with during the Yuletide season would be having a customisable mugshot as a wine bottle label. The label comes with the person’s mugshot along with a “goofy ‘crime’ that fits the person-appealing” (Sotelo cited in Legaspi). In 2019, Social Playground partnered with MAAKE and Dan Murphy's stores around Australia to offer customers their own personalised sticker mugshots that could be added to the wine bottles. The campaign was intended to drive awareness of 19 Crimes, and mugshot photo areas were set up in each store. Customers could then pose for a photo against the “mug shot style backdrop. Each photo was treated with custom filters to match the wine labels actual packaging” and then printed on a sticker (Social Playground).</p> <blockquote> <p>The result was a fun photo moment, delivered as a personalised experience. Shoppers were encouraged to purchase the product to personalise their bottle, with hundreds of consumers taking up the offer.</p> <p>With instant SMS delivery, consumers also received a branded print that could be shared so [sic] social media, driving increased brand awareness for 19 Crimes. (Social Playground)</p> </blockquote> <p>While these customised labels were not interactive, they lent a unique and memorable spin to the wine. In many circumstances, adding personalised photographs to wine bottles provides a perfect and unique gift; yet, could be interpreted as making light of the conditions experienced by convicts. However, within our current culture, which celebrates our convict heritage and embraces crime consumerism, the reframing of a mugshot from a tool used by the State to control into a novelty gift or memento becomes culturally acceptable and desirable. Indeed, taking a larrikin stance, the reframing of the mugshot is to be encouraged.</p> <p>It should be noted that while some prisons were photographing criminals as early as the 1840s, it was not common practice before the 1870s in England. The <em>Habitual Criminals Act</em> of 1869 has been attributed with accelerating the use of criminal photographs, and in 1871 the <em>Crimes Prevention Act</em> mandated the photographing of criminals (Clark). Further, in Australia, convicts only began to be photographed in the early 1870s (Barnard) and only in Western Australia and Port Arthur (Convict Records, “Resources”), restricting the availability of images which <em>19 Crimes</em> can utilise. The marketing techniques behind 19 Crimes and the Augmented app offered by Living Wines Labels ensure that a very particular picture of the convicts is conveyed to its customers. As seen above, convicts are labelled in jovial terms such as “rule breakers”, having a “rebellious spirit” or “law defying citizens”, again linking to notions of larrikinism and its celebration. 19 Crimes have been careful to select convicts that have a story linked to “rule breaking, culture creating and overcoming adversity” (19 Crimes, “Snoop”) as well as convicts who have become settlers, or in other words, the “success stories”. This is an ingenious marketing strategy. Through selecting success stories, 19 Crimes are able to create an environment where consumers can enjoy their bubbly while learning about a dark period of Australia’s heritage. Yet, there is a distancing within the narratives that these convicts are actually “criminals”, or where their criminal behaviour is acknowledged, it is presented in a way that celebrates it.</p> <p>Words such as criminals, thieves, assault, manslaughter and repeat offenders are foregone to ensure that consumers are never really reminded that they may be celebrating “bad” people. The crimes that make up 19 Crimes include:</p> <ol> <li>Grand Larceny, theft above the value of one shilling.</li> <li>Petty Larceny, theft under one shilling. </li> <li>Buying or receiving stolen goods, jewels, and plate... </li> <li>Stealing lead, iron, or copper, or buying or receiving. </li> <li>Impersonating an Egyptian.</li> <li>Stealing from furnished lodgings. </li> <li>Setting fire to underwood. </li> <li>Stealing letters, advancing the postage, and secreting the money. </li> <li>Assault with an intent to rob. </li> <li>Stealing fish from a pond or river.</li> <li>Stealing roots, trees, or plants, or destroying them. </li> <li>Bigamy.</li> <li>Assaulting, cutting, or burning clothes. </li> <li>Counterfeiting the copper coin... </li> <li>Clandestine marriage. </li> <li>Stealing a shroud out of a grave. </li> <li>Watermen carrying too many passengers on the Thames, if any drowned. </li> <li>Incorrigible rogues who broke out of Prison and persons reprieved from capital punishment. </li> <li>Embeuling Naval Stores, in certain cases. (19 Crimes, “Crimes”)</li> </ol> <p>This list has been carefully chosen to fit the narrative that convicts were transported in the main for what now appear to be minimal offences, rather than for serious crimes which would otherwise have been punished by death, allowing the consumer to enjoy their bubbly without engaging too closely with the convict story they are experiencing.</p> <p>The AR experience offered by these labels provides consumers with a glimpse of the convicts’ stories. Generally, viewers are told what crime the convict committed, a little of the hardships they encountered and the success of their outcome. Take for example the transcript of the Blanc de Blancs label:</p> <blockquote> <p>as a soldier I fought for country. As a rebel I fought for cause. As a man I fought for freedom. My name is James Wilson and I fight to the end. I am not ashamed to speak the truth. I was tried for treason. Banished to Australia. Yet I challenged my fate and brought six of my brothers to freedom. Think that we have been nearly nine years in this living tomb since our first arrest and that it is impossible for mind or body to withstand the continual strain that is upon them. One or the other must give way.</p> </blockquote> <p>While the contrived voice of James Wilson speaks about continual strain on the body and mind, and having to live in a “living tomb” [Australia] the actual difficulties experienced by convicts is not really engaged with.</p> <p>Upon further investigation, it is also evident that James Wilson was not an ordinary convict, nor was he strictly tried for treason. Information on Wilson is limited, however from what is known it is clear that he enlisted in the British Army at age 17 to avoid arrest when he assaulted a policeman (Snoots). In 1864 he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and became a Fenian; which led him to desert the British Army in 1865. The following year he was arrested for desertion and was convicted by the Dublin General Court Martial for the crime of being an “Irish rebel” (Convict Records, “Wilson”), desertion and mutinous conduct (photo from the Wild Geese Memorial cited in The Silver Voice). Prior to transportation, Wilson was photographed at Dublin Mountjoy Prison in 1866 (Manuscripts and Archives Division), and this is the photo that appears on the Blanc de Blancs label. He arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia on 9 January 1868. On 3 June 1869 Wilson “was sentenced to fourteen days solitary, confinement including ten days on bread and water” (photo from the Wild Geese Memorial cited in The Silver Voice) for an unknown offence or breach of conduct. A few years into his sentence he sent a letter to a fellow Fenian New York journalist John Devoy. Wilson wrote that his was a</p> <blockquote> <p>voice from the tomb. For is not this a living tomb? In the tomb it is only a man’s body is good for the worms but in this living tomb the canker worm of care enters the very soul. <em>Think that we have been nearly nine years in this living tomb since our first arrest and that it is impossible for mind or body to withstand the continual strain that is upon them. One or the other must give way</em>. (Wilson, 1874, cited in FitzSimons; emphasis added)</p> </blockquote> <p>Note the last two lines of the extract of the letter have been used verbatim by 19 Crimes to create their interactive label. This letter sparked a rescue mission which saw James Wilson and five of his fellow prisoners being rescued and taken to America where Wilson lived out his life (Reid). This escape has been nicknamed “The Great Escape” and a memorial was been built in 2005 in Rockingham where the escape took place.</p> <p>While 19 Crimes have re-created many elements of Wilson’s story in the interactive label, they have romanticised some aspects while generalising the conditions endured by convicts. For example, citing treason as Wilson’s crime rather than desertion is perhaps meant to elicit more sympathy for his situation. Further, the selection of a Fenian convict (who were often viewed as political prisoners that were distinct from the “criminal convicts”; Amos) allows 19 Crimes to build upon narratives of rule breaking by focussing on a convict who was sent to Australia for fighting for what he believed in. In this way, Wilson may not be seen as a “real” criminal, but rather someone to be celebrated and admired.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p>As a “new world” producer of sparkling wine, it was important for 19 Crimes to differentiate itself from the traditionally more sophisticated market of sparkling-wine consumers. At a lower price range, 19 Crimes caters to a different, predominantly younger, less wealthy clientele, who nevertheless consume alcoholic drinks symbolic to the occasion. The introduction of an effervescent wine to their already extensive collection encourages consumers to buy their product to use in celebratory contexts where the consumption of bubbly defines the occasion. The marketing of Blanc de Blancs directly draws upon ideas of celebration whilst promoting an image and story of a convict whose situation is admired – not the usual narrative that one associates with celebration and bubbly.</p> <p>Blanc de Blancs, and other 19 Crimes wines, celebrate “the rules they [convicts] broke and the culture they built” (19 Crimes, “Crimes”). This is something that the company actively promotes through its website and elsewhere. Using AR, 19 Crimes are providing drinkers with selective vantage points that often sensationalise the reality of transportation and disengage the consumer from that reality (Wise and McLean 569). Yet, 19 Crimes are at least engaging with the convict narrative and stimulating interest in the convict past. Consumers are being informed, convicts are being named and their stories celebrated instead of shunned.</p> <p>Consumers are comfortable drinking bubbly from a bottle that features a convict because the crimes committed by the convict (and/or to the convict by the criminal justice system) occurred so long ago that they have now been romanticised as part of Australia’s colourful history. The mugshot has been re-appropriated within our culture to become a novelty or fun interactive experience in many social settings. For example, many dark tourist sites allow visitors to take home souvenir mugshots from decommissioned police and prison sites to act as a memento of their visit. The promotional campaign for people to have their own mugshot taken and added to a wine bottle, while now a cultural norm, may diminish the real intent behind a mugshot for some people. For example, while drinking your bubbly or posing for a fake mugshot, it may be hard to remember that at the time their photographs were taken, convicts and transportees were “ordered to sit for the camera” (Barnard 7), so as to facilitate State survelliance and control over these individuals (Wise and McLean 562).</p> <p>Sparkling wine, and the bubbles that it contains, are intended to increase fun and enjoyment. Yet, in the case of 19 Crimes, the application of a real-life convict to a sparkling wine label adds an element of levity, but so too novelty and romanticism to what are ultimately narratives of crime and criminal activity; thus potentially “making light” of the convict experience. 19 Crimes offers consumers a remarkable way to interact with our convict heritage. The labels and AR experience promote an excitement and interest in convict heritage with potential to spark discussion around transportation. The careful selection of convicts and recognition of the hardships surrounding transportation have enabled 19 Crimes to successfully re-appropriate the convict image for celebratory occasions.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>19 Crimes. “Cheers to the Infamous.” <em>19 Crimes</em>, 2020. 14 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.19crimes.com">https://www.19crimes.com</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “The 19 Crimes.”<em> 19 Crimes</em>, 2020. 14 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.19crimes.com/en-au/the-19-crimes">https://www.19crimes.com/en-au/the-19-crimes</a>&gt;. </p> <p>———. “19 Crimes Announces Multi-Year Partnership with Entertainment Icon Snoop Dogg.” <em>PR Newswire</em> 16 Apr. 2020. 15 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/19-crimes-announces-multi-year-partnership-with-entertainment-icon-snoop-dogg-301041585.html">https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/19-crimes-announces-multi-year-partnership-with-entertainment-icon-snoop-dogg-301041585.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “19 Crimes Canadians Not Likely to Commit, But Clamouring For.” <em>PR Newswire</em> 10 Oct. 2013. 15 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/19-crimes-canadians-not-likely-to-commit-but-clamouring-for-513086721.html">https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/19-crimes-canadians-not-likely-to-commit-but-clamouring-for-513086721.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Amos, Keith William. <em>The Fenians and Australia c 1865-1880</em><strong>. </strong>Doctoral thesis, UNE, 1987. &lt;<a href="https://hdl.handle.net/1959.11/12781">https://hdl.handle.net/1959.11/12781</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Barnard, Edwin. <em>Exiled: The Port Arthur Convict Photographs</em>. Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2010.</p> <p>Bellanta, Melissa. <em>Larrikins: A History.</em> University of Queensland Press.</p> <p>Bogle, Michael. <em>Convicts: Transportation and Australia</em>. Sydney: Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, 2008.</p> <p>Clark, Julia. <em>‘Through a Glass, Darkly’: The Camera, the Convict and the Criminal Life. </em>PhD Dissertation, University of Tasmania, 2015.</p> <p>Convict Records. “James Wilson.” <em>Convict Records</em> 2020. 15 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://convictrecords.com.au/convicts/wilson/james/72523">https://convictrecords.com.au/convicts/wilson/james/72523</a>&gt;. </p> <p>———. “Convict Resources.” <em>Convict Records</em> 2021. 23 Feb. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://convictrecords.com.au/resources">https://convictrecords.com.au/resources</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Faith, Nicholas. <em>The Story of Champagne</em>. Oxford: Infinite Ideas, 2016.</p> <p>FitzSimons, Peter. “The Catalpa: How the Plan to Break Free Irish Prisoners in Fremantle Was Hatched, and Funded.” <em>Sydney Morning Herald</em> 21 Apr. 2019. 15 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/the-catalpa-how-the-plan-to-break-free-irish-prisoners-in-fremantle-was-hatched-and-funded-20190416-p51eq2.html">https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/the-catalpa-how-the-plan-to-break-free-irish-prisoners-in-fremantle-was-hatched-and-funded-20190416-p51eq2.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Guy, Kolleen. <em>When Champagne Became French: Wine and the Making of a National identity</em>. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins UP, 2007.</p> <p>Jones, Jennifer Kathleen. <em>Historical Archaeology of Tourism at Port Arthur, Tasmania, 1885-1960</em>. PhD Dissertation, Simon Fraser University, 2016.</p> <p>Legaspi, John. “Need a Wicked Gift Idea? Try This Wine Brand’s Customizable Bottle Label with Your Own Mugshot.” <em>Manila Bulletin</em> 18 Nov. 2020. 14 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://mb.com.ph/2020/11/18/need-a-wicked-gift-idea-try-this-wine-brands-customizable-bottle-label-with-your-own-mugshot/">https://mb.com.ph/2020/11/18/need-a-wicked-gift-idea-try-this-wine-brands-customizable-bottle-label-with-your-own-mugshot/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Lirie. “Augmented Reality Example: Marketing Wine with 19 Crimes.” <em>Boot Camp Digital</em> 13 Mar. 2018. 15 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://bootcampdigital.com/blog/augmented-reality-example-marketing-wine-19-crimes/">https://bootcampdigital.com/blog/augmented-reality-example-marketing-wine-19-crimes/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Lyons, Matthew. “19 Crimes Named UK’s Favourite Supermarket Wine.” <em>Harpers</em> 23 Nov. 2020. 14 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://harpers.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/28104/19_Crimes_named_UK_s_favourite_supermarket_wine.html#:~:text=The%20most%20popular%20supermarket%20wine,wine%20subscription%20service%20Wine%20List">https://harpers.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/28104/19_Crimes_named_UK_s_favourite_supermarket_wine.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "John O'Reilly, 10th Hussars; Thomas Delany; James Wilson, See James Thomas, Page 16; Martin Hogan, See O'Brien, Same Page (16)." <em>The New York Public Library Digital Collections</em>. 1866. &lt;<a href="https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-9768-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99">https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-9768-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Pearson-Jones, Bridie. “Cheers to That! £9 Bottle of Australian Red Inspired by 19 Crimes That Deported Convicts in 18<sup>th</sup> Century Tops List as UK’s Favourite Supermarket Wine.” <em>Daily Mail</em> 22 Nov. 2020. 14 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-8933567/19-Crimes-Red-UKs-favourite-supermarket-wine.html">https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-8933567/19-Crimes-Red-UKs-favourite-supermarket-wine.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Reid, Richard. “Object Biography: ‘A Noble Whale Ship and Commander’ – The <em>Catalpa</em> Rescue, April 1876.” <em>National Museum of Australia </em>n.d. 15 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.nma.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/2553/NMA_Catalpa.pdf">https://www.nma.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/2553/NMA_Catalpa.pdf</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Snoots, Jen. “James Wilson.” <em>Find A Grave</em> 2007. 15 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/19912884/james-wilson">https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/19912884/james-wilson</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Social Playground. “Printing Wine Labels with 19 Crimes.” <em>Social Playground </em>2019. 14 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.socialplayground.com.au/case-studies/maake-19-crimes">https://www.socialplayground.com.au/case-studies/maake-19-crimes</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Stone, Zara. “19 Crimes Wine Is an Amazing Example of Adult Targeted Augmented Reality.” <em>Forbes</em> 12 Dec. 2017. 15 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/zarastone/2017/12/12/19-crimes-wine-is-an-amazing-example-of-adult-targeted-augmented-reality/?sh=492a551d47de">https://www.forbes.com/sites/zarastone/2017/12/12/19-crimes-wine-is-an-amazing-example-of-adult-targeted-augmented-reality/?sh=492a551d47de</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Szentpeteri, Chloe. “Sales and Marketing: Label Design and Printing: Augmented Reality Bringing Bottles to Life: How Treasury Wine Estates Forged a New Era of Wine Label Design.” <em>Australian and New Zealand Grapegrower and Winemaker</em> 654 (2018): 84-85.</p> <p>The Silver Voice. “The Greatest Propaganda Coup in Fenian History.” <em>A Silver Voice From Ireland</em> 2017. 15 Dec. 2020 &lt;<a href="https://thesilvervoice.wordpress.com/tag/james-wilson/">https://thesilvervoice.wordpress.com/tag/james-wilson/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Welch, Michael. “Penal Tourism and the ‘Dream of Order’: Exhibiting Early Penology in Argentina and Australia.” <em>Punishment &amp; Society</em> 14.5 (2012): 584-615.</p> <p>Wise, Jenny, and Lesley McLean. “Pack of Thieves: The Visual Representation of Prisoners and Convicts in Dark Tourist Sites.” <em>The Palgrave Handbook of Incarceration in Popular Culture</em>. Eds. Marcus K. Harmes, Meredith A. Harmes, and Barbara Harmes. Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 555-73.</p> 2021-03-15T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Jenny Wise, Lesley McLean https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2733 Taming the Bubble 2021-02-11T02:44:18+00:00 Greg Melleuish gmelleui@uow.edu.au <p>When I saw the word ‘bubbles’ my immediate thought went to the painting by John Millais of a child blowing bubbles that subsequently became part of the advertising campaign for Pears soap. Bubbles blown by children, as we all once did, last but a few seconds and lead on naturally to the theme of transience and constant change. Nothing lasts forever, even if human beings make attempts to impose permanence on the world. </p> <p>A child’s disappointment at having a soap bubble burst represents a deep human desire for permanence which is the focus of this article.</p> <p>Before the modern age, human life could be considered to be somewhat like a bubble in that it could be pricked at any time. This was especially the case with babies and young children who could be easily carried off. As Jeremy Taylor put it:</p> <blockquote> <p>but if the bubble stands the shock of a bigger drop, and outlives the chances of a child, of a careless nurse, of drowning in a pail of water, of being overlaid by a sleepy servant, or such little accidents. (9)</p> </blockquote> <p>More generally, human beings understood that there was nothing permanent about their existing circumstances and that the possibility of famine, disease and, even war was ever present.</p> <p>Pax Romana, which is eulogised by Edward Gibbon as a felicitous time, did not suffer much in the way of war, famine, or epidemics but it was still a time when many Romans would have suffered from a range of diseases and not always have been well nourished. It was, however, a time of considerable security for most Romans who did not need to fear a band of marauders turning up on their doorstep. Disease and war would follow in the wake of climate change during the next century (Harper).</p> <p>Pax Romana was a bubble of relative tranquillity in human history. For a short period of time, climatic conditions, economic circumstances and political stability coalesced to still the winds of time temporarily. But such bubbles were unusual in the European context, which was usually riven by war. Peace reigned, by and large, in the long nineteenth century and in the period following World War II, to which it is possible to attach the name ‘pax moderna’. In China, much longer bubbles have been the norm, but they were succeeded by terrible periods of famine, dislocation, and war. The Ming bubble burst in the seventeenth century amidst a time of cold, famine, and plague (Parker 115-151).</p> <p>In such circumstances there was an appreciation of the precariousness of human existence. This had two major effects:</p> <ul> <li>A search for permanence in a world of change and uncertainty, a means of creating a bubble that can resist that change.</li> <li>When living in a time of relative stability, dealing with the fear that that stability will only last so long and that bad things may be just around the corner.</li> </ul> <p>These two matters form the basis of this article.</p> <p>Human beings create bubbles as they attempt to control change. They then become attached to their bubbles, even to the extent of believing that their bubbles are the real world. This has the effect of bubbles continuing to exist even if they harm human understanding of the world rather than enhancing it.</p> <p>Impermanence is the great reality of human existence; as Heraclitus (Burnet 136) correctly stated, we cannot place our foot in the same river twice. The extraordinary thing is that human beings possess a plastic nature that allows them to adapt to that impermanence (Melleuish &amp; Rizzo ‘Limits’). The plasticity of human beings, as expressed in their culture, can be seen most clearly in the way that human languages constantly change. This occurs both in terms of word usage and grammatical structure. English was once an inflected language but cases now only really survive in personal pronouns. Words constantly change their meanings, both over time and in different places.</p> <p>Words appear to take on the appearance of permanence; they appear to form bubbles that are encased in lead, even when the reality is that words form multiple fragile bubbles that are constantly being burst and remade. The changing nature of the meaning of words only becomes known to a literate society, in particular a literate society that has a genuine sense of history. In an oral society words are free to change over time and there is little sense of those changes. Writing has the effect of fixing texts into a particular form; at the very least it makes creative reworking of texts much more difficult.</p> <p>Of course, there are counter examples to such a claim, the most famous of which are the Vedas which, it is argued, remained unchanged despite centuries of oral transmission (Doniger104-7). This fixed nature could be achieved because of the strict mode of transmission, ensuring that the hymns did not change when transmitted. As the Vedas are linked to the performance of rituals this exactness was necessary for the rituals to be efficacious (Olivelle xli-xlv).</p> <p>The transmission of words is not the same thing as the transmission of meaning. Nor does it mean that many words that today are used as seemingly universal ideas have always existed. Religion (Nongeri), state (Melleuish, ‘State’), civilisation, and culture (Melleuish, ‘Civilisation’) are all modern creations; ‘identity’ is only about sixty years old (Stokes 2). New words emerge to deal with new circumstances. For example, civilisation came into being partially because the old term ‘Christendom’ had become redundant; ‘identity’ replaced an earlier idea of national character.</p> <p>Words, then, are bubbles that human beings cast out onto the world and that appear to create the appearance of permanence. These bubbles encase the real world giving the thing that they name ‘being’, even as that thing is in flux and a condition of becoming. For Parmenides (loc. 1355-1439), the true nature of the world is being. The solidity provided by ‘being’ is a comfort in a world that is constantly changing and in which there is a constant threat of change. Words and ideas do not form stable bubbles, they form a string of bubbles, with individuals constantly blowing out new versions of a word, but they appear as if they were just the one bubble.</p> <p>One can argue, quite correctly, I believe, that this tendency to meld a string of bubbles into a single bubble is central to the human condition and actually helps human beings to come to terms with their existence in the world. ‘Bubble as being’ provides human beings with a considerable capacity to gain a degree of control over their world. Amongst other things, it allows for radical simplification. A.R. Luria (20-47), in his study of the impact of literacy on how human beings think, noted that illiterate Uzbeks classified colour in a complex way but that with the coming of literacy came to accept the quite simple colour classifications of the modern world. Interestingly, Uzbeks have no word for orange; the ‘being’ of colours is a human creation.</p> <p>One would think that this desire for ‘being’, for a world that is composed of ‘constants’, is confined to the world of human culture, but that is not the case. Everyone learns at school that the speed of light is a constant. Rupert Sheldrake (92-3) decided to check the measurement of the speed of light and discovered that the empirical measurements taken of its speed actually varied. Constants give the universe a smooth regularity that it would otherwise lack.</p> <p>However, there are a number of problems that emerge from a too strong attachment to these bubbles of being. One is that the word is mistaken for the thing; the power of the word, the logos, becomes so great that it comes to be assumed that all the objects described by a word must fit into a single model or type. This flies in the face of two realities. One is that every example of a named object is different. Hence, when one does something practically in the world, such as construct a building, one must adjust one’s activities according to local circumstances.</p> <p>That the world is heterogeneous explains why human beings need plasticity. They need to adapt their practices as they encounter new and different circumstances. If they do not, it may be the case that they will die. The problem with the logos introduced by literacy, the bubble of being, is that it makes human beings less flexible in their dealings with the world.</p> <p>The other reality is human plasticity itself. As word/bubbles are being constantly generated then each bubble will vary in its particular meaning, both at the community and, even, individual, level. Over time words will vary subtly in meaning in different places. There is no agreed common meaning to any word; being is an illusion. Of course, it is possible for governments and other institutions to lay down what the ‘real’ meaning of a word is, much in the same way as the various forms of measurement are defined by certain scientific criteria. This becomes dangerous in the case of abstract nouns. It is the source of ‘heresy’ which is often defined in terms of the meaning of particular words. Multiple, almost infinite, bubbles must be amalgamated into one big bubble. Attempts by logos professionals to impose a single meaning are often resisted by ordinary human beings who generally seem to be quite happy living with a range of bubbles (Tannous; Pegg).</p> <p>One example of mutation of meaning is the word ‘liberal’, which means quite different things in America and Australia. To add to the confusion, there are occasions when liberal is used in Australia in its American sense. This simply illustrates the reality that liberal has no specific ‘being’, some universal idea of which individual liberals are particular manifestations. The problem becomes even worse when one moves between languages and cultures. To give but one example; the ancient Greek word πολις is translated as state but it can be argued that the Greek πολις was a stateless society (Berent).</p> <p>There are good arguments for taking a pragmatic attitude to these matters and assuming that there is a vague general agreement regarding what words such as ‘democracy’ mean, and not to go down the rabbit hole into the wonderland of infinite bubbles. This works so long as individuals understand that bubbles of being are provisional in nature and are capable of being pricked. It is possible, however, for the bubbles to harden and to impose on us what is best described as the ‘tyranny of concepts’, whereby the idea or word obscures the reality. This can occur because some words, especially abstract nouns, have very vague meanings: they can be seen as a sort of cloudy bubble. Again, democracy is good example of a cloudy bubble whose meaning is very difficult to define. A cloudy bubble prevents us from analysing and criticising something too closely.</p> <p>Bubbles exist because human beings desire permanence in a world of change and transience. In this sense, the propensity to create bubbles is as much an aspect of human nature as its capacity for plasticity. They are the product of a desire to ‘tame time’ and to create a feeling of security in a world of flux.</p> <p>As discussed above, a measure of security has not been a common state of affairs for much of human history, which is why the Pax Romana was so idealised. If there is modern ‘bubble’ created by the Enlightenment it is the dream of Kantian perpetual peace, that it is possible to bring a world into being that is marked by permanent peace, in which all the earlier horrors of human existence, from famine to epidemics to war can be tamed and humanity live harmoniously and peacefully forever.</p> <p>To achieve this goal, it was necessary to ‘tame’ history (Melleuish &amp; Rizzo, ‘Philosophy’). This can be done through the idea of progress. History can be placed into a bubble of constant improvement whereby human beings are constantly getting better, not just materially but also intellectually and morally. Progress very easily turns into a utopian fantasy where people no longer suffer and can live forever. The horrors of the first half of the twentieth century did little to dent the power of this bubble. There is still an element of modern culture that dreams of such a world actually coming into being.</p> <p>Human beings may try to convince themselves that the bubble of progress will not burst and that perpetual peace may well be perpetual, but underlying that hope there are deep anxieties born of the knowledge that ‘nothing lasts forever’. Since 1945, the West has lived through a period of peace and relative prosperity, a pax moderna; the European Union is very much a Kantian creation.</p> <p>Underneath the surface, however, contemporary Western culture has a deep fear that the bubble can burst very easily and that the veneer of modern civilisation will be stripped away. This fear manifests itself in a number of ways. One can be seen in the regular articles that appear about the possibility of a comet or asteroid hitting the earth (Drake). Such a collision will eventually occur but it is sixty five million years since the dinosaurs became extinct. Another is the fear of solar storm that could destroy both electricity grids and electronic devices (Britt). </p> <p>Another expression of this fear can be found in forms of artistic expression, including zombie, disaster, and apocalypse movies. These reveal something about the psyche of modernity, and modern democracy, in the same way that Athenian tragedy expressed the hopes and fears of fifth-century Athenian democracy through its elaboration of the great Greek myths.</p> <p>Robert Musil remarks in <em>The Man without Qualities </em>(833) that if humanity dreamed collectively it would dream Moosbrugger, a serial murderer. Certainly, it appears to be the case that when the modern West dreams collectively it dreams of zombies, vampires, and a world in which civilised values have broken down and everyone lives in a Hobbesian state of nature, the war of all against all (Hobbes 86-100).</p> <p>This theme of the bursting of the ‘civilised bubble’ is a significant theme in contemporary culture. In popular culture, two of the best examples of this bursting are the television shows <em>Battlestar Galactica</em> and <em>The Walking Dead</em>. In <em>Galactica</em>, human beings fall prey to the vengeful artificial creatures that they have created and mistreated. In <em>The Walking Dead</em>, as in all post-apocalyptic Zombie creations, the great fear is that human beings will turn into zombies, creatures that have been granted a form of immortality but at the cost of the loss of their souls.</p> <p>The fear of death is primal in all human beings, as is the fear of the loss of one’s humanity after death. This fear is expressed in the first surviving work of human literature, <em>The Epic of Gilgamesh</em>, in which Gilgamesh goes unsuccessfully in search of immortal life.</p> <p>In perhaps the bleakest modern portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world, Cormac McCarthy’s <em>The Road,</em> we encounter the ultimate Hobbesian universe. This is a world that has undergone an apocalypse of unknown origin. There is only darkness and dust and ash; nothing grows any longer and the few survivors are left to scavenge for the food left behind in tins. Or they can eat each other. It is the ultimate war of all against all. The clipped language, the lack of identity of the inhabitants, leads us into something that is almost no longer human. There is little or no hope. </p> <p>Reading <em>The Road</em> one is drawn back to the ‘House of Darkness’ described in <em>The Epic of Gilgamesh</em>, which describes the afterlife in terms of dust (“The Great Myths”):</p> <blockquote> <p>He bound my arms like the wings of a bird,<br /> to lead me captive to the house of darkness, seat of Irkalla:<br />to the house which none who enters ever leaves,<br /> on the path that allows no journey back,</p> <p>to the house whose residents are deprived of light,<br /> where soil is itself their sustenance and clay their food,<br />where they are clad like birds in coats of feathers,<br /> and see no light, but dwell in darkness.</p> </blockquote> <p><em>The Road</em> is a profoundly depressing work, and the movie is barely watchable. In bursting the bubble of immortality, it plays on human fears and anxieties that stretch back millennia. The really interesting question is why such fears should emerge at a time when people in countries like America are living through a period of peace and prosperity. Much as people dream of a bubble of infinite progress and perpetual peace, they instinctively understand that that particular bubble is very fragile and may very easily be punctured.</p> <p>My final example is the less than well-known movie <em>Zardoz</em>, dating from the 1970s and starring Sean Connery. In it, some human beings have achieved ‘immortality’ but the consequences are less than perfect, and the Sean Connery character has the task, given to him by nature, to restore the balance between life and death, just as Gilgamesh had to understand that the two went together.</p> <p>There are some bubbles that are meant to be burst, some realities that human beings have to face if they are to appreciate their place in the scheme of things. Hence, we face a paradox. Human beings are constantly producing bubbles as they chart their way through a world that is also always changing. This is a consequence of their plastic nature. For good reasons, largely out of a desire for stability and security, they also tend to bring these infinite bubbles together into a much smaller number of bubbles that they view as possessing being and hence permanence.</p> <p>The problem is that these ‘bubbles of being’ are treated as if they really described the world in some sort of universal fashion, rather than treated as useful tools. Human beings can become the victims of their own creations. At the same time, human beings have an instinctive appreciation that the world is not stable and fixed, and this appreciation finds its expression in the products of their imagination. They burst bubbles through the use of their imagination in response to their fears and anxieties.</p> <p>Bubbles are the product of the interaction between the changing nature of both the world and human beings and the desire of those human beings for a degree of stability. Human beings need to appreciate both the reality of change and the strengths and weaknesses of bubbles as they navigate their way through the world.</p> <h2>References</h2> <p>Berent, M. “Stasis, or the Greek Invention of Politics.” <em>History of Political Thought</em> XIX.3 (1998).</p> <p>Britt, R.R. “150 Years Ago: The Worst Solar Storm Ever.” <em>Space.com</em>, 2 Sep. 2009. &lt;<a href="https://www.space.com/7224-150-years-worst-solar-storm.html">https://www.space.com/7224-150-years-worst-solar-storm.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Burnet, J. <em>Early Greek Philosophy</em>. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1892.</p> <p>Doniger, W. <em>The Hindus: An Alternative History</em>. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.</p> <p>Drake, N. “Why NASA Plans to Slam a Spacecraft into an Asteroid.” <em>National Geographic, </em>28 Apr. 2020. &lt;<a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/giant-asteroid-nasa-dart-deflection/">https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/giant-asteroid-nasa-dart-deflection/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Gibbons, E. <em>The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire</em>. Vol. 1. New York: Harper, 1836. &lt;<a href="https://www.gutenberg.org/files/25717/25717-h/25717-h.htm#chap02.1">https://www.gutenberg.org/files/25717/25717-h/25717-h.htm#chap02.1</a>&gt;.</p> <p>“The Great Myths #6: Enkidu in the Underworld.” &lt;<a href="https://wordandsilence.com/2017/11/30/6-enkidu-in-the-underworld-mesopotamian/">https://wordandsilence.com/2017/11/30/6-enkidu-in-the-underworld-mesopotamian/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Harper, K. <em>The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, &amp; the End of an Empire</em>. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017.</p> <p>Hobbes, T. <em>Leviathan</em>. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.</p> <p>Kant I. “Perpetual Peace.” In <em>Political Writings</em>, ed. H.S. Reiss. Trans. H.B. Nisbet. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. 93-130.</p> <p>Luria, A.R. <em>Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations</em>. Trans. M. Lopez-Morillas and L. Solotaroff. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1976.</p> <p>McCarthy, C. <em>The Road</em>. London: Picador, 2006.</p> <p>Melleuish, G.. “The State in World History: Perspectives and Problems.” <em>Australian Journal of Politics and History</em> 48.3 (2002): 322–336.</p> <p>———. “Civilisation, Culture and Police.” <em>Arts</em> 20 (1998): 7–25.</p> <p>Melleuish, G., and S. Rizzo. “Limits of Naturalism: Plasticity, Finitude and the Imagination.” <em>Cosmos &amp; History</em> 11.1 (2015): 221-238.</p> <p>Melleuish, G., and S.G. Rizzo. “<a href="http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/3302">Philosophy of History: Change, Stability and the Tragic Human Condition</a>.” <em>Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy</em> 13.3 (2017): 292-311.</p> <p>Musil, Robert. <em>The Man without Qualities</em>. Vol. 2. Trans. Sophie Wilkins. New York: Vintage International, 1996.</p> <p>Nongeri, B. <em>Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept</em>. New Haven: Yale UP, 2013.</p> <p>Olivelle, P. Introduction. <em>Upanisads</em>. Trans. Patrick Olivelle. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.</p> <p>Parker, G. <em>Global Crisis: War, Climate &amp; Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century</em>. New Haven: Yale, 2013.</p> <p>Parmenides. <em>Fragments: A Text and Translation with an Introduction by David Gallop</em>. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1984. Kindle edition.</p> <p>Pegg, M.G. <em>A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom</em>. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.</p> <p>Sheldrake, Rupert. <em>The Science Illusion</em>. London: Coronet: 2013.</p> <p>Stokes, G. Introduction. In <em>The Politics of Identity in Australia</em>, ed. Geoffrey Stokes. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997.</p> <p>Tannous, J. <em>The Making of the Medieval Middle East</em>. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2019.</p> <p>Taylor, J. <em>Holy Dying</em>. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2000.</p> 2021-03-15T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Greg Melleuish https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2763 Bubbles 2021-03-09T00:46:55+00:00 Lisa J. Hackett lhacket3@myune.edu.au Jo Coghlan jo.coghlan@une.edu.au <p>Welcome to the ‘bubbles’ issue of <em>M/C Journal</em>.</p> <p>When we first pitched the idea of ‘bubbles’ for an issue of <em>M/C Journal</em> it was 2019, several months before COVID-19 was identified in Wuhan, China, and the resulting pandemic that brought the term ‘bubble’ to prominence in ways we had not even imagined. Our pre-pandemic line of enquiry focussed on how bubbles manifested themselves within popular culture and society and how the media reported on these concepts. Thinking about bubbles from bubbly champagne to the ‘political bubble’ we asked researchers to think about the ephemeral nature of bubbles. And indeed some of the articles in this edition reflect this original line of enquiry.</p> <p>COVID-19 however brought to us a whole new meaning of bubbles. Suddenly governments were urging people to ‘stay in their bubbles’ and, in Australia, the idea of ‘travel bubbles’ between countries with similarly low rates of COVID-19 emerged. Mary-Louise McLaws <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-the-covid-bubble-concept-and-could-it-work-in-australia-144938">described</a> the ‘germ bubble’ as those we don’t physically distance from, our close contacts. A year ago – in March 2020 – the global community began to exist within a restricted bubble that limited our contact with the wider world. For the most part, that bubble remains 12 months later. Some of the articles for this issue focus on the ways COVID-19 has brought new bubbles to our social and political landscape.</p> <p>Despite the recent prominence of COVID-19, the feature article tackles another bubble that has continued to dominate headlines in Australia. Angelika Heurich and Jo Coghlan examine the ‘Canberra Bubble’ – a toxic culture of sexualised, bullying, hyper-masculinity, that seeks to silence and discredit those who speak out, operating in ways out of line with modern Australia and workplace laws. From claims of rape against the Attorney-General to a Prime Minister who failed to even read the complaint against the highest law officer in Australia, to Brittany Higgins being called a “lying cow” and Grace Tame’s forensic analysis of Morrison’s lack of conscience, Australia’s #MeToo moment threatens to bring down a government.</p> <p>The ‘Canberra Bubble’ may have been the Australian word of the year in 2018, argue Fincina Hopgood and Jodi Brooks, but 2020 belonged to the COVID-19 bubble. Their article takes stock on how the words ‘iso’ and ‘bubble’ came to prominence as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It follows up with an examination on how the COVID-19 bubble is conceived across different cohorts, and in particular for those of the fourth age – the older generation. The COVID-19 pandemic brought into relief another long-term political and social problem in Australia, how Australians of are taken care of in their twilight years. Hopgood and Brooks interrogate how, despite a Royal Commission into the running of aged care homes that recommended change, the pandemic exacerbated the vulnerability of people in aged care homes.</p> <p>For governments to effectively manage COVID-19 bubbles, they need to rely on pre-existing relationships with the publics they represent. Xiang Gao’s article investigates the role social capital has played in the ability for different governments to manage the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It critically examines how pre-existing social capital has enabled governments to effectively establish social distancing measures and household ‘bubbles’. Examining these concepts in the Chinese and American contexts, Gao finds that the governmental responses to the pandemic were not only reliant on established social capital, but have also changed the relationship between governments and publics.</p> <p>With the USA, Brazil shared the dubious honour of being widely criticised for the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-06/brazil-president-jair-bolsanaro-says-stop-whining-over-pandemic/13223890">governmental response</a> to the pandemic. Filipe Soares and Raquel Recuero tackle the political media landscape of reporting on COVID-19 in Brazil. They interrogate the role of the Brazilian media in the promotion of disinformation around the pandemic through three media case studies, finding that the intersection between traditional mass media and social media can exacerbate erroneous reporting.</p> <p>Managing the pandemic did not solely focus on the need to protect certain populations. Many governments highlighted the need for economic activities to continue. For commercial sports which already existed within a ‘sporting bubble’, the COVID-19 pandemic brought another bubble to the rarefied world of professional sports. The creation of a ‘sporting bubble’ enjoyed wide support from both political and media commentators. Adele Pavlidis and David Rowe consider the social effects of the creation of the ‘sporting bubble’ had both on those who found themselves inside, and on those who were left out. While at times the bubble could feel more like a cage, transgressions by sporting personalities often went unpunished. Further, the ‘sporting bubble’ was highly gendered, with those inside the bubble being predominantly men, which served to intensified pre-existing gender inequalities within professional sports.</p> <p>For those on the outside of the political mainstream, the Canberra bubble can appear to be an impervious boundary to cross. Bronwyn Fredericks and Abraham Bradfield argue that <em>The Uluru Statement of the Heart</em> was treated by politicians as little more than a ‘thought bubble’, destined to disintegrate into nothing, despite it being a culmination of numerous voices within Australian society. Recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution is a measure that enjoys wide support across the Australian community, yet this has not led to meaningful action. Fredericks and Bradfield examine the various contemporary and historical factors that have led to the slow progress on this fundamental and important issue.</p> <p>History has a strong bearing on how we understand social and political matters today. Within popular culture, history provides a rich seam of stories for entertainment, both factual and fictional. Fictional versions of history necessarily blur the lines between reality and fantasy. How history is mediated through fiction is the focus of Lisa J. Hackett and Jo Coghlan’s article. Based upon an international survey carried out amongst historical romance authors and readers, it asked if historical accuracy in fiction matters. It finds that there exists a ‘dance of history and fiction’ that posit that our past can be animated by fiction writers and our historians can bring to life our pasts. It is in the intersections of the ‘historical bubble’ and the ‘fiction bubble’ that we can reflect on the past in meaningful ways that inform our social understanding of the past, its people and practices.</p> <p>Disney heroines are some of the most recognisable romantic fiction characters, often inhabiting a world of magic and true love with charming princes and wicked stepmothers. Yet the heroines' and villains' true natures are often revealed through a physical transformation that Amanda Rutherford and Sarah Baker argue is problematic for the often young audiences who watch these films. Despite story lines that promise more progressive iterations of worthiness, a homogenous physical beauty dominates the ‘princess bubble’. For readers, much like those of historical romance novels, such representations can be hegemonic and hide the patriarchal nature of modern society.</p> <p>While bubbles can often represent closed-in worlds, other bubbles are synonymous with exuberance and fun. The next two articles take their inspiration from frothy champagne bubbles. The first by Anna-Mari Almila examines the history of champagne and how its iconic bubbles were both created and came to be an integral symbol of celebration. It notes how champagne makers are often in dialogue with wider popular culture elements in creating and maintaining meanings associated with the drink.</p> <p>Jenny Wise and Lesley McLean turn their attention to the a specific Australian bubbly brand, Treasury Wines, and how it has positioned its 19 Crimes label, which uses the images of Australian convicts on its bottles to create a unique identity. Whilst ostensibly a celebration of Australia’s convict past, the way this brand ‘celebrates’ the sometimes dark crimes of real criminals suggest a socially acceptable romanticisation of Australia’s past.</p> <p>We close this special edition with Greg Melleuish’s thoughtful essay on the fragility of modern society. Just as in the past when we sought permanence in the face of disease and war again we seek stability in the face of pandemics and climate change, even though we know the ‘bubble’ will burst. Humans have a history of attempting to control change. Our ‘plastic nature’ allows us to adapt to the impermanence of life while we yearn for that which is constant and unchanging. We turn to words to find permanence, claiming their meaning as universal, but even meanings are contested and hence transient. Our pragmatic search for stability, even in a period of prosperity and infinite peace, is worthy, but hanging over us is the Hobbesian ‘state of nature’ bubble in which zombies and pandemics threaten our social being. While in part a dire warning for the future, we are reminded that the bubble of modern life is to be cherished.</p> 2021-03-15T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Lisa J. Hackett, Jo Coghlan