Trial by Fire…

There’s an Australian miniseries, Answered by Fire, just broadcast about the battle for independence in East Timor* which had me reaching for pen and paper to scribble down the cool male-female dynamics.

Basically, we have Mark, an Australian, and Julie, a French-Canadian, thrown together by hodge-podge circumstances. The only thing they have in common is that they both want to see a free ballot in East Timor.

As the Indonesian militia become increasingly menacing, Mark and Julie are increasingly thrown together. But there’s no hint of them getting together. To be fair, it helps that he’s married, and she’s engaged, but it goes deeper then that. They are two people who’s genitalia happens to fit, thrown together by circumstance. But they have no sexual interest in each other.

OMG, could it be that someone cottoned onto the fact that there doesn’t HAVE to be sexual tension everytime a man and a woman share the screen?

Of course, Julie is no pushover. She’s a peacekeeper (she has no gun) in Indonesia, a patriarchal holdover. These men do not respect women, especially one who can’t demand it with a gun. But still, she expects Mark and his UN cohorts to show her respect.

There IS a kiss, but it came across as something done in the heat of the moment after a nice little emotionally intimate scene, quickly followed by both characters thinking ‘that was dumb; I’m so over it’, rather than some writer’s hell-bent determination to get the Male and Female leads together at all cost (including script integrity.)

I respect the ABC** and its Canadian counterpart for portraying a professional and personal relationship that wasn’t a prelude to sex. I realise this was a very small part of the storyline (an amazing miniseries, and anyone who CAN get their hands on it SHOULD) but that there was no sexual innuendo, no male-protecting-female dynamics, no nothing I’ve been trained to read for, and, well, that meant something to me.

I write the following summary as a leftie Australian:

* For centuries, Portugal had held onto East Timor as colony. In 1975 they skedaddled, and the Indonesian army marched in and claimed it as their own. Australia did nothing, despite the fact East Timor had helped them out in WWII, so they decided to make up for it by being the bulk of the UN peacekeeping forces in 1999 when Indonesia agreed to a ballot deciding if East Timor wanted to stay as part of Indonesia, or become independent.

Sounds all well and good, except Indonesia is known to many Australians as the bully of south-east Asia (although not so much now that Suharto is gone, and he was still there in 1999) and was not exactly going to give up without a fight. Imagine George Bush’s reaction if he was told Mexico wanted Texas back; similar thing. So they resorted to all sorts of measures to bully and intimidate, especially after those pesky East Timorese voted for independance. Long story short, Australian, Canadian and Kiwi peacekeepers who were meant to be there for the 1999 elections are still there, getting deeper and deeper into it.

** Australian Broadcasting Commission. Basically Public Broadcasting, except we get MUCH better funding from the government then the US do. But wait a few years for Howard to get his claws into it, and it should be rectified”¦.

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