One of the things I loved about Blue Heelers, and a lot of Australian drama, was its equal characterisations. Men and women were equally capable of doing the same stupid stuff in their personal lives. The way Jo moped after PJ for years was pathetic, but much of the sting was taken out of it thanks to a male character, Ben Stewart, who had the kind of love-life that was generally reserved for the most mental of women in the most mental of daytime soap operas.
He starts off joining the Heelers* (and yes, the police force of Mt. Thomas, Victoria are known as the Blue Heelers) because he’s emotionally running from a failed marriage.
After that, he relentless pursues a woman who’s not interested, has an affair with a woman who’s last name he doesn’t know, and sleeps with his boss’ wife – managing to convince himself that she’s in love with him. He barely escapes with his career in tact. You’d think he would learn from that.
Uh”¦ no. Next, he gets involved with a colleauge whose husband he shot eighteen months ago in self-defence. It’s one of those stupid things people do when their judgement is clouded, but he falls for her like the proverbial ton of bricks, and is devastated when she calls things off. Oh, and during all this time, he’s made absolutely no effort to communicate with his kids. (I don’t care if they live in Perth**! I live in Perth, and I am perfectly capable of maintaining emotionally intimate relationships with people in Victoria!)
Ben is last seen hightailing it to Perth. By this point, a good-looking (blond, fair, Hitler’s-masterpiece kinda guy) intelligent guy with excellent police instincts has managed to completely screw his personal life up to a point where its eroded his professional life, too. His disintegration was in part caused by an unfortunate series of terrible events, but the foundation was always there thanks to his penchant for getting too emotionally involved in everything he did.
It’s brilliant because you don’t normally see such male characters on screen, and I hope to see more of them in the future. Kudos to the BH team for showing that both men and women can be dysfunctional in relationships.
*Blue Heelers are a type of heeler (biggish dog) with a bluish-black tinge to them. They’re good as farm dogs, and iconic in Australia as sheep dogs. Seriously, ask one of the 90% of Australians who live on the urban coast what’s the first thing they think of when they think of country life, and they’ll say “˜blue heelers’. Hence why some unimaginative executive at Southern Star thought to name the fictitious police force in the fictitious Mt. Thomas the Blue Heelers.
**Australian scripted drama has this fail-safe when it comes to writing out pesky characters; send them to Perth. Since most Australian dramas are set in Victoria and NSW, the other side of the country, Perth is, apparently, as good as Mars if you want to dispatch a character, never to be seen again. It’s also a good excuse not to contact people, apparantly; I don’t SEE my kids, so I don’t have to call, write or email, either.