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Friday 20 May 2011

Things Bogans Like - The Interview, with E. Chas McSween

This could quite possibly be the most excited I have been in posting an interview on Josie's Juice.

I came across this genius book some time ago, and lucky for me, one of the authors - E. Chas McSween - agreed to an interview.

If you haven't already read the book (hooked, I tell you), nor the blog (http://thingsboganslike.com/), you simply must.

Here's what 'Chas' (masked, above) had to say about all things bogan...

So, Karl Stefanovic. Gold Logie winner. Thoughts?

It stands to reason. The Logies have little to do with talent, or quality programming, or even being on TV (to wit, Lisa McCune won one year when she hadn’t been on a show for over 12 months), but what Karl did have was a self-promotional streak a mile-wide, a willingness to debase himself (although not as much as Mel and Kochie; remember jumping in the ambulance at Beaconsfield?) and most importantly, a political populism that he would happily display each and every morning. Anyone who watched those love-ins with the likes of Ray Hadley can figure out his appeal. Appeal to the bogan’s sense of superiority, and do it with bad, ever-so-slightly risqué jokes, and you’re on a winner. That, and channel nine obviously invested a heap in his win (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpEp0SD_Sx4), which means they probably have fifty more interns SMSing votes in from various phones for a few weeks. Persistence pays!

I was most relieved to read that there is a vast difference between the ‘harmless’ bogan and the aspirational bogan (I consider myself to show some traits of the former). Explain the distinction between the two to the masses.

In essence, the ‘bogan’ of yore was simply a means to label poor people with a pejorative, which always seemed crude and pretty callous to us. The word bogan is possibly the quintessential Australian insult, yet it was being wasted on a tired cliché. We felt almost driven to try to redefine it (although only in our own social circles), to something that defines a series of behaviours that are crass, consumerist and insular. I guess that’s why we always get a little upset when we’re accused of class warfare. We’d argue the opposite. I mean, we’re certainly engaging in some form of social stereotyping, but we’re actively against picking on a particular class. Bogan is as bogan does, not where you live or how much money you have.

How do you gather such extensive, accurate information? Surely, some of the authors behind ‘Things Bogan Like’ are closeted bogans?

Well, I don’t think any of us would accuse the other of being bogan if we bumped into each other as strangers, but many of us certainly grew up in environments that are, or have been areas of rampant bogan expansion – Outer Geelong, Melbourne’s south east, the LaTrobe Valley, Ballarat, and India (India has more aspirationalism than you’d think!). Also, in our day jobs, we do a lot of economic research, and the economic and marketing side of boganity today is an ongoing theme on the blog – the bogan achieves individualism by purchasing more maxtreme versions of the things its friends and family have.

I am most fond of the term you’ve coined: ‘maxtremeness’. Explain the concept to the uninitiated.

Haha, that term was coined on a road trip coming home from Adelaide. We’d just seen a new brand of energy drink at a road house (energy drinks being, perhaps, the greatest distillation of bogan themes in one product, except for perhaps men’s deodorant), and decided that while the bogan wanted to be extreme, it wanted to be the most extreme. It wanted to take extremity to the max. You can see where I’m going…

I’ve always thought of the bogan as white, Anglo, suburban, racist. But what happens when bogan traits cross over to the cashed-up wog (OTT weddings, doing your back in, buying ‘big things’)? How would you define this sub-group?

I wouldn’t even think it’s a sub-group. We’ve never specified ethnicity in defining the bogan, yet many readers and commenters have insinuated that we’re only mocking white Australia, which isn’t true. What is true is that Australia is a predominantly white country, and we’re mocking predominantly Australian behaviours, so it stands to reason that people will assume we’re focussing on Caucasian Australians. A good example is the boat people debate. The bogan response, automatically, is ‘stop boats’, but this isn’t simply white Australians who are saying this – it seems to be a particularly strong theme in immigrant communities too. That’s because the bogan knows it’s on to something good (Australia) and is disinclined to share it.

Much of your list makes me cringe – and laugh hysterically - because it’s so accurate: Chrisco, joining moronic Facebook groups, personalised number plates, Two and a Half Men. Have you had negative, maxtreme reactions from bogans (who’d like to “glass you, you c*nt?”)

Early on, we copped a bit of hate (we even received death threats from white supremacists – see the previous answer!), and every now and then, a new person will stumble across the blog and attempt a poorly composed and spelled rant, usually along the lines of “you guys wuldnt now a bogan if u fell over one! Your just latte-sipping intellectual dicks!” The premise being that people have an image in their heads of bogans that is (and this is important) not them, and when they see anything that they like on our list, they write abuse before reading the piece explaining its inclusion. Naturally, their opinion of a bogan is flannelette, moccasins and a stubby.

It’s also funny that they always spell ‘latte’ correctly.

Misspelling kids’ names. Hands down, my favourite of your bogan list. This has annoyed the crap out of me for years. Is this fuelling the bogan’s desire to be unique (just like everyone else)?

Yeah, that’s been far and away the most popular thing we wrote; it really touched a nerve. The point I always make with this is that it’s the spelling that’s important. Everyone mocks Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin for calling their kid Apple, for instance, but as the she’s growing up, her friends won’t really consider Apple an unusual name. Uncommon, sure, but no less weird than, say, ‘April’. One’s named for fruit, the other for a month. Big deal.

The problem is, the bogan lacks the imagination (or the courage) to give their child a genuinely interesting name, but, you’re right, the quest for uniqueness continues unabated. Thus, they’ll take a normal name – say Brianna – but twist it, to Breeyannah. The parents think they’ve bestowed a lifelong asset to their child, when in fact they’ve merely ensured that they’ll have to spell it out to EVERYONE. Forever. It’s just dumb.

Reality TV is the bogan’s idea of heaven. Do you imagine a day when this genre will ever die?

Not for a while. Even if the popularity fails, it’s so cheap to make that TV stations will always look for a new way to tweak the reality formula to target the bogan’s flailing synapses. One thing’s for sure, though, it’ll keep getting ‘bigger’ and shinier, and flashier until the whole thing implodes under its own insubstantiality.

Where to now for the bogan? What’s next for this species?

That’s actually a really interesting question. The whole cycle of boganity is speeding up so much that it’s getting hard to tell. The central themes and behaviours of the bogan will likely remain unchanged for decades; conspicuous consumption, bandwagon jumping, insularity, self-interest, social climbing, conformism and reactionary politics. But it used to be that you could predict which social trend the bogan would adopt and besmirch next, but the speed of fashion and social trends these days makes it harder and harder.

That is the physics of the universe though, the arc of history bends, but it bends towards bogans. As soon as something becomes popular, it’s only a matter of time until people are willing to pay for it, then change it to whatever it is that makes them comfortable, which is inevitably the thing they last bought. Call it what you will, it’s unstoppable, it seems. So I guess, look at whatever present trend is doing well, and is likely to cross over into the mainstream, and that’s the one that people will complain about being ruined by bogans before you notice. And then give up and move on.

Check in on bogan updates - including the brilliant 'Friday Boganomics' - here: http://thingsboganslike.com/

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