Frontline - Themes #
As a satire it shamelessly imitates, parodies, subverts, exaggerates and ridicules the infotainment industry. Mike Moore, coiffed, manicured, air brushed with cosmetics, parodies Ray Martin or Mike Willesee. From the opening montage with its rapid upbeat urgent music, through to its high packed melodramatic, often ironic endings, with the shuffling of papers and the pensive “mmmm…” the presenter, Mike Moore, like an actor, everything written for him, even down to the nods and winks is caricatured as articulate, well-informed and knowledgeable. It is only the exposure of the back room scenes that reveal a gentle mockery of the clichéd artificiality of the façade, the hollowness of the pretence.
John Clarke, renown for “The Games”, believes that Satire is an antidote to being lied to. Satire is the great leveller, the democratic means of smirking at pretension and power. Roy and HG use their skills of mockery to trivialise the serious and treat serious subjects trivially. Satire is an attempt to tell the truth about situations and people, however as Jonathan Swift said, ”It is a kind of glass wherein the beholder sees everyone but himself”.
The aim of satire is to ridicule the world, and through shame to change it. If, however the target of your satire is shameless, its effect is limited. John Gay’s 18 th century satire of prime minister Robert Walpole had the Prime Minister book a box at the theatre and loudly applaud. John Howard is similar. Many cartoonists, columnists and news editors have given up, as all attempts to shame Howard have backfired and he has gained in popularity. Most politicians prefer being pilloried rather than ignored.
The realism of the series had many people fooled; they initially thought the show was for real. This verisimilitude was accomplished by using hand held cameras with grainy footage, stereotypical characters; a tough hardnosed producer, (Brian Thompson) glamorous ambitious female reporter (Brooke Vandenberg) contrasted with a tired, experience cynical investigative journalist (Martin di Stasio) and a well groomed slick host (Mike Moore). Other deceptive but credible features include imitations of real news stories together with “live” re-enactments and references or allusions to real events (Sieges, Logies, Burkes Backyard, The Great Debate) and actual people ( Cheryl Kernot, George Negus, John Clarke, Bert Newton, Ann Fulwood…) These true to life performances blur the lines between life and fiction.
Tabloid journalism (popular, mindless, and glossy) tends to sensationalise daily, pedestrian local issues. Often an alarmist, provocative or inflammatory approach is taken. The issues tend to be trivial ones that ordinary people can relate to. Human interest is paramount. Seldom are programs aimed at uplifting or edifying as only 10% of the population is politically engaged, rather program designers pander to the masses, dumbing down the stories to the lowest common denominator to appeal to as wide an audience as possible to maximise ratings. If possible these media beat-ups will try to whip up hysteria and can create an artificial state of frenzy with plenty of heat but little light. It is no surprise that Emma spends a lot of her “research” time looking through glossy tabloid magazines and tabloid newsheets for topical issues. Frontline is shallow, petty and trivial in trying to enlighten the masses, it merely titillates them to improve its ratings and acquire more advertising dollars for the shareholders.
Image or perception is everything, notice how often the main presenters fuss over their grooming to “look” glamorous especially Brooke and Mike’s cosmetics.
Like advertisers Current affairs teams use language and images to arrest attention, communicate instantly, arouse desire and create need, anticipation and excitement. They also Coax, Entice, Induce, Deceive, and Beguile their audiences by sensationalising, using shock and awe tactics and whip up frenzied fears playing on emotions and prejudices. Whatever it takes and winner takes all.
Structure or Scaffolding #
We are given insights on how an issue evolves; the true situation, the conflicting driving forces, the pragmatic manipulation, distortions, sacrificing and the ultimate misrepresentation of the truth in the final product which disillusions us.
Introduction, Reporter setting scene, interview, investigation or revelation, wrap-up and generally a twisted bathetic ending which is comic, tragic or ironic.
Hypocrisy or double standards:
The team often criticise the unscrupulous tactics of their competitors but are comfortable in using even more questionable means to gain ratings.
Humour: is used to soften us up and lower our defences, Frontline adopts a light-hearted tone and spices its message with a jocular attitude so that we become more receptive.
Subtlety- The satire is implicit and may not be evident to an uninformed or innocent reader. Satire is also often topical, localised and contemporary, therefore dates easily.
Exaggeration, hyperbole, overstated/understated, caricatures, stereotypes, or distortion - Everything is not what it seems, nothing can be accepted at face value.
Caricature: The target or butt of the satire:
Both Mike and Brooke telegenically project images of confidence knowledge and sophistication in journalism, yet the behind the scenes images reveal their superficiality, hypocrisy, shallowness and utter lack of principles.
Techniques - devices: #
Inversion — the unexpected. Characters get opposite roles.
Mock — Heroic: Treating a trivial subject overly seriously by using inflated heroic language.
-Serious: Treating a minor event overly serious.
-Tragic: - Treating a minor incident overly tragically.
- Trvial: - Treating a trivial subject in an over-inflated manner.
Black Humour - Treating a serious or tragic incident trivially or jokingly. Literal inversion — sentences inverted
Parody, Imitation, mimicry - The writer uses the same word order or style as another well known writer, but distorts the message by changing a few key words.
Mike Moore postures as a courageous frontline reporter in Bougainville; yet reveals his fear of needles.
“You only get hired these days if you’re a spineless lapdog”
An example of unconscious irony because he is describing himself.
Irony of Brooke’s warning that other networks are unscrupulous.
The crew are incensed that a helicopter has trespassed on the exclusion zone until they find out it’s theirs when they applaud its risk taking.