Mags: Gretel's take on glossips

Published on Saturday, Good Weekend magazine devoted five pages and a cover to comedian/TV host/author Gretel Killeen (see right), who just so happens to have a new book due out right about now (The Night My Bum Dropped is on my bedside table pending review).

Killeen, 46, gives journalist Mark Dapin (author of Sex and Money; former lad mag editor) some killer quotes to work with. Of note this pertinent one regarding Big Brother and the tabloid media, which reflects the sentiments expressed by Oliver Burkeman:

"As time progressed, we needed drama, drama, drama, and that's what we've created in our society, too. You can see that in women's magazines now, and in much of the news coverage – simple information is not enough. It has to be coloured in and exaggerated and sometimes completely fabricated, because we live in this hyper-real situation. It's created an appetite where normality is not enough, and I'll be interested to see how it plays out, because I don't think that's an eternally expanding notion. You can't continue to inflate things. One day it's got to pop."

Killeen's own media narrative is sensitively dissected by Dapin in 'A handle on Gretel'. She is a self-aware, media-savvy interviewee who "seldom gives serious interviews" and whose book is an "extended comic monologue" from which "very little personal information" can be garnered. Dapin says she "smiles continually, even while she expresses sadness or frustration, to show that she is not embittered or angry." She doesn't want to be portrayed as a whinger, even after receiving cruel feedback on her Logie's hosting performance.

Dapin dives into her northern Sydney upbringing, academic achievements (she was school captain), the burden of the Methodist faith ("it can tend to make you feel like your thoughts are wrong, your personality is wrong, your pursuits are wrong...") and her early failed marriage. She worked in advertising as a voiceover artist in the 80s ("a time of great indulgence, great camaraderie and rampant sexual harassment") before scoring gigs on TV (Beauty and the Beast, Midday show) and her career-defining, and often controversial, Big Brother role, for which she copped a lot of flack.

She says: "One of the things that has happened in our society is we've created a culture that some refer to as tall poppy but I think could also be referred to as bullying. We're so concerned with bullying within schools, without an awareness of the bullying that we hear on breakfast radio shows and in the magazines and so many newspapers, which is about making someone the butt of a joke. And the logical consequence of that is it tells people it's okay to treat other people like that... I fear that one day the lies and fabrications and the elaborations will hurt someone irreparably."

I've no doubt Michael Jackson would have agreed. Perhaps this is why publications like Good Weekend, and journalists like Barbara Walters and Tracy Grimshaw, get such excellent celebrity interviews (recently, author Nikki Gemmell and Kath & Kim's Gina Riley have appeared in Good Weekend, too): they respect their subjects and their readers.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


maggie said...

Speaking of breakfast radio and those who bully and treat their interviewees like complete sh!t (and somehow continue to GET great interview subjects): Kyle Sandilands anyone?? It infuriates me how that man is still on air. And considering the mass audience he reaches, it gives a whole new meaning to 'making it okay' to bully and treat people disrespectfully. WHY do people still listen to him?!!

What truly gets me is how 9 times out of 10, the public will always bag out the interviewer over the interviewee, saying "oh it was a crap interview because the interviewer did this, or this or that."

RIP MJ - I'm still listening to his CDs on repeat. Sigh.. :(

Gretel Killeen - I have newfound respect for you. Thank you!

sarah said...

enjoyed the article she has some interesting content

Anonymous said...

I confess I've bagged Gretel out a lot in the past but her interview was amazing. She warmed herself to me so much and it was an amazing snapshot of how hard she's worked to get somewhere. I even found myself quoting it to friends randomly in conversation.

SheilaK said...

Agreed, Maggie. So good to hear someone in the media actually describe what so often goes on as bullying. Let's hope more people start to view it as such and look for other ways to interact and entertain without losing a sense of fun. And let's add Andrew Denton to the list of good guys in this respect.

Nina said...

I've always liked Gretel. But surely she must be aware that reality shows like Big Brother did a lot to help create the bullying culture she talks about. Many a playground echoed with chants of 'it's time to go' towards those who didn't fit in. If you didn't like someone, shows like that suggested it was justifiable to turn on them and just 'vote them out.' The character of Big Brother himself came across as a bully, playing on housemates' weaknesses for the sake of the 'dramatic arc'. I didn't see the GW article in full so maybe this was commented on?

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

Nina, I hadn't really considered how Big Brother may have helped to manifest the reality TV driven bullying culture coinciding with the rise of cyber-bullying. Thanks for your insight. While I don't know Gretel's thoughts on this, I would assume that when you're working close to a project, it's hard to take a wider view of its place in the wider socio-cultural spectrum and the affect its consumption might have on the public (particularly young people). Same goes for magazines and movies and blogs - anything in the realm of pop culture. I think producers, EPs, directors, editors, etc. need to be conscious of issues like those you've highlighted.

Great food for thought.