Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How we used to be shocked

Well, I was shocked. Shock these days is a relatively relative emotion, of course, as there are so many things to be shocked by, so many ways in which to be shocked, so many people to be shocked for, and so many minute advantages to be gained by being shocked. It is possible to be a little shocked, rather shocked, very shocked, ironically shocked, conveniently shocked, furiously shocked, electrically shocked, electorally shocked, shocked by Labor, the Liberals, the Greens, the Nationals, or the football, pleasantly shocked, horror-film shocked, shocked-but-not-surprised, sarcastically shocked, or absolutely and utterly shocked and appalled and horrified. Nevertheless, I was shocked, utterly shocked, upon picking up the latest copy of Melbourne University student publication Farrago and finding that it was not bad, not all bad at all, actually quite good and entertaining in places.

Oh, there were spots of minor irritation - occasionally outbreaks of 'hetero-normative privileging of heterosexual', that sort of thing. There was an interview with resident Green, Adam Bandt, which managed to be rather unctuous - 'forcing action on climate change and a rethink on the war in Afghanistan'. And then there was the little piece by the union president - 'I attend a consultation session with Federal Government representing OH FUCK OFF!' My thoughts at that point may have got a little mixed up with the actual words, sorry.

Still, it looks good - well designed, colourful, uncluttered, great cartoons, nice art. The columns are actually, for the most part, interesting. There's a sciency one about geckos, and a meditative one about the culture of drinking and drinking in culture - more impressive because it mostly manages to avoid phrases like 'an incohate acceptance and penance for the decade's ills'. Mostly. True to student form, there is also the pleasantly-titled Goon Review - it's been done plenty of times before; that lure of cheap alcohol, insobriety, and a chance to brag about it afterwards is a heady cocktail indeed: but never has it been done with such elegance as in the current issue of Farrago.

And then, of course, right next to aforementioned Goon Review was a column by one student detailing how she and her girlfriend set out, during O Week, to have sex in as many public places as possible. Yes. Well. Speaking of shock...

Reader, I recall with fondness the diligent exhibitionism and studious shamelessness of Sydney Uni's Honi Soit writers and editors of days of yore. One year, the editors had the idea of replacing page three girls with page three boys. There was the time ladies from the feminist collective stood up in a student bar and took their shirts off, and stood there bare-breasted, with the word 'Slut' written across their chests. They did so in order to raise awareness of... I'm not sure. There was another issue, I think shortly after I left uni, that published a 'letter' from a 'student' containing details of a private bedroom act in which all of the relevant body parts had been renamed as politicians. 'I placed my hands around his Keating... my Gillard was ready', that sort of thing. This was all back in the dark repressive days of the Howard government, you'll recall, that time when politicians didn't go around having leadership ballots all the time, or bribing independents in order to keep a hold of power, or protecting corrupt union members from being charged by the police, or going through three Speakers of the House in almost as many months.

They were grim days all right, and I suppose they contributed to the general tone of tight-lipped propriety and prudishness at the time. Because never, can I recall, ever did a writer pen a five hundred word essay detailing several sexual encounters in public, one apparently right in front of a football team. Reader, I was utterly shocked and appalled and horrified. I was even shocked.


Anonymous said...

Can't recall Farrago ever being that interesting when I was a student there.

TimT said...

Maybe they're published less frequently now than they used to be - helps to make them better crafted. But the editorial team this year, whoever they are, does seem to be pretty sharp.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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