Wild Boys: articles

Daniel McPherson in Wild Boys.

Everyone's a critic ...

PITY the academic with a weakness for costume drama. Watching Wild Boys, I'm distracted by the squabble inside my head.

Academic pedant: So, Seven throws its budget at Australian colonial history. I've been telling students for years it's not a boring topic.

Costume drama tragic: Galloping horses, heaving corsets, Daniel MacPherson - what's not to like?

AP: OK, I get this is entertainment - action first, explanation later - but why are these men even bushrangers in the first place? Shouldn't they explain something about Australian society in the 1860s? What about rural poverty and class conflict? Why are the troopers the bad guys?

CDT: Viewers don't care about historical context; they want a story driven by personalities.

AP: But do they have to play to all the stereotypes? It's a way more interesting story than they present. Australia's first bushranger was an African convict known as ''Black'' Caesar, possibly a former slave.

CDT: That isn't the past we want to hear about. These days, we ship people like that off to Nauru.

AP: And why do the characters look as if they just left Newtown Fashion Week? Men in the 1860s favoured way more facial hair.

CDT: Daniel MacPherson. That's all I'm saying.

AP: (Rolls eyes.)

CDT: Will you give it a rest? You haven't been this irritating since we saw Pirates of the Caribbean and you had a hissy fit about the East India Trading Company operating in the West Indies.

AP: Well, that wasn't exactly intended to be history. I mean, the giant squid was a pretty big giveaway. But most people get their history from novels and TV, so shouldn't there be some effort to explain the past, even in the name of entertainment?

CDT: Oh, shut up, here's another chase scene.

Kirsten McKenzie is associate professor of history at the University of Sydney. Wild Boys airs on Seven on Sundays at 7.30pm.

By Kirsten McKenzi
September 25, 2011
Sydney Morning Herald