My mate Clif, who wrote his PhD on gender and surfing, has written a series of posts on the recently premiered Bra Boys film and the phenomenon of the Bra Boys in general. His most recent post is a scathing critique of the film after Clif attended the premiere.
At the end of the film a raffle was held to raise money for a bus to bring disadvantaged kids from the Western Suburbs to the beach. The very same crew the Bra Boys have intimidated, bullied and ridiculed over the years. Itâ€™s a nice gesture I guess. But I can tell you, I wouldnâ€™t want my kids looking up to these blokes as â€˜role modelsâ€™ or â€˜mentorsâ€™. Their take on life is pretty fucking skewed and ugly, even though they want us to think otherwise. Maybe they should take the money they raised for the bus and travel out to the Western Suburbs and live with the kids there for awhile. I think they have more to learn than the kids they want to â€˜helpâ€™. It would actually do the Bra Boys good, and show them how Maroubra ainâ€™t that bad after all.
The westies versus surfers battles have raged since the late-1960s and 1970s in Sydney. Clif’s above remark reminds me of some of my work in my PhD. As I have found in my archival work looking at the magazines that serviced modified-car culture of 1970s the Panel Vanning movement is interesting. It folded the ‘hot rodding’ and ‘street machining’ techniques developed by Western suburbs’ hoons into the quasi-bohemian lifestyle of the Eastern and Southern suburbs’ surfers and vice versa. Both the surfers and the westies shared a desire for an increased mobility which was literally represented by the Panel Van. Now it seems this has become the inverse, at least for the surfing cultures. Panel Vanning is a cultural manifestation of the same desire for mobility that politically mobilised various labour movements around the world in the 1970s. The desire was to escape from the different labourist social contracts that protected local labour but also stifled productivity and bottom-up creativity. In affluent societies, such as Australia’s, the joy of mobility needs to be opposed to the violence of localism.
EDIT 15/03/07: Oh there have been some developments over on Clif’s blog. A few of the ‘locals’ have got restless and left comments. Then there is a comment that is absolutely hilarious. I think it is a good reminder that we should never take ourselves too seriously…