The 1992 Landmarks High Court case abolishing the doctrine of ‘Terra Nullius’; the foundation of Australia’s settlement paved way for the ‘Native Title Act 1993’. Following the 20 year commemoration of the Mabo decision, the 2012 telemovie ‘Mabo’ directed by Rachel Perkins was released. It depicts the life of Murray Islander man and activist Eddie Koiki Mabo and his family in his grueling fight for land rights. Pride comes before the fall – the ego of one stems destruction. Pride is a sense of satisfaction derived from one’s achievements. It is also a feeling of self-worth and dignity. Eddie is of Murray Island decent and this background stems a lot of pride. The Indigenous race have suffered from racist values of society and it is Eddie’s pride in his race that stems his battle for justice and equality.
The culture of the Meriam People forms a big part of his identity which he takes great pride in. Though he was exiled from Murray Island at a young age, he still associates himself to being an Islander and takes great pride in being so. When he first introduces himself to Netta, he uses his Indigenous name – “Whitefellas’ name Eddie, but it’s Koiki for real.” Eddie is introducing himself to a girl he seemingly likes a lot evident by over-the-shoulder-shots between the two and Eddie’s stunned and giddy expression shown by the close-ups on his face. The audience may interpret this introduction as just a cultural agenda as Netta too looks to be Indigenous.
However most may associate his introduction as Eddie being proud of his race. Eddie wants people to know that he is proud of being Indigenous and this is shown when Eddie nags Netta for his “good shirt” so he can “look black”. This can be interpreted by some viewers as Eddie being proud of his race. However, his wanting for whiter shirt so he can appear “blacker” can be more likely perceivable to him being excited and nervous to meet the lawyers which has caused him to be excessively concerned about a shirt as his fight for justice is beginning. However, his pride in his cause sometimes has led to the detriment of his family.
Eddie’s pride stems his quench for justice and equality. After breaking Meriam law, Eddie has a choice, to stay on the island and work laboriously for a year for Patty Killoran (the ‘Protector’) or to be exiled from the island for a year. Eddie is a man aware of situations and reads well into innuendos. He knows that if he chooses to stay, he will be exploited by Killoran. As Eddie has a high self-worth of himself, he denies his offer. “I’m not working as a slave,” he states not breaking eye contact with Killoran. Multiple close-ups and mid-shots alternate between Eddie and Killloran and it is notable that Eddie does not once break the eye contact. Tense non-diegetic music plays as Eddie leaves. Audiences may develop a snippet of Eddie’s character – some may see him as prideful but others may see him as a man who will rebel against injustice as he protests against being exploited. Eddie and his Australian coworkers enter a pub but Eddie is denied service for being of Indigenous background.
Due to the 1950s/60s racist values that society wrongly held, it was common practice to deny service to Indigenous peoples as the bar tender stated “Mate it’s not me, it’s the law”. Defiant against the law, Eddie reenters the pub with a sign stating “I’m not leaving until I get a drink.” A mid-shot shows Eddie and his sign and a clear stern expression is shown on Eddie’s face as he lights a cigarette. Hopeful non-diegetic is used to enhance the righteousness of Eddie’s actions. His defiant act may be interpreted by many viewers as his pride getting the best of the situation. However, it is more likely that the majority of viewers will find this act to be a stand up against the injustice faced by the Indigenous race. His actions however take a toll on his wife Netta and his family.
Eddie’s pride in some instances, create costs that are paid directly by his family. Netta who is heavily pregnant chops vegetables seemingly preparing for dinner. Eddie informs her that he quit his job, they have a discussion about being troublemakers. He states “we don’t have any pride left” if they will not be “troublemakers”. Highly agitated and stressed as evident by the close-up showing her faster and sharper pace of chopping vegetables she retaliates “I’ll give you stinking pride. You got three kids stupid man, fourth on the way.” She describes her own struggles to provide for the family “packing prawns”. To the audience, some may perceive Eddie’s actions to take a direct toll on supporting his family as his source of income is lost. The father is given a stereotypical role of provider for the family whilst the wife is domestic and looks after children.
The stereotype is not followed completely as Netta too works. However, Eddie has become jobless and his role as provider is hinged. Other viewers may his job loss as a stand up for rights as the next scene uses archival footage of Eddie, Netta and Indigenous rights activists marching and protesting for equality. The pride of being of Indigenous decent is emphasized. From pride stems identity, justice and equality. Rachel Perkins’ 2012 telemovie ‘Mabo’ depicts Islander Eddie Koiki Mabo in his family life and activism life – the correlation of the two is explored and from pride one affects the other.
Through the pride of one character, ideologies of justice and equality are explored. Eddie’s heritage forms a huge part of his beliefs and his standings. His standings can affect the ones he cherishes most as pride can consume a person to act carelessly. However from pride, one can find the strength to fight and take a stand against injustice to promote equality. Due to the nature of the exploration of themes in the biopic, views who initially perceived the film to be about land rights may very well identify other key components such a pride, justice and equality.
Courtney from Study Moose
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