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In flag-rante: Julia Gillard and the infamous ‘flag scene’ in ABC’s At Home with Julia

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In 2011, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation financed and produced a controversial sitcom based on the life, characteristics, and politics of incumbent Prime Minister Julia Gillard. At Home with Julia (2011) examined Gillard’s private life by fictionalizing her de facto relationship with partner Tim Mathieson. Before, during, and after it aired, the series became a media spectacle as print, digital and broadcast journalists debated the propriety of the parody/satire. Media hype peaked in response to a fleeting scene in which the main characters appear cuddling under the Australian flag. Drawing on scholarship about postfeminism, this article examines the representation of single/unmarried women in popular culture and the characterization of political women in television dramas. The media commentary surrounding At Home with Julia denounced the ‘flag scene’ in the strongest terms, yet this reportage also conveyed an underlying unease towards the series’ candid depiction of sexuality. Most significantly, journalists collectively failed to adequately distinguish between Gillard, the prime minister, and ‘Julia’, the fictional character. Such a failure, this article suggests, enabled and excused the media’s subsequent and far more visceral sexualization of Australia’s first female prime minister. Although the public clearly understood the fictional premise of At Home with Julia, the Australian media fabricated a ‘sex’ scandal that came to be read onto the body of Gillard herself.
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Keywords: At Home with Julia; Australian politics; Julia Gillard; media; political parody; television; women in leadership

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of the Free State

Publication date: October 1, 2018

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