As I read the headline – ‘Why aren’t Greeks cool anymore?’ – I tried hard to think when during my lifetime were we of Greek origin ever considered cool.
Well, I know going to the beach with my hair no longer dark, but slightly light due to the peroxide I had washed it with did not make me cool, I was still a ‘wog’ trying to look Aussie. Besides, I knew Greeks didn’t surf anyway.
Let’s be serious when did we as an ethnic group ever appear cool to the rest of Australia? Sure they laughed with us (or was it at us?) when we had ‘skips’ back in the early 1980’s portraying us as fruit shop owners with pencil thin moustaches and slicked down oily hair speaking with a thick accent and suddenly all fruit shop owners were known as Con.
Next came the very successful play ‘Wogs out of Work’ that featured various migrant characters including Greeks that were genuinely funny because we could recognise part of our family members in some of the skits that were making light of what were serious issues. But the show didn’t make us cool with non-Greeks suddenly wanting to be like us.
But films such as ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ and ‘Head On’ didn’t make us cool either with the general public, although the latter film did enjoy iconic status within the serious film business and gay community, and perhaps an element of well-deserved coolness for the director and writer, but definitely not for the rest of us of Greek origin.
Our major problem is we have never achieved a distinct Greek identity to the wider Australian community via having our stories told on TV or films.
Even though tens of thousands of Greeks were arriving each year during the 50’s and 60’s making us one of the dominant migrant groups here, we have allowed ourselves to be overtaken by other migrants that arrived much, much later in being able to successfully tell their stories to Australia and develop a well-recognised identity and background. These latter migrants have used films, TV, books and even opinion columns in print media to support and acknowledge their background, making people from their own ethnicity more prominent in the eyes of Australia, whereas us Greeks are nearly invisible.
Where are our stories? We need to have them brought out into the open, those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s have our own stories, all different from those who came later and of course young people today have a perspective of life as a Greek Australian that is not similar to their parents and grandparents, and so their stories need to be told.
Our stories and the Greek Australian history with characters from our own background need to be told and preserved so we need to support those who produce cultural work for the various mediums.
In the meantime I will be looking for some cool Greeks.