In this paper I examine the historical contexts and discursive strategies in two of the many Australian school films produced in the 1980s, namely Fighting Back (Michael Caulfield 1982) and Fast Talking (Ken Cameron 1984). Both films foreground 'the boy problem' and the representations of the schools in them are linked, sociologically and symbolically, to failed family structures, especially around the figure of abusive/absent father. These unsettling films show how the state secondary school was failing to provide a meaningful education to underclass urban youth. School discipline is violently applied; teachers are either fighting a losing battle or are disengaged or despicable; and the curriculum is irrelevant to the needs of the two young male protagonists, who both are troubled and alienated. It has been noted that in cinema the institution of the school readily functions as a microcosm of the nation, and that school films can be seen as national allegories (Leach, 2004: 185). Furthermore, the representation of the nation in the figure of a boy has a long history in Australian visual discourse. As comments on the state of the nation, Fighting Back and Fast Talking reflect the economic and sociological dilemmas of the early 1980s. They suggest that the nation has taken a wrong turn and that the future is far from bright.
Double Vision: Biennal Australian Studies Conference. Proceedings of Double Vision: Biennial Australian Studies Conference (Sydney 25-26 November, 2010)