Australia’s Jaegar Program (ps, racism and history)

How awesome is it that Australia is one of the active Jaegars in Pacific Rim? Totally awesome. I’m an Australian who loves me some giant mecha, and imagine the opportunities! We are a land of opportunity and resources, we have so much of the raw produce required, we have so much experience building for example high quality cars, and a whole lot of space. We also, given the Kaiju approach the population areas via the sea, require an effective defence program. We are, after all, girt by sea.

Liz talked about some stuff, but I’d like to talk about the logistics of pilots and Jaegars in Australia.

Australia’s Jaegar Program

Historically, at least historically in the last 150 years, as a nation, we are a bit obsessed with defending from those who come across the sea, and are incredibly xenophobic and closed-minded. And I say that as an Australian from across the sea, who is here today because of an illegal boat trip. I wish we weren’t but there’s the White Australia Policy, and the Yellow Peril panic of the 90s, and the Tampa and all the things going on right as we speak. It’s Christmas Island and Indonesia and the fact that our refugee intake is so low compared to many other countries

Despite an ongoing and illogical reliance on the ANZUS Treaty, leading Liz to suggest that it’s unexpected that Australia isn’t just relying on the US Jaegars (valid point), I don’t think it’s actually a surprise that Australia still has Jaegars around, holding on to them until the end. And I don’t think it’s a surprise that there was more than one, I think Australia would have had more than that at one point. There would have been complaints about the cost (and a scandal involving outsourcing bits, and discussion of extending allowances under the 457 Visa), but Jaegars, oh we would have them.

Slayer and Striker Eureka

I mentioned this briefly in a tumblr post, but Eureka is both a great and hilarious word to use within the Jaegar name. Eureka has many connotations in Australia, but mostly it means rebellion and fighting against the man. At another level it also represents democracy and mutliculturalism and the desire for profit. The Eureka Stockade was a rebellion on the Victorian gold fields, where workers from many country rebelled against being unduly taxed by the government (through licenses), in 1854. This event led directly to the reformation of unfair laws in Australia. It also led to the Southern Cross flag being used as a symbol of protest and sometimes me wanting to punch people, but that’s only to be expected.

In this context, Striker is a puzzling choice. The Eureka Stockade is sometimes referred to as a Strike. To call it the Eureka Strike (or Eureka Striker) would almost certainly have been a problem, but does that apply to the Striker Eureka? It is hard to say, and though an odd choice, it is not completely out of the realms of possibility. Slayer is the greatest bogan naming choice I’ve ever heard, politically I doubt it would happen but I love it. I love it a lot, and again it is not out of the realms of possibility.

More likely however are things involving things like kangaroos, bushranger names (omg the Ned Kelly!), and maybe we’d end up with one named the Captain Cook or something.

The Politics of Pilots 

We are a nation of immigrants, colonialists, criminals; people running away from things; people running too things; of Indigenous Australians and those who have come in the last 250 years. Despite the words, this was never Terra Nullius, and I live here on the lands of the Kulin Nation and I pay my respects to their elders. I am descended from an illegal immigrant; I live a life of superstition and being Chinese in all the ways that hurt and all the ways that don’t hurt. My father was in the air force and I grew up a military brat, moving from city to city, my father in the bowels of a herc. I am Australian.

Here are the ways you become a pilot in Australia: you have the money to pay for private lessons; you join the Air Force and give away a certain number of years of your life. One assumes the training and skills required for a Jaegar Ranger are more arduous, but still exactly like this: you give your life to the military, or you have a lot of money.

It does not completely surprise me that the Australian rangers are stern looking white men with a dog. No matter who the Australians were, I’m glad they had a dog, that’s fantastic, though I hope they’ve considered the Quarantine issues they’re going to face bringing Max back into Australia. That’s very important, because our quarantine laws are very strict and I’m sorry for Max. Though if we’re going for stereotypes he should have been a blue heeler at least.

The face of Australia is white. Despite everything, our television is white, or representation is white. I still get excited when I see a non-white Australian face on tv, though it’s never quite perfect. When a non-white family moved onto Ramsey Street, they were brand new immigrants. Never mind our generations living here, since the goldfields. Never mind our Indigenous people. Just our white people, the face of Australia. Always in our prestigious roles.

So the white father and his white son, sun kissed and well built, that makes sense. Politically, economically, historically. Frustratingly. In the movie and in our rock star Jaegar pilots.

A friend pointed out how this image of Australia is consistent with the image of Australia often found especially in Europe and the USA. He mentioned that this is largely how White South Africans are viewed in Australia: parochial, a bit backward, hilariously racist.

But imagine how amazing it would have been if our pilots were islanders or indigenous. The Australians in Pacific Rim were not portrayed by Australians, but what if they had been played by Jay Laga’aia and Lani Tupu; or by Deborah Mailman and Aaron Pedersen as a brother-sister team (the noise I just made).

In other news, no Australian calls their Australian son Chuck. Chaz, maybe. Charlie, sure. Chuck, rarely if ever. It’s what you call your dog. At least when he yelled ‘kick its arse’ he said arse and not ass, I suppose.

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7 thoughts on “Australia’s Jaegar Program (ps, racism and history)

  1. Under the comments on “Eureka” (all excellent) I would just like to add a note about the association between Eureka and the union movement (as you say, the “striker” aspect). Most big unions have borrowed the Eureka flag. There’s a strong link, at least in the minds of the unions! I think there is a fascinating rabbithole to go down there about how much the CFMEU would have to do with any enormous-thing-construction-program, and therefore how much organised crime would have to do with it. (There’s a reason the construction-code enforcement dude in the Victorian Government comes from a background of policing organised crime.) Obviously an adjunct to this might be considering how party politics would’ve been involved in the Jaegar program… if the Labor party still exists by then, of course. >.>

    Found your thoughts on the pilot training fascinating. Given their respective levels of discipline, I would totally buy Herc having been in the armed forces for a long time and getting in on the program early, and then dragging his son in as a compatible Drifter.

    Also, most importantly: Mailman and Pedersen FUCK YES.

  2. merriank

    I am always intrigued by how we ourselves, as well as people from outside Australia seem to miss that we have always from the time of first white settlement been one of the most heavily urbanised populations in the world. Most Australians live in coastal cities and are naturally suburbanites. I haven’t seen Pacific Rim but one thought I have is that with our cities primarily all on the coasts and most Aussies dream of sea-changing not tree-changing. Losing access to the oceans would be a particular psychological blow. Now I am thinking about Canberra taking in refugees from the coast in the light of our current refugee policies and my mind is boggling.

    Also if particular coordination was needed wouldn’t that be found in the various football codes? Rugby, AFL and Soccer are more multi cultural than almost anything else I see on prime time TV.

    Thank you for creating this blog, I’m looking forward to your future posts.

    1. Stephanie

      I am loving the points you are making, in regards to the psychological damage. We’d move inland and there’d be a lot of land issues – not only traditional land rights issues but I wonder about constitutional challenges vis the compulsory acquisition of land by the crown as the urban centres are forced to migrate towards existing inland urban centres. Canberra, Alice, and then a whole lot of the old mining towns including Kalgoorlie.

      The idea of coordination coming from AFL/Rubgy codes is amazing, I love it.

  3. brigs

    wow this is fascinating! there are so many levels to bringing australia into these movies. i definitely picked up on the connotations of eureka, though i wondered about striker…
    also, crying about how totally amazing having an aboriginal australian team would have been. (i will never believe chuck is australian – apparently there are only 600 of that type of dog in the country. it all just screams america at me.) but you’re right, white australians make sense – they’re /stars/, those roles would still all fall to white australians especially as the movie is set in the near future. which is so unfortunate.
    and the implications of moving our heavily urbanised, seaside population into the country! so interesting!
    thank you so much for this post 🙂

  4. You do have the suggestion of the ‘strike’ on goldfields – finding gold – which connects to eureka. There’s something else at the back of my mind but it’s not coming.

    Everything else – heck yes 🙂

  5. I agree with the poor choice of dog breed. As a part owner of an Australian bulldog, I was disappointed that they chose an ENGLISH bulldog which are nearly never seen in Oz.

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