Though we spend a lot of our time talking about representation here on the blog, a lot of it is unavoidably U.S.-centric, since most of our authors are American. However, race relations and representation are topics all across the world, and today I found a fascinating trailer from down under to introduce to you for our Trailer Tuesdays.
Cleverman, set in a “near-futuristic” world, has a pretty typical sci-fi plot: a select group of people have powers, and the rest of the world are afraid of them and the possibility of what they can do. This is the whole basic premise of the X-Men, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. followed a similar path when it introduced the Inhumans. However, Cleverman sets itself apart because its allegorical discriminated-against minority group, the so-called subhumans, aren’t just allegorical white people stand-ins: most of them are played by Aboriginal Australians. As per creator Ryan Griffen:
“I have a huge love of superheroes and comics. It got me thinking about creating something cultural that my young son could connect to on a superhero basis. I wanted to bring something Aboriginal, Indigenous, to that world. As the son of a light-skinned Aboriginal man and a light-skinned Aboriginal woman, it was important for me that my son had a cultural superhero that he could look up to as a young Aboriginal person… something he could connect to that was also entertaining.”
In Cleverman’s world, there are the humans, and then there are the Hairypeople: another species who, while they look human, are covered with matted hair and have the aforementioned supernatural abilities, possibly due to their different DNA. Those in the Hairy community have to decide if they want to live their lives as they have been, speaking their own language and keeping their own appearances, or if they want to be “shavers” and shave their hair and learn English to fit in. This difficult question becomes harder when a series of murders occurs and the Hairypeople are the ones blamed for it. The show centers around the “Cleverman”, a person who’s been chosen to bring the two sides of the conflict together.
While I don’t know much about race relations in Australia, the issues at the heart of Cleverman are relevant and relatable, both to immigrants like myself and hopefully to other indigenous communities around the globe. I especially look forward to learning more about Australian Aboriginal culture, as the Hairypeople of Cleverman are inspired by Australian Aboriginal peoples and speak Gumbaynggirr, an Aboriginal language. If you’re in the U.S., you can watch the show on SundanceTV starting June 1st, and if you’re in Australia, you can watch on ABC TV starting June 2nd. Let me know what you think if you watch it!