I’ve written before about the efforts that the Neighbours writers are making to be more inclusive, so I couldn’t let their International Women’s Day episode pass without commenting.
International Women’s Day is on 8th March, and to celebrate, Neighbours will be airing an all-female episode. IWD’s campaign this year is called Balance For Better, and to quote their website, “We are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.”
Talking of noticing absence and celebrating presence, can we please notice the absence of Piper from this promotional shot, and celebrate the terrible Photoshopping that enabled her to be present. Yikes.
Seriously though, I do notice the efforts to be balanced in Erinsborough – the women on Ramsay Street don’t seem like they’re just there for decoration, which can sometimes be the case on other TV shows. There are women of different shapes and sizes, ethnicities and sexualities on Neighbours these days – and it’s one of my favourite things about the show.
On a completely none-Neighbours-related note, but related to IWD, if you’re not familiar with British comedian Richard Herring, his Twitter timeline is a real treat on International Women’s Day. Ever year he undertakes the task of replying to every single man who tweets on 8th March to ask when International Men’s Day is – it’s 19th November, in case you didn’t know. Herring uses the publicity he gains from his annual stunt to raise thousands of pounds for a women’s charity. It’s worth a look!
Anyway, I digress. Let’s get back to Ramsay Street and its formidable women. The IWD episode will be directed by former Ramsay Street alumni Kate Kendall, who has guest-directed several episodes since she left the show, and the episode will focus on the women of Erinsborough. Let’s face it, they all have plenty going on at the moment, with Sonya’s illness, Bea’s job dramas, Terese’s father/son love triangle and Chloe’s brother/future sister-in-law/ex-girlfriend love square. Is a love square a thing? It is now.
To get us into the spirit, Neighbours writers made the most of the run-up to IWD by getting some guest stars on the show in the form of a Prisoner: Cell Block H reunion. Sheila and Susan went along to Sheila’s book club to find it populated by several Prisoner cast members, all wearing top-to-toe denim and delivering hammy in-jokes, which mostly sailed straight over my head because I never watched it. I’m sure it was a nice bit of fun for Prisoner: Cell Block H fans, but it was all a bit lost on me.
As another prelude to the IWD episode, and as a way of shoe-horning it into some kind of vague plot, we saw Sonya, Toadie and Callum trying to unpick some damaging claims made by a classmate of little Nell’s – chiefly that women can’t be astronauts. In order to prove to Nell that women can do anything, Sonya assembled some of Ramsay Street’s finest women to tell her all about their wide and varied jobs. I’ve mentioned this before, but I do love that Neighbours doesn’t stick to the traditional female stereotypes in terms of the characters and their jobs – so we had hotel boss Terese, carpenter and construction manager Amy, mechanic Bea and aspiring AFL player Yashvi all telling Nell that she could be anything she wanted to be.
I notice that Sonya didn’t bother to ask Elly to contribute. Even if she wasn’t too busy obsessing over Mark cheating on her with a gravestone, I doubt she’d have had much in the way of inspiration for young Nell. Wise move, Sonya.
Anyway, the whole scene was worth it for the ultra cute space mission that Callum, Yashvi and Astronaut Nell went on in the middle of the road, where thankfully there never seem to be any cars, except for the odd taxi that comes to take people to the airport when they move to Queensland, never to be seen again.
It was all a little bit clunky and heavy-handed, but I still kind of liked it, and I thought of little girls who might be watching, and wanting to be just like Bea or Yashvi. You can’t be what you can’t see, and even though Neighbours isn’t real, I’d love to think that there’s some future business tycoon or mechanic watching and thinking, “I want to be just like her.”