Using the Gothic for good with ‘’Ghost Species’’ and ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’

With my first blog post being about ‘’Ghost Species’’ and my second on ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’, what better way to end the trilogy than by combining the two. For those that have not yet seen or read ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’, I want to once again recommend you do. It’s not only a great and iconic piece of Australian Gothic, but also just a stellar work in general. Now then, on with the topic:

By now we’re most likely all very familiar with typical Gothic elements and their intended use. I will focus on three of them for this blog post. These being the uncanny, which blurs the lines between what is real and what is not, effectively heightening the sense of unease. The sublime, which evokes feelings of both sheer horror and simultaneously sheer beauty through vast landscapes for example. And finally the monster, arguably the most famous Gothic trope which unsurprisingly serves as a source of looming terror for both the reader and the characters. In short, these tropes are closely linked to horror and the macabre. But that is not always the case.

Here is where ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’ and ‘’Ghost Species’’ come into play. Take Eve for example. Initially, everything about here is presented in a way that makes it clear for the reader that she is something not human, more specifically not like the rest of the humans in the story. Her appearance and her behavior are always purposefully kept in the twilight zone between human and not human, a state of uncanniness. As the story progresses and her character gets much more fleshed out, it becomes apparent that her differences are much more superficial than previously assumed. She is a Neanderthal, though possesses qualities that resemble those of a Homo Sapiens. She is much stronger than those around her, but can be just as delicate and is very capable of feeling and expressing deep emotions. The entire sequence at the party is a great example of that, where it shows Eve pondering feelings of love not unlike anyone in this day and age would. Towards the very end of the novel, when Lucas is almost killed, the source of the uncanny becomes a source of hope when Eve decides to use her inhuman strength to fend off Drago. I consider this a really great and effective subversion of the classic monster trope in Gothic literature and a nice twist on the uncanny on top of just being a really exciting moment in general.

In ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’, the ominous rock, looms silently and is always made to appear alluring yet threatening. Both its beauty and its terrifyingly mysterious aura capture the essence of the sublime quite nicely. It is initially framed by Mrs. Appleyard as something dangerous that is not to be explored, only to be observed from a safe distance. To the girls that eventually decide to explore the rock though, it serves more as a symbol of emancipation and independence. They can be seen taking off both their gloves and eventually their shoes the further they ascend, which shows how they free themselves from the chains of Appleyard College and the strict societal norms of the early 20th century in general. This gained independence is thanks to the previously demonized rock that is now painted in a completely different light than in the beginning.

Overall, the use of Gothic elements in both ‘’Picnic at Hanging Rock’’ and ‘’Ghost Species’’ serves to subvert what readers and viewers have come to know as traditional elements of the Gothic. Instead of purely horror and fear, these elements are a symbol of strength and independence among others. Eve uses her inhuman abilities to protect and the rock gives the girls the freedom to explore a world outside of the confines of a facility that is arguably more fit as a symbol of the uncanny and sublime than the rock itself.

The Great Gatsby – an Australian Movie?

By Laura Himmelmann

The Great Gatsby is a novel and movie adaption most of us are familiar with, hopefully. The majority of people are unaware that on paper, it could count as an Australian movie rather than American.

Looking at the cast, we are confronted with Leonardo Di Caprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. All American actors that are well known for their movies. However, if we look further, we are met with a whole list of people that have Australian origin. It is a presence that is palpable.

Baz Luhrmann, the director of the movie, is Australian and he brought in his team which consisted of fellow Australians: so does the movie count as an Australian one?

What makes a movie Australian?

The plot of The Great Gatsby follows Jay Gatsby, a millionaire who carries a mysterious aura wherever he steps foot in. His long-lasting crush Daisy, someone he knows, is out of reach. We view the story from Nick Carraway’s POV, years after everything we are about to witness, happened. The message of the movie is to warn of the dangers of the American dream and the death grip materialism has on people. It also depicts the irresponsible lifestyle of the rich, especially with the focus on parties and alcohol.

While it takes place in the fictional town West Egg, imitating New York City, the director moved the filming process to Sydney. In other words, the movie was filmed in Australia but depicts the America of the 1920’s. Throughout the years there have been various novel and movie adaptions that are associated with different countries. Such as The Piano, set in New Zealand, written, and directed by a New Zealand team but produced by an Australian (DailyTelegraph). Therefore, it is accepted as an Australian movie by award associations. For The Great Gatsby, we have a hugely known American novella as source material, but an Australian team in the background. So, we must consider it as a possibility of representation.

What is meant with that?

The source material should not limit the creative adaption but rather encourage various people to take over and add their nuances. The Great Gatsby is a prime example of Australian influence and the success it may carry. It creates differences to the original, those that may change the setting, acting and developing of a plot, but it does not need to be connected to negativity. Furthermore, it opens the door for representation in Hollywood, for recognition and acceptance apart from the usual norm.

So, yes, The Great Gatsby needs to be seen as an Australian movie, for that it not only consists of mostly Australian cast and crew but it also offers a difference to usual Hollywood blockbusters. It opened the doors of possibilities and the space to think about productions that not only consist of Americans when telling a story even one set in America. This is thanks to people like Baz Luhrmann who pour their individuality and ideas in big projects, turning them into something different, something new.


‘Great Gatsby’ and the Australian influence (

Is the Great Gatsby really an Australian film? | Daily Telegraph

Nick Cave and the Gothic

Nick Cave is an Australian singer, songwriter, poet and author who dives into the multifaceted abyss of human consciousness. In his works, and especially song lyrics, he frequently makes use of themes such as mortality, morbidity and surrealism. All of these are motives we are familiar with from the genre of Gothic. But how exactly are these themes realized in Cave’s art and can they be categorized as belonging to the subgenre of Australian Gothic?

To answer these questions let’s first take a look at some examples of Gothic themes in Cave’s songs. In the album Murder Ballads, published in 1996 by his band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, themes of horror can be found frequently. As the title suggests, almost every song includes the story of at least one and sometimes several murders. “The Curse of Millhaven”, for example, tells the story of a mad young girl comitting several murders. In “Song of Joy”, a father recounts the brutal murder of his family by a serial killer. Both songs feature detailed, very morbid descriptions of the murders. Interesting to note is that both these songs are written from the perspective of the murderer. Both depict their spiral into madness.

This theme of madness and violence developing from a place of love can be found in several other songs as well. The general feeling of many of these songs could also be described as a depiction of the ordinary and unknown in an unusual, surrealistic way. Cave presents horror and violence from the hands of ordinary people like a school girl, father or lover.

To answer the question whether Nick Cave’s art can be classified as Australian Gothic we must first take a closer look at the characteristics of this subgenre. In general, it shares some aspects with European and American Gothic but also has its own distinct features. Early examples of Australian Gothic can be dated back as far as the late 19th century but are quite obscure. The genre developed alongside colonization and is therefore marked by racist ideas. Indigenous Australian people are portrayed as uncivilized in contrast to the civilized, rational colonizer. Another feature is the perception of the landscape as hostile, dangerous and haunted.

One song which we would like to inspect closer is “Where the Wild Roses Grow”. Cave recorded this song together with fellow Australian artist Kylie Minogue in 1995. The duet narrates the story of Elisa Day and her unnamed murderer who is also her lover. At the height of their relationship, he promises to show her the place “where the wild roses grow”. This place is depicted as a beautiful, mysterious place of desire only he seems to know of. It is here at this almost otherworldly place of natural beauty where he strikes her down with a rock.

Contrary to most Australian gothic fiction, the environment here isn’t potentially harmful or even dangerous. Instead it is depicted as a beautiful escape. Nonetheless, the surroundings are abstract and surreal, almost too perfect and quickly stained by the brutal murder of Elisa Day. It appears as if Nick Cave subverts the expectations of the genre, by turning the innocent and beautiful landscape into a murder scene, instead of the land itself bearing the horrors and danger. This idea of subverting the Australian Gothic can also be found in the way evilness is depicted. There is no strange “other” who poses a threat. Instead evilness and violence can be found within the community from people you would never expect to be capable of such things. The kind of horror Cave uses is psychological, often allowing the listener to get an insight into the murderers thoughts by having the songs be written from their perspective.

A Review? Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead & Apocalypse

It seems like everybody is in their villain era lately. Horror cinema has become mainstream to the extent that wider audiences are becoming more aware of the hidden cypher of morals and taboos lying beneath the human and not-so-human monsters on the silver screen. And for a lifelong and passionate fan of everything scary (as I am), this is the true nightmare. Because making horror suitable for bigger audiences came at the cost of sacrificing much of the boldness of the genre.

Looking for a fun zombie movie to watch with my mum (the biggest The Walking Dead fan I know) I came across the Wyrmwood series, consisting of Road of the Dead (2014) and Apocalypse (2022). Both of which are movies produced and directed by brothers Tristian and Kiah Roache-Turner with a budget of only about 160,000 Dollars each (TWD has a budget of 3.4 million per episode). And yet, this low budget franchise has given me all I wanted from a zombie movie, and so much more.

I want to address both movies back-to-back, not only because their refreshing take on zombie movies made me binge-watch them in one sitting, but also because they are exactly like consecutive movies should be: siblings, not twins.

I have honestly grown tired of the endless conversations about morality and humanity. Whole episodes of The Walking Dead without a single dead person walking in sight. Just people talking about the evil deeds of their fellow survivors and unsolvable battles being fought out in eternal discussions.  I just want to see guts splattering on the screen, is this too much to ask for?

Enter Wyrmwood, the very Australian lovechild of Mad Max and Day of the Dead.

Director Kiah Roache-Turner appeals to his audience’s media literacy: most of us know zombies better than our own grandma. “Everybody knows what the set up is, let’s just cut to the chase. There’s zombies everywhere, you know what I mean? It’s some kind of vague, Biblical metaphor, meteors have landed, let’s put the leathers on and get a double-barrel shotgun out, and it just cuts straight to the chase […].” (Kiah Roache-Turner on Hence, there is not much of a plot to address here. The brothers have reduced the zombie movie formula to the bare minimum. First, it is about people trying to survive in the apocalypse, and then, madness ensues.

It is a zombie movie set in “a world that is cool – it’s a zombie apocalyptic wasteland where the zombies can attach to vehicles and generators as a power source, and you’ve got somebody who has developed the power to control zombies like puppets […].” (Kiah Roache-Turner on Gamerant) Both of these ideas just blew my mind. Not because they are symbolically deep or anything. They are just fun concepts for a movie and look amazing in action sequences.

Their video game-like approach is not only apparent in their ideas, but the camerawork also borrows from this aesthetic. It is incredibly fast, chaotic, with interesting angles and quick shots. Certain scenes have a very game-like boss-fight style to them. (

Especially the visuals and action sequences of the sequel Apocalypse are amazing. The Wyrmwood movies rely on practical effects, rather than special effects. The makeup of the zombies does look quite good (despite the contact-lenses being a bit too obviously fake at times), and the splatter action is amusing. There is no doubt that a low budget movie with practical effects will age better with time than a million-dollar series like She-Hulk, clearly overdoing it with special effects.

Also, it is a very Australian movie, proudly sporting the influence of Mad Max, with heavily modded cars and cool apocalyptic fashion. (Roach-Turner on From the usage of cricket players as weapons, to the song Red Right Hand by Nick Cave being used in the opening sequence of Apocalypse. Plenty of shots of the characteristic flora of the outback, warm colours and lonely roads. For once, we get the feeling of a country that is not plagued by overpopulation (in contrast to the vast hordes of many US cantered zombie franchises), there are no big crowds of zombies surrounding the protagonists. In fact, they eventually even struggle to locate one to use as fuel. Especially the second movie, filmed with only a few sets and locations, manages to create a unique feeling of isolation, despite being action packed to the brim.

The dialogue in Wyrmwood is cut down to a minimum as well. It gets the story across, and characterizes the protagonists: nothing more, nothing less.

The zombie genre is a genre that is generally quite good at depicting a diverse cast of characters, and it is something that puts me in a good mood. Wyrmwood is no exception to this rule, as it features a cast consisting of men and women, white people and people of colour, featuring three main characters who are indigenous. But honestly, the women of the franchise steal the show.  My personal favourite is zombie-controlling Brooke (Bianca Bradley), who goes from slightly shy, but still tough in the first movie, to an animalistic, crazed-out zombie hybrid in the sequel. And it is honestly delightful to watch her telepathically make zombies use guns and grenades. Honestly badass, and, like everything in these movies, just plain fun to look at.

Despite its fast pace and straight-up out there characters, Wyrmwood somehow manages not to become ridiculous or overly goofy. There are serious moments and a solid storyline, likeable characters, and vile antagonists. And the worldbuilding is refreshingly unique and consistent.

So, in conclusion, this is as much as a review, as it is a criticism of modern horror cinema. Stop telling me about the depravity of humankind. Show it to me. I want to see the bloody roots of it. Brains and all.


If you want to give your own brain some slack and relax with some fast-paced, bloody action, at the time of this blog’s writing, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is currently available for as little as 0,99 Euro on Amazong VoD, and Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is free on Amazon Prime.


Raven Brunner. “Kiah Roache-Turner Talks Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, Chatting With Fans, And A Potential Third Movie”

Skyjoker. Interview: ‘Wyrmwood Apocalypse’ Director Kiah Roache-Turner

Steve Newall. Interview: ‘Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead’ director Kiah Roache-Turner.

Moviefreak. “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” – Interview with Director Kiah Roache-Turner.

H2O: Just Add Water and the Aboriginal Mermaid Myth

by anonymous

The show H20: Just Add Water is a children’s show about three teenage girls Emma, Cleo and Rikki (And later, Emma is replaced by Bella) who become mermaids and grow tails as soon as they touch water. The first episode shows their encounter and how they end up taking a boat out for a spin. The boat runs out of fuel and they decide to paddle to the nearest land, Mako Island, where all three of them fall into a crater of a dormant volcano. Their only way out is to dive through the reef. While the girls are in the water, the moon shines over the volcano and the water around them begins to bubble. The next day, after making it out of the crater, the girls grow tails and develop superpowers over water.

Already in the first episode, many Australian characteristics, such as the setting of the series, can be seen. Set on the Gold Coast, the series features a very summery beach and surf aesthetic that non-natives often associate with Australia. Another very Australian feature is the production, including the actors and their distinctive accents. All of this supports the authenticity of the show. But these are not the only aspects. The show also shows a connection to the mermaid myth, also known as the Yawkyawk, of the Aboriginal people.  

The Yawkyawk is a female creature originating from the mythology of Aboriginal people from the northern territories of Australia. Yawkyawk translates to “young girl with a fish tail” and resembles mermaids with seaweed for hair. They are described as freshwater creatures that lived in lakes and rivers. In addition, the Yawkyawk were able to shapeshift into snakes, crocodiles, swordfish, or other animals, and they could manipulate the weather when they were angry. Thus, they played a major role in the indigenous culture and language. Aboriginal paintings depicting the Yawkyawk creatures still hang in Australia’s national museums.

Knowing this myth, one can assume that the show H20: Just Add Water was inspired by it. The main similarities that stand out are the fishtails, obviously, but especially the supernatural powers that the girls develop in the series. Each of them develops a different power, such as freezing, boiling, and moving water. Often these powers are used when they get angry or try to help their friends. Later in the series, weather control also is revealed as a mermaid power. The existence of the myth is also mentioned in the series, when they try to find out more about the origin of the mermaids.

However, there are also many differences between the depiction of the mermaids in the show and in the myth. The Yawkyawk are said to live in the water, while the girls in the series only grow tails when they touch the water. Their superpowers are also different from those of the Yawkyawk in most cases. These differences can be attributed to the fact that it is a children´s show. The myth of the mermaid is found in many different cultures, such as Native Americans, ancient Greeks, Asians, etc., and they are usually associated with negative expectations. In some cultures, the creatures are described as possessors, sirens, or unlucky omens that bring disaster or attract and kill sailors. It is to be expected that these characteristics are not appropriate for a show aimed at a young audience. In summary, despite the differences, the show is a good example of typical Australian culture and emphasizes the reference to Aboriginal mythology. Thus, it raises awareness and brings us closer to the indigenous culture.

The Infinite Man – Movie Review

by Eva Musat

The Infinite Man is a 2014 Australian science-fiction film directed by Hugh Sullivan that is about Dean, a scientist, who wishes to relive a special weekend he had with his girlfriend Lana. When Lana’s ex-boyfriend Terry interrupts them, Dean tries to make things right by traveling back in time. The film takes place in only one location, the hotel where said special weekend took place, and only has three characters.

The limited setting, few characters, and time travel plot are the things that drew me to this movie in the first place. It is quite similar to the movie Coherence (2013), which I think is one of the most innovative thrillers I´ve seen recently. However, The Infinite Man develops more into the genres of romance and comedy, whereas Coherence belongs to the surreal and thriller genres.

I had high hopes for this movie, but I ended up being a little bit disappointed and by the end, confused.  This doesn´t mean it was bad, I just didn´t like it as much as I expected it to. The first part of the movie intrigued me, but started to feel a bit static; in the middle and toward the end of the movie the cleverly written dialogue helped turn the movie around.

The very first thing we see is Dean, while his inner monologue is heard, where he talks about loving his girlfriend and understanding her neurochemically, in a way that nobody else can. He believes he is the only one that can make her happy because, having studied her from the perspective of a scientist, he knows exactly how. This sets an interesting tone for the movie and I expected that we delve into the scientific details behind Dean´s knowledge of Lana, but that never happened.

The overall plot was well structured. It had very few plot holes, which was quite surprising, but it lacked the clarity needed to understand the movie. I think that maybe a small difference in the characters´ appearance for each time travel loop would have helped. I understand that in order to relive the weekend Dean wants every character to wear the same clothing each time; after all, if the perfect weekend happened once, why shouldn´t it work again, if the same conditions and circumstances are met? But a small change in hair color, hairstyle, or facial hair would have helped the viewer a lot.

If one wants an interesting plot and an exploration of time travel, the movie falls slightly short, as it is easy to get confused with the timeline. This confusion can be solved by some research, which led me to a website that explains the different time travel plots in detail and even includes a chart.[1]

While the plot is lacking, if anybody needs inspiration for unique directing, cinematography and editing, this is by all means the movie to watch.

The technical aspects of the movie, are just beautiful. The colors have a specific yellow and orange vintage look about them and the notable choice of music both make for a unique viewing experience. Especially eye-catching is the way the camera follows our characters, more specifically the way it follows the places Dean points to when he shows Lana where they were last year. Additionally, the film editing is very striking, in the way it cuts to different paintings and even the list Dean made for the perfect weekend, as are the different transitions used in the film.

Overall the movie is fun to experience, but difficult to grasp without looking at some sort of explanation. Still, it can be enjoyable and even interesting to watch, if you like unique technical aspects such as camera work and film editing.

[1] Swaminathan, B. (Barry). (2019, October 17). The Infinite Man Explained (2014 Australian Film). This Is Barry.

“Melbourne Calling”

by Mara Geißen

For my last blog post I have again chosen a short story to write about. The short story, “Melbourne Calling” by Silvia Brown, doesn’t seem to have much to do with horror at first. However, monsters are mentioned from the beginning, which Colin apparently sees. The monsters he mentions, however, seem to come from his subconscious and are therefore less real. “I closed my eyes and counted to three like the psych had suggested and the vision went away, leaving a path of slime over my shoes” (140).

The story seems like a normal teenage – love story with the difference being that this is not a traditional, heteronormative couple, but a homosexual one. The two are portrayed in a very cute way. They seem to have really searched for and found each other. Due to the depiction of their relationship, as a reader one feels wrapped in a warm and cozy blanket. It recalls one´s first love and the strong emotions and sensations felt at that intense time. Typical and comprehensible is also that Collin and Josh have their own song “London Calling”, which they even personalise for themselves into “Melbourne Calling” (142). The title of the story already indicates that this song will be significant for the plot.

Out of nowhere, the boys are attacked by an old man and Josh is killed in the attack. “A blast went off as the headphones snapped onto his ears. Flesh exploded. Glass and wood shattered. [… I] saw the broken window […], and what was left of Josh, the pointy end of a shotgun still levelled at where his head had been” (144 – 145). As a reader, you are torn from the cozy blanket and thrown into a pool of freezing water. You might expect a supernatural monster, like the one in Colin’s wardrobe, but no. The monster described here is a man who wants to kill, or kills two boys. “The old man behind the gun looked me in the eye, seemingly indifferent to the loss of life and property” (45). Definitely such people can be called monsters. Monsters are not only slimy creatures with tentacles, but also people without hearts and empathy. However, the old man is in Colin’s eyes not only a human monster but also a fantastic one. “The old man´s partly hidden features became more obvious as he moved into the light of the store window. His human face fell into a mass of feelers from the lips down, minuscule tentacles lurking in all directions” (145). As a reader, one is not quite sure if this monster is real or if just Colin’s mind portraying this man as a monster.

The story only becomes clearly fantastic at the end, when the song “London Calling” is heard again by Colin. The song seems to have created such a strong connection between him and Josh that he seems to hear his voice calling his name (146). Colin follows the voice in his mind and thereby loses himself in “limbo” (146), where he finds Josh. Now they can sing together again,  “from the top of [their] lungs” (146). The story ends on a sad note, since both boys are dead. Colin seems to have died too, as he is said to fall “into the abyss” (146). Nevertheless, one also feels a positive or lightening feeling, knowing that at the very least Josh and Colin are together.

A Review: Catching Teller Crow

“In telling this tale, we were informed by two sets of stories that are the inheritance of Aboriginal peoples. The first set are stories of our homelands, families, cultures; the stories that speak to the connections which sustain us and which we sustain in turn. The second set are the tales that entered our worlds with colonization; stories of the violence that was terrifyingly chaotic or even more terrifyingly organized on a systemic scale. Both sets of stories inform our existences, and thus our storytelling.”

(Kwaymullina 191)
Spoilers ahead!

Catching Teller Crow is a novel about a grieving father, Michael Teller, that can see the ghost of his daughter Beth. Michael Teller is a police detective and was sent to investigate a murder in a rural Australian town. During the investigation Beth notices another ghost following them and befriends her. And as it turns out, the girl, called Catching, is the key to solving the murder and uncovering the town’s secret.

         The novel deals with many different topics such as grief, trauma, and relationships. It is clear from the first page that Beth is worried about her father as he does not deal with well with Beth and her mother’s respective deaths. If we were to see the ghost of someone close to us, we would probably assume that we are losing our mind or that it is a manifestation of our grief. But for Aboriginal people this would not be that strange. Some Aboriginal people believe that humans go through different stages of existence (cf. Books+Publishing). Similarly, that everything is connected is part of Aboriginal systems (cf. Kwaymillina 2013, 4). So seeing a ghost would not be that strange as they are just souls at another part of existence. And because everything is related, Beth’s and Catching’s stories are related even across time.

         Beth and Catching tell their stories in different ways. Beth ‘talks’ in prose. Catching in verse. According to the authors, Beth’s voice is like a river ‘sometimes fast and sometimes slow, but always saying a lot’ and Catching’s voice is like ‘the beat of the rain, sometimes steady and sometimes sharp and uneven. She says little, but every word has weight.’ (Wyld). Even though both stories have a lot to say about the two girls, Catching’s verse makes her story feel more important- and it’s not just the words either. The historical implications behind her story, the being taken by strangers, being talked about as if she isn’t there, the fear, makes it feel real.

         Let’s now talk about Crow, the last girl mentioned in the title of the novel. Crow is and remains a mystery in the novel, but her being a crow tells us a lot. Crows are most known to represent good or bad omens- even death. But those black birds are also known for their intelligence and adaptability. They can also be a sign for transformation and the future. And maybe this is all true for Catching Teller Crow as in the end of the novel (the chapter called ‘The Beginning’) all three girls turn to crows.

“We bathed in the clouds and sang in the sun and let the world paint our souls and our souls paint the world. And wherever we went, we went together.”

(Kwaymullina 190)


Books+Publishing. “Reaching out: Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymillina on ‘Catchin Teller Crow’”.   aching-out-ambelin-and-ezekiel-kwaymullina-on-catching-teller-crow/. Accessed Feb. 19, 2023.

Kwaymullina, A., B. Kwaymullina, and L. Butterly. “Living Texts: A Perspective on Published Sources, Indigenous Research Methodologies and Indigenous Worldviews”. International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, vol. 6, no. 1,   Jan. 2013, pp. 1-13, doi:10.5204/ijcis.v6i1.106.

Kwaymullina, Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina. Catching Teller Crow. Penguin Books, 2019

Overwatch’s Australia: The Freak, The Queen and… the Māori?

The gaming industry is notoriously known to struggle with representation of diverse characters. Protagonists still tend to be male, white, cis, and able-bodied most of the time. AAA titles with the most basic protagonists still make tons of profit, while male gamers with a sexist mindset often react with outrage when faced with one of the rare, non-sexualized representations of women, because ‘everything has to be woke nowadays’.  Despite more than valid criticisms and controversies surrounding the company and its policies, Blizzard’s 2016 game Overwatch (upgraded to Overwatch 2 in October ’22), offers a rather exemplary diverse roster of characters for its player base of up to 1 million daily players.

Overwatch is a multiplayer first-person-shooter, commonly described as a ‘hero shooter’. In hero shooters, the gameplay relies on each of the characters’ unique abilities. With a heavy focus on individual characters, representation matters even more than normal. And not everything is bad in the case of this sometimes quite controversial game.

The game takes place in a distant future, with extremely advanced technologies, fully sentient robots, genetically enhanced gorillas and hamsters. The Overwatch is an international task force established to ensure global stability in the face of the robot rebellion against their human creators: the so called Omnic Crisis. In this setting, Australia has a somewhat unique status, as it is a barren, barely inhabitable wasteland, almost completely destroyed in said crisis. Accordingly, the Australian characters are heavily inspired by the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max. Their chaotic personalities contrast with many of the other heroes, who neatly fit into different, mostly futuristic hero archetypes.



The first character to look at is the attack hero Junkrat, who would be the result of what happens if you put a mad genius, DC’s Joker and a whole lot of Mad Max into a blender. He is represented as insane to the point of being self-destructive, sporting a self-made mechanical arm and leg. Even in the chaotic environment of this destroyed Australia, disabilities are not a dealbreaker. On the contrary, Junkrat is crafty enough to design his own prosthetics, even without access to the sleek-looking prosthetics some of his colleagues use (sometimes to enhance their abilities). Still, he is one of the heroes with the highest damage output and quite some manoeuvrability, simply due to him not caring about his own physical well-being.

His weapons of choice are a whole lot of bombs, a bear-trap and a remote-controlled exploding tire. Everything about Junkrat is chaotic, from his scorched, still burning hair to his crazed laughter. He even drops bombs upon being killed. While other heroes use high-tech equipment, Junkrat relies on the power of pure destruction inflicted by his rusty DIY gadgets, truly making the best out of his post-apocalyptic home country.

Junkrat’s Overwatch 1 & 2 Default Skins

Junkrat’s voice actor (US American Chris Parson) attempts to mimic an Australian accent, but he is American, nonetheless. Blizzard seems to have learned their lesson in this regard, as the newest released Australian hero, Junker Queen, has an Australian voice actress (Leah De Neise), as well as a few Aussie slang voice lines (for example: “Oi! Pick up your feet, ya’ drongos!”)

Junker Queen

Junker Queen, a tank hero, is an extremely tall and muscular woman, using a shotgun, an axe, and a throwing knife. She combines the brute force of melee attacks with her passive ability that allows her to heal herself in relation to damage dealt to enemy heroes. In her case, hurting others means to protect yourself and your teammates. Additionally, she is one of the most self-confident characters in the game. This translates into an aggressive play-style, which spreads over to the other heroes: Her ability Commanding Shout is a fierce battle cry giving allies a health buff. In Junker Queen’s work environment, you just scream at your colleagues to protect them.

She is not only the tallest woman in the game (only towered over by the other Australian tank, two robots and the German man in giant armour) but is also equipped with an unapologetic brawler attitude rarely seen in female characters.

As her name suggests, she is the queen of one of the escort maps, Junkertown. Junkertown is built out of the remains of an Omnic factory in the Australian Outback.  In Junker Queen’s cinematic short movie, we get a glimpse of a popular hobby in this rather dangerous Australian society: Fighting in the Scrapyard, a gladiatorial arena located in the Junkertown map. We get to see the rough society of Overwatch’s Australia, their use of scrap technology, as well as their awesome queen being the best tank of the game (not biased at all). She is presented as a woman who could not care less about gender roles, while at the same time not remaining one-dimensional or unreasonably violent. Junker Queen is not only surviving in post-apocalyptic Australia, but thriving:


The remaining character is another tank: Roadhog, who is Junkrat’s bodyguard. He is a fat man in a mask, mainly communicating in grunts. His outfit’s accessories further hint at road movies, with a spiked tire on his shoulder and a license place as his belt buckle. His weapons are a shotgun and a hook he can use to pull other heroes towards him and finally…”Whole Hog”; some kind of modification to his gun making it look like a meatgrinder firing bullets in a cone in front of him. To restore health, he inhales from his “hogdrogen” (not a typo). Roadhog, similarly to his boss, is a character mirroring the radiated wasteland they are inhabiting. Due to his hostile environment, he has abandoned much of his humanity and has become whole hog himself. Thus, it is still unknown what his face looks like.

While Roadhog is designed in the same Mad Max aesthetic, one aspect differentiates him from the other two. While his ‘official’ nationality is Australian, is has been heavily hinted that Roadhog, whose real name is Mako Rutledge, is of Māori descent.

His first name means ‘shark’ in Māori. Additionally, his ‘Toa’ and ‘Islander’ skins reference Polynesian cultures, including a stuck-out tongue reminiscent of the haka, as well as tribal tattoos. In game, he can also be heard saying “If I wanted to go to the wop-wops, I could have stayed at home.” This “is strictly an informal noun in New Zealand as opposed to Australia which uses ‘out in the sticks’ to imply that it is out in the middle of nowhere.” (Overwatch Wiki)

Roadhog’s Overwatch 1 Default Skin vs. Toa Skin

While Overwatch had some controversies regarding cultural appropriation, it is not unlikely that Mako is a intended to be of Māori descent, as there “are over 170,000 Māori living in Australia – 20 percent of all Māori”. ( It is an interesting nod to the relation between the two neighbouring countries, and I was not aware of this demographic situation before looking up the reasons for the controversy surrounding Roadhog’s nationality. Unfortunately, Roadhog’s voice actor is another US American (Josh Petersdorfs). Blizzard missed the great opportunity to give this role to a native Māori, providing some of the much-needed visibility to a marginalised group of people.


Overwatch sticks to clichés, but it does so consistently with all its characters (the German character Reinhardt does, of course, have beer related voice lines and I can definitely identify with VA Darin De Paul’s fake German accent).  The game is walking the fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Generally, characters stereotyped according to their nationality have become a popular trope in hero shooters.

When it comes to proper representation, Blizzard still has plenty of room for improvement, especially compared with other games such as Respawn’s battle royale Apex Legends (2019), which also includes characters from New Zealand and Australia, respectively voiced by voice actors of those nationalities.

The American voice actors deliver a decent imitation of an Australian accent (though I am no expert whatsoever). Nevertheless, Leah de Niese performance as Junker Queen is the absolute best. But overall, the idea kind of works. All characters are unique and charming, with the Australians delivering plenty of personality and some of the most powerful gameplay.

Finally, one last thing that is interesting to observe is the in-game roles of the characters. Roadhog and Junker Queen are tanks, whose main role it is to shield their teammates and soak up incoming damage. Often, tanks are characters that are physically extremely strong.  Junkrat is an attack hero, whose main role it is to deal as much damage as possible. There is no Australian hero in the support category. I would love to see how an Australian healer would look like in the Overwatch universe. Or is the lack of a support hero a subliminal message about Australia’s image as a hostile and dangerous environment producing confident, reckless, and extremely self-sufficient personalities? After all, if there is no healer on your team, Junker Queen quips: “You softies need a healer!”


Media Sources

Overwatch Skin Screenshots taken by me 🙂

Overwatch 2 Junker Queen Cinematic Trailer – “The Wastelander”:

Soon…the real life horror story of the Australian town Wittenoom

For my blogpost I would like to introduce the novel Soon by Lois Murphy and would make a recommendation for you to read it. 

The novel deals with an abandoned city in the Australian outback, only a few people remained living there and the official road sign into town has been removed – but why is that? 

The fictitious city of Nebulah is hunted, hunted at night. But also, during the day, something feels off, even the birds have left town. Murphy creates an amazing atmosphere where we as readers can really feel the silence and the uneasy atmosphere that surrounds the city. She plays with the theme of the uncanny when on winter solstice a mystique mist arrives to town. This mist makes your darkest dreams and fears come true. Sometimes it even portrays pictures and makes people reappear that you are familiar with. The only escape is your home, a closed off space with doors and windows shut, curtains drawn and the tv on maximum volume to make the awful sounds of the outside disappear. 

The mist only appears at night, so “if you are out at night, you are already dead” (Murphy). During the day the last three residents try to carry on with their everyday lives. The ex-policeman Pete and his dog, Milli and Li try to stick together and remain living in the only place that they have ever called home. 

The story of Nebulah and its residents is not only scary and horrific, but also sad and very personal since the readers get to know every character and experience their lives. Each of the character has a personal story and a reason to stay in Nebulah – explaining why they cannot leave this horrific place. It’s a story of failed dreams and goals but also of friendship and a chosen family. 

Does the story sound familiar to you? Well Murphy said in an interview a huge inspiration was the story of The Mist by Stephen King. But she also mentioned that the story of Nebulah is based on a real-life town she came across during her travels. A similar fate reached the city of Wittenoom in Australia. Wittenoom is also almost completely abandoned by its former residents. Wittenoom was Australia’s only supplier of blue asbestos, but due to growing health concerns from asbestos mining in the area, the site was shut down and people began to move away. Now the area around Wittenoom is declared the largest contaminated site of Australia. However, until 2021 two people remained living in Wittenoom….

If reading the novel this story of Wittenoom reminds you of the story of Nebulah, well, don’t be surprised. Even so, Wittenoom was not hunted by a horrific mist but by poisonous asbestos. I recommend you to read Soon and dive into the story of Nebulah. Some parts of the story are written with such suspense you imagine living there yourself and running for your life, running to close the door behind you when the sun leaves the sky…