News 101: don’t be the news. Don’t let your personal life get in the way of your presentation, and God forbid you find yourself in the crosshairs of an angry mob. But it’s harder to stay out of the picture if you’re a TV writer, and even more so when you’re a woman. Add social media trolls to the mix and you’ve got a situation that’s as bitter as it gets – and it’s turned on journalists.
Anna K It’s Suzie Miller’s latest game, and it’s like her international game Prima Facie, which starred Jodie Comer in the West End, is an unflinching portrait of a tough woman under extreme pressure. Anna is a household name: a high-profile TV journalist known for her hard-hitting interviews. When her love life becomes the subject of the news, she finds the world turning on her from all angles.
Miller is one of Australia’s most successful and prolific actors, so it’s perhaps no surprise that he’s on the receiving end of public criticism. One of his first plays focused on a character who killed a child when he was young and explored how that person could be redeemed as an adult. Then the shocks came to him.
“I may be new to the world of talkback radio to find it scary,” he said. “I’ve always been told it’s a scary feeling, that someone can be rehabilitated after they’ve done something really bad. It’s scary. I’ve completely left social media and I’m keeping to myself.”
Caroline Craig, who plays Anna K, has had her own run-ins with the media. “I stupidly took some pictures when I was pregnant, bad pictures in the mirror thinking I’d share them with Mom and my friends.” After posting these on Facebook, he received a message from his brother: “There are pictures of you lifting the glass, you are so ugly, on the Mail every day internet.’ I was like, oh my god…I don’t want them to have pictures of me and my kids. That’s it.”
Like Anna, Craig has already seen the way that the speed of TV can create an illusion of friendship and personal connection between fans. When he took on Lisa McCune as director Blue Heels“People hate my personality. They hate me. I was in the supermarket and this old lady hit me with a bag of iced peas and said: ‘You killed me.’ to Maggie Doyle!’”
Craig said that compared to his latest work, his popularity is less. “But I’m not happy at all. My union friends were always like ‘you want it,’ but I was fighting with my girlfriend, getting thrown on the side of the road, I got a car, and people were like: ‘Can you do a picture with my sister?’”
Miller was friends with several journalists, including Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb. He was inspired to write Anna K “Watching people go on Twitter storms and the level of hate they get. It’s scary to me.
He began to think about public shaming: how it would arrest and punish those who refused to conform, and act as a warning to others. His research was taken from Jon Ronson’s best seller So you are embarrassed in public to that of Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter. She knows that not all shyness is the same. Women’s shame takes different tones than men’s shame; so is the humiliation and degradation of people of color, of different races or sexuality.
Eventually his reading led him back Anna Karenina“how ashamed he is of his mind”.
In Tolstoy’s classic novel, a young woman leaves her husband and son to make a new life with her young lover, but the prohibition from all corners of society rises to a deadly level.
Anna K It is not a change of Tolstoy. The family is similar, but Miller’s play is a riff and appeal to the book.
“[Tolstoy’s] Anna said a lot if you have a passion and you work outside of the established norms, you die. You cannot survive. But I wanted to find a way to keep my Anna alive,” Miller said.
To prepare for the job, Craig sought out the experiences of other women who had experienced internet maelstroms. “It’s really unfortunate. It’s amazing to do research on what people like Leigh Sales or someone like Clementine Ford have achieved. It’s scary.
Gender bias cannot be ignored, Miller said. “I’ve talked to some journalists who have never had mental health issues in their lives, who went down when they received this hate mail and had rude messages sent their way. .. kind of option given to them by trolls and haters on the internet.
“The thing about the internet,” said Craig, “is that you think it’s beautiful, it’s a great opportunity for diversity, for everyone who thinks, and these voices are heard together.” all. But that only increases the amount of patriarchal reality and oppression that we live with.”
Anna K It is not a cultural game, but it is very important. He does not ask us to fix his middle image – but we really do, because we are raised in the same culture as those who do not know him. It’s hard not to understand yourself at the time, though, and think about how different we are from trolls and self-haters.
Miller’s story is more simple than a story of right and wrong – Anna is too real to be an angel, and there are times when you wonder if her villains are specific. He may want to live by his own words, but does power bring a sense of responsibility to others?
“I see women go, ‘well, if you have a platform it’s not just about you,'” Miller said. “It’s about staying true to who you’re talking to, and making sure you’re not being dismissed, because that platform shows women that they can get up there.”
However, the game does not succumb to simple solutions. His relationship with the moral arguments he presents is as slippery as his relationship with the story from which his name is taken – admirable, but cautious.
“Maybe Tolstoy was making a point about the social system,” says Miller, “but the point is that Anna Karenina went crazy and put herself under a train. it’s like a warning to women. I don’t want my play to be a warning, I want it to be a call to action.
Anna K is at the Malthouse Theatre, August 12 – September 4. The NT Live film version of Prima Faciewith Jodie Comer, screening at Cinema Nova.