TV Review: Unplanned America – Episode 2 “Family Matters” (SBS2, Australia)

  • Carina Nilma
  • May 14, 2014
  • Comments Off on TV Review: Unplanned America – Episode 2 “Family Matters” (SBS2, Australia)

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In Episode 2 ‘Family Matters’ the boys travel to two vastly different events in different cities to discover that family doesn’t have to be about blood relatives and can come in the most unlikeliest of places and forms.

The first is the Gathering of the Juggalos in Southern Illinois, a music festival dedicated to fans of the band the Insane Clown Posse. Anything goes at this event, dressing up in ridiculous horror-themed outfits, baring your genitalia, carrying weapons or even trading drugs, there’s not much in the way of rules here except to have fun and shout ‘whoop whoop’ at your fellow Juggalos. The US authorities on the other hand believe the Juggalos are a bunch of thugs and even the F.B.I have deemed them a ‘gang’ but are they really that bad? After interviewing several Juggalos it seems that the common thread amongst them all is the desire to be accepted and to have a “family”, a group of people around you who love you for who you are irrespective of where you’re from or what you’ve done in your life. Violent J from the Insane Clown Posse says “It’s not just the music that they have in common, it’s so many other things…when they come here and meet all these other people just like them, you know you’re not alone”. A bunch of people that society deem to be outcasts or not worthy of their time, people who have grown up without the conventional idea of a family can find a substitute for it at the Gathering.

Heading east the boys then land in New York to investigate another version of ‘family’ – the underground ballroom/vogueing dance club scene dominated by African-American and Latino homosexuals and transgenders. The scene consists of groups of young men and women who comprise a “house” they then compete one-on-one against other individuals from another house in dance-off’s that involve of a variety of dance moves and are what they are judged upon to be crowned the respective winners of Vogue Knights. There is a level of competitiveness here but that’s only scratching the surface of what the real issues are.

Like the Juggalos a lot of these people have been outcast by their family or friends or society due to their sexuality and are looking to be accepted and loved. They find it amongst their peers, and the “mothers” and “fathers” of the houses, usually older members or former dancers who have grown up in the scene, they then become their mentors and role models. Luna Khan the “father” of House Khan sums it up “We need to start loving each other and we need to come together, coz at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about ….That’s what’s nice about ballroom no matter what team you’re part of we still embrace you”. There is a lot less prejudgement in today’s modern world towards homosexuals and transgenders then there was back in the 1920’s when the ballroom scene began, but even so many years on, the scene still provides a safe haven for those seeking sanctuary from prejudice and a place where they can express themselves through dance.

The series thus far has been a really thought-provoking examination of some of these less known or seen sub-cultures of people that I’m sure are not exclusive to America either. Each of the stories has been interspersed with snippets of the boys’ roadtripping adventures or tips. Like avoiding poison ivy or using the air-con vents in the car to chill your beer cans. It’s less reality TV and more documentary with some added laddish behaviour thrown in for good measure and to lighten the serious mood. I think if the budget for this series had been better (and less dependent on crowd-funding) they could have the potential to go further or deeper into examining the issues driving these particular sub-cultures or what generates them to be formed. In saying that though with the limited time they do have, the boys have been providing a very open-minded view and giving the viewers a chance to access these stories without bias.

In next week’s episode they examine the use of music and street art as a pathway out of the ghetto’s of Chicago and on to potential fame and fortune in ’The Boyz In The Hood’.


Unplanned America airs at 9:30pm Monday nights on SBS2 or On Demand via the SBS website.


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Carina Nilma

Office lackey day-job. Journalist for The AU Review night-job. Emotionally invested fangirl.