Alright Aussies, simmer down! You’ve been crying out to see some coverage of the new Australian show I Rock for weeks now, and rightly so; the first kiss between queer characters Comet and Cara outlasted both Neighbours’ and Home and Away’s much hyped millisecond pashes by a good 14 seconds (yeah, I totally timed it).
For those who aren’t familiar with the show, I Rock is ABC2’s new eight-part comedy series based around a struggling indie band, Boy Crazy Stacey, desperately trying to get their big break in the Sydney music scene. Lead singer Nash (played by the show’s co-writer Josh Mapleston) ticks every wannabe rock star box (as well as every Lesbian Man box) there is; he’s got the floppy emo haircut, he’s got the angsty attitude, but what he really wants — other than a hip underground record deal — is the girl.
The girl in this case is Comet (Ashley Fitzgerald), the excessively pretty new bass player for the up-and-coming electropop band Little Ponies, headed by Nash’s nemesis, the slyly named lesbian lead singer Cara Killjoy (played by out actress Kate Sherman).
Usually such a set-up would have me instantly wary, since like the rest of you I’ve been thoroughly conditioned by now to expect a humourless, one-dimensional lesbian character to be created for use as a foil for a charmingly hapless, straight male lead, but so far I Rock does things differently. Instead Cara functions to show up all of Nash’s failings and insecurities. She out-cools him, out-plays him and out-machos him, and by the end of the first episode, she’s the one who gets the girl.
Comet is turning out to be a fairly complicated character. Is she a wide-eyed, kind-hearted indie princess with perfect rock ’n roll credentials and no real idea of her seductive abilities? Or is she just a convincing liar hiding behind a facade? I honestly can’t tell at this point but it’s likely the series is building up to a big reveal as the cracks in her persona are slowly beginning to show.
What is apparent — so far anyway — is that the writers are at least allowing her bisexuality to remain a simple fact; at this point there have been exactly zero jokes about her being "converted" either way. While she insists to Nash on their first meeting that she’s never been with a girl before, her reaction to Cara’s unspeakably awesome first move (she crowdsurfs her way up onto the stage while Comet is playing a gig for Boy Crazy Stacey, grabs her by the throat and snogs the life out of her) is priceless; she simply stops mid-song, throws herself into the kiss and never looks back. However her (fairly inexplicable) attraction to the whiny Nash is becoming increasingly obvious as well.
The series is clearly headed for a show-down between Nash and Cara over who ultimately gets the girl, but while part of me wants to roll my eyes at the same old story playing out (another television bisexual who’s probably going to end up with a man) most of me thinks that in this case we have a relatively funny portrayal of just how complex and messy love can be. And Cara is certainly not depicted as the victim in all of this; while her life isn’t turning out to be perfect, she’s shown as being effortlessly popular with the ladies and not necessarily always on the level with Comet either.
I Rock is crammed full of stereotypes — the boozy drummer who gets all the chicks, the arrogant rock star who’s secretly an insecure nerd — and it’s safe to say that the queer characters don’t escape the mocking lightly either. Cara is portrayed as aggressive, mistrusting and possessive, while Comet veers from naive into straight out dippy at times.
However, in contrast to the harsh light constantly shining on the male characters, the women of I Rock are definitely depicted as strong and very much holding their own in what is usually a thoroughly male dominated scene. Nash’s ex-girlfriend Jane might be made fun of for her emotional blog, Pre-Menstrual as Anything, but in reality she has a bigger following, more industry clout and a better chance of success than her dismissive ex-boyfriend does. Cara might be suffering from short lesbian syndrome, but her genuine appeal to the rest of the world is well portrayed and her character is definitely likeable; she’s a girl who’s going places.
Likewise, the relationship between the two women is played for its comedic moments; episode one finishes with their first kiss and immediately as episode two opens we’re treated to a terrifying illustration of lesbian merging (some might cry cliché at about this point, but I’m just going to sigh huffily and admit the truth) as the newly coupled up Cara and Comet walk down the street together, dressed in identical outfits. They’re in their work uniforms for the job they have together. You know, as well as the band they’re in together. Oh and the house they live in together. Nash raises a jealous eyebrow and Cara announces smugly, “We do everything together. We’re like sisters … who f–k.”
At the same time however, the lesbian jokes aren’t cheap and they’re perfectly fitting with the laughter directed at the highly dysfunctional heterosexual relationships going on around them. When the assumption is made that Cara can be convinced to sleep with the womanizing drummer Luke, or Nash appears convinced he can seduce Comet despite her current relationship with a woman, both moments are played out in a way that make the male characters look a bit stupid. In the first situation Cara acts as though she’s up for Luke’s proffered shag, but out-blokes him until he backs down, leaving him simultaneously impressed and unnerved; in the second situation Jane (played by the awesomely show stealing Alison Bell) offers her opinion with an eloquently executed eye roll and a snigger at Nash’s misplaced confidence in himself.
Other highlights so far have included an amusingly dry cameo appearance from the very cute singer-songwriter Laura Imbruglia (who also succeeds in making Nash look like a wanker) and the immensely satisfying rock star dream moment when Jane stands up on stage for the first time, everyone adamantly expecting her to suck (including herself) and she just rocks.
There are two episodes left of the series and, while it’s so far receiving mixed reviews in the Australian press, there’s been no confirmation as yet as to whether the show will return for a second run. What do you think about the development of Comet and Cara’s relationship? If the series returns, will you be tuning in?