Culture

You Sound Like Me: An Ode To The Language Of ‘The Castle’

"These people sound more like me than any other representation of Australian life I’ve seen."

This week we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Castle with some reflections on the film’s importance in Australian pop culture.

My Mum grew up in Colac, and met my Dad when she moved to where he lived, Benalla. Both these towns are in rural Victoria. My parents moved to Melbourne by the time they ended up getting married and having us kids. They were 21 and 24.

Mum had all three of us by the time she was 28, which is almost how old I am now. We lived in a small house in Mt Waverley, a suburb of Melbourne, adjacent to a commission-housing suburb that has since boomed and is now full of new houses. The prices are now so high my parents could never have considered it as a place to live.

My brothers shared a room in this house until they were 20 and 17 respectively. I got my own room. There was one living/dining area, and we all sat in it, together, all the time. Mitchell would thump up and down the tiny hallway that led to the bedrooms and one bathroom playing football with a soft footy Mum had bought him when it was too cold and dark to go play outside.

I would sit on the couch while everyone watched TV, talking on the phone for three hours at a time in three-way conversations with my friends from school. I remember when we got a cordless phone and I was able to take the phone into my own room, or down to the study dad had built in the back of our garage. We would watch Hey Hey It’s Saturday. Mum’s go-to was chops and vegies. I was an adult before I realised what I had always called ‘chops’ were not the same thing as ‘steaks’.

Yeah but it’s what you do with it!

My dad taught me to service my own car, figure it out myself and see what I could learn. This would help avoid getting ripped off by mechanics. We have only ever had second-hand cars. The day dad bought what I called a “shiny car” he surprised us all by hauling us out to the garage to show us the Mistubishi Magna, with metallic-black shiny paint. It was only a few years old and it was the newest car I’d ever seen. Dad said that buying a car brand new was an absolute waste of money.

Tell ‘em he’s dreaming.

I was in primary school when my mum got to go overseas for the first time. Her and Dad entered a charity raffle and won a trip to Malaysia.

Did they show a film?

Yeah, two!

What film was it?

Twister, we saw Twister.

Was it on a screen, or a telly?

I can remember, when I was little, Mum doing a bit of work with Grace Cosmetics, and then Mary Kay. You know like, Tupperware parties, but for makeup and skincare? She was good at it. People love my mum because she is funny, chatty, and very kind. She’s also very beautiful and her hair always looks great.

I have a vivid memory of going to Scienceworks, and mum doing my hair beforehand. We have it on a home movie, I think.

I reckon you should make fake flowers. Jenny makes fake flowers.

Jenny-Jenny?

No, microwave Jenny.

I didn’t know that people said “suffer in your jocks” as though they were quoting in The Castle. My parents still say to me, “suffer in your jocks”.

Suffer in your jocks.

Whenever we got a good school report, we’d all go to Hungry Jacks for a special treat. I was the first person in my extended family to graduate university, and my parents and grandparents both came. You could hear them hollering down the back of the auditorium when my name was called.

I don’t remember a time where I made something, did something, or won something that my parents weren’t proud of. Mum will share this article on Facebook, saying how good it is, and how proud she is.

Straight to the pool room!

Australians liked The Castle because it sounded like them. I like it ‘cos these people sound more like me than any other representation of Australian life I’ve seen. I remember reading Helen Garner’s The Children’s Bach in high school and knowing I was meant to somehow relate to this work of art; that my life in Melbourne was meant to be full of turmoil and heartbreak and the crushing soulless nature of suburban existence. But I didn’t and it wasn’t.

I watched, and still watch The Castle, and laugh. It’s a parody, I get it. But it’s more me than anything else. I think maybe I sound more like a Kerrigan than a Garner. And I think maybe I’m okay with it.

Dale, I reckon we’re the luckiest family in the world.

Rebecca Varcoe is a writer and events producer from Melbourne. She makes print humour journal Funny Ha Ha and writes about all kinds of things for a few places online.