Supplied Editorial Asher Keddie in The Hunting
Supplied Editorial Asher Keddie in The Hunting

TV show is infuriating to watch

There's no way around it: The Hunting is an infuriating show to watch. But watch it you must.

Not infuriating because it's bad TV - it's actually one of the best Australian productions in recent years.

It's infuriating because if The Hunting is a mirror to what's happening in our schools, and the sexts being shared, uploaded and commented on by our kids, and we know it is, then we have failed. More accurately, we are continuing to fail.

SBS's new four-part local drama delves right into the heart of a teen nude photo scandal that besieges two schools and four families. It will make your heart race and stomach churn, an enthralling but enraging series that highlights the misogyny that continues to plague Australian society.

Starring Asher Keddie, Richard Roxburgh, Sam Reid and Jessica De Gouw, this Adelaide-set TV show erupts after high-schooler Zoe (Luca Sardelis) engages in cybersex with a boy she likes, Andy (Alex Cusack).

She's clothed but she's masturbating - perfectly normal teenage sexual exploration. And that's what it would've remained, but unknown to Zoe, Andy has recorded the video call without her permission. He takes a screenshot.

 

Elsewhere, Andy's friend Nassim (Yazeed Daher) is sweet on classmate Dip (Kavitha Anandasivam), a smart and ambitious kid of strict migrant parents.

After finally connecting, Dip sends Nassim a nude photo of herself. Under peer pressure from Andy, Nassim begrudgingly forwards it on to Andy, not knowing the hell he is about to unleash.

Both Zoe and Dip's photos end up on a website called "Our Local Sluts", a hunting ground for misogynistic and depraved boys (and god knows who else). Here, the photos are organised by schools and boys write revolting comments and can request specific photos of female classmates.

The photos of Zoe and Dip roll out in different ways. Zoe is taunted with it on her locker, "payback" for daring to be "annoying" because she speaks in class and organises protests against the school uniform policy.

For Dip, it's a slower burn at first, receiving unsolicited messages from anonymous strangers. It's a familiar but grim turn.

 

A simple ‘mistake’ can have disastrous consequences
A simple ‘mistake’ can have disastrous consequences

The Hunting cleverly explores different aspects of the preamble, the act and the fallout of a nude photo scandal.

The four core teenagers involved are "culpable" to different degrees. Zoe never gave permission to have that image of her created, Dip took the photo but it was for private use, Nassim made the mistake of passing on the photo but honestly didn't intend for it to be distributed, and Andy, well, Andy, is a lesson in how not to raise a teenage son.

Andy's parents, Simone (Keddie) and Nick (Roxburgh), are wealthy and privileged, and while she wants to raise a good kid and feels her son pulling away from her, Nick is that father who excuses his behaviour as "boys will be boys". Nick even chimes in with a story of his own youthful folly being caught with a porn magazine.

Andy's actions can be conservatively classified as misogynistic, as can many of his cohorts. The word "slut" is being thrown around with gross regularity.

Andy and Zoe are at the local private school, while Nassim and Dip attend the public school. The Hunting places the two scandals in two different social environments to emphasise this isn't a class problem, it pervades all strata.

The responses from the teachers are varied, from the old school principals who either can't stomach mentions of masturbation or advise girls to not wear black bras under their uniforms to younger educators who caution the girls to stop taking photos of themselves or ask, with desperate rage, "Why isn't anyone talking about the boys?"

That's the question The Hunting wants to address: Why isn't anyone talking about the boys?

This is a series that will make you relieved you're not a teenager in 2019 but also make any parent of a teenager kind of terrified. It's not designed to stir moral panic and have parents lock up their kids' phones and cut their internet access.

It wants to have the conversation about why this is happening, what's the alternative, why our laws are inadequate and how can teenagers explore their sexuality in a safe place without becoming a headline or a cautionary tale.

The Hunting, created by Sophie Hyde and Matthew Cormack and directed by Hyde and Ana Kokkinos, is wonderfully written (by Cormack and Niki Aken), incredibly tense and the performances are excellent.

You will be glued to every word spoken, every look exchanged. You will feel the heat of your own anger. You will be infuriated.

The Hunting premieres on SBS and SBS On Demand on Thursday, August 1 at 8.30pm

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