Actress Noni Hazlehurst has called on the media industry to focus less on negativity, and more on goodness and stories that inspire.
The industry veteran and former Play School presenter made her plea after being inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame during the 58th TV Week Logie Awards on Sunday night. In her very personal acceptance speech, Hazlehurst linked mental illness with an oversaturation of electronic media and technology.
“We’re living under a heavy and constant cloud of negativity. We’re divided against each other.”
“The TV landscape when I started Play School in ’78 was very different,” she said. “Four channels, no 24/7 news, no 24/7 anything. It was much easier to protect children from information and images that they couldn’t assimilate.
“But with the explosion of technology and the proliferation of screens, we can’t escape exposure to bad news and violent images.They’re everywhere – at the dentists, on buses – and most of us, not just kids, find the bombardment overwhelming.”
The Media Is Contributing To Mental Illness
“I suspect none of us… is immune to the growing instances of depression, anxiety and suicide. We all know people who are struggling, we may be ourselves and too many of our kids are,” she said.
“We’re all living under a heavy and constant cloud of negativity. We’re divided against each other and our fellow human beings, we find it hard to trust, and we’re fearful for the future. And I think it’s because we are surrounded by bad news and examples of our basest human behaviour. I fear that our hearts are growing cold.”
A Channel Designed To Provide Hope And Inspiration?
She put a ‘pitch’ to her industry colleagues gathered at the awards night, for programming designed only to provide hope and inspiration.
“I’d love a channel that features nothing but stories that inspire us and reassure us and our children.”
“I’d love a channel that features nothing but stories that inspire us and reassure us and our children that there are good things happening and good people in the world,” she said.
“I know it’s a lot to ask for, but at the very least a show that tries to redress this overwhelming imbalance. That counters bad news with good, that encourages optimism, not pessimism, that restores our empathy and love for our fellow human beings and the earth. That redefines reality, that heals our hearts. And by the way—I’m available.”
She said a desire to create meaningful, valuable entertainment had shaped her career.
“I’ve always tried to find stories that resonated on a human empathetic level… to encourage people to feel and reflect,” she said. “If something didn’t seem to have value for me then I couldn’t expect it to for anybody else.”
‘No Child Is Born A Bigot’
The Play School star hinted that we could learn a lot from young children untainted by social conditioning – something she learnt during her 24 years hosting the ABC children’s show.
“Play School works because it reflects life as many of us actually live it,” she said. “And the people on it are real. Shows featuring clips of dogs and cats work because dogs and cats are real and recognisable. They’re spontaneous and truly alive. There’s no fakery, no concocted animosity or competition. No tricky lighting. Just lots of love.
“[On Play School] I started to see the world through preschoolers’ eyes, to see how free and unafraid they are, to just be,” she said. “They haven’t yet been conditioned… no child is born a bigot.”
A Call To Be More Vulnerable And Real
Hazlehurst also hinted at the facades in the world of entertainment and called for people to be more real.
“[Director and writer] Graham Blundell once wrote about me, ‘no-one does ordinary and vulnerable like Noni Hazlehurst’. I thought, ‘that’s OK, because in fact we’re all vulnerable, and we’re all ordinary. Although a lot of our energy is spent trying to prove the opposite. “
In her speech, Hazlehurst also called for gender and race equality in the entertainment industry, pointing out that she was only the second woman to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame, in the event’s 58 year history.