Bra Boys essays good examples

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on 08/11/2018 at in  English

Discuss how documentary texts include context to achieve certain purposes.

The documentary Bra Boys directed by Sunny Abberton includes context to change the stereotypical perspective many people employ towards surfers. Bra Boys revolves around the three Abberton brothers who grow up in Sydney along the coast of Maroubra. The Abberton’s are depicted as victims of the impoverished area along with their fellow Bra Boys. These individuals have formed a ‘tribe’ in an effort to recreate a supportive family. The documentary convinces the Australian viewers to abandon their preconceived ideas of the Bra Boys through the inclusion of historical, autobiographical and situational context. This has encouraged the audience to see the Bra Boys in a positive light and as role models and underdogs whom have overcome adversity.


The Bra Boys includes autobiographical context to manipulate the hooligan ideas associated with the surfing community and instead present the Bra Boys as underdogs. Sunny Abberton includes such content to show the Bra Boys as persisting to overcome adversity and is presented early on in the text as a major issue for the Bra Boys. The interview with Koby Abberton addresses their harsh upbringing resulting in the formation of the Bra Boys as Koby describes his childhood where his: ‘Mum was a drug addict and her boyfriend was a bank robber.’ This immediately gives off the impression that the citizens in Maroubra lost their innocence at a young age to parental neglect. The background of the interview is black to draw focus onto Koby’s solemn facial expressions as he recounts his childhood. This expression show that he didn’t enjoy his adolescence. The background can also seen as foreshadowing the future as corrupting, his past as degrading or more likely was chosen as the colour black is associated with masculinity and may be used as a contrast to his exposed chest, creating the impression that he is exposed and that he sees things as ‘black and white’ – simple and straightforward, what you get is what you see. The choice to appear without a shirt in the interview allows his tattoo: ‘My Brothers Keeper’ to be clearly visible on his muscular frame. This works to present Koby as a confident, strong and capable man, clearly content with his own skin, symbolic of his attitude that he has nothing to hide, both literally and metaphorically – he is proud of who he is. In light of the biographical context that he reveals through the dialogue in his interview, the combination of these visual codes works to generate respect in viewers for Koby and by extension, the Bra Boys as they have clearly overcome tremendous adversities as children and have not only survived, but in the case of Koby, thrived to enjoy lucrative and professional surfing careers.   

Correspondingly, the director uses the technique of juxtaposition in the editing of the documentary by placing actuality footage of members surfing immediately before or following content of a more serious nature to position viewers to revere them for their surfing prowess through the inclusion of this evidence of their situational context. A montage of multiple scenes depicting members partaking in irresponsible anti-social behaviour such as: street drinking, fighting, dancing on the roof of moving public buses and pranks such as lighting their clothing on fire and jumping off a cliff into the ocean feature in the text. This montage is paired by the non-diegetic song, ‘Causing Trouble’ creating a light-hearted, fool-hardy atmosphere to the footage. This montage is introduced by Jai Abbertson  as he explains: ‘We didn’t have a lot of money, we’d just find stuff to do, just writing off when there were no waves.’ Jai’s diction referring to their absence of wealth with a dropped head and sombre voice, positions the viewer to sympathise with the group, as he provides an excuse for their behaviour as a positive attribute to entertain themselves when there is no swell. Abbetton includes this section of the text to develop the situational context, to acknowledge where the negative reputation that the group has been given by some stems from. However, this footage is immediately followed by another section of footage introduced by Abberton’s voice-over: ‘Pushing social boundaries is not really new to the boys. It’s that same care-free, perhaps care-less attitude that sees the boys push the boundaries in the surf…’, paired with footage of the group surfing huge waves at a notoriously dangerous and challenging break, ‘Ours’. This footage is complemented by up-beat, fast paced non-diegetic music and the diegetic cheering of spectators as the boys are pictured surfing impressive waves with skill and finesse. Sunny Abberton’s carefully chosen diction refers to the criminal and anti-social acts pictured earlier as, ‘pushing social boundaries’ and this diction, along with the juxtaposition of these two very different sections of film work to present the situational context of life in Maroubra as challenging whilst elevating the viewer’s attitude towards the Bra Boys because of their ability to rise above their obstacles together and achieve impressive results in the surf.

The manipulation of the representation of historical context also works to further develop this ideology that the Bra Boys are resilient, authentically Australian and a group that we, as Australians should be proud of. In the opening section of the text, Russell Crowe’s voice-over draws parallels between indigenous Australians, whose culture is globally acknowledged as the oldest on the planet, and the Bra Boys. This is a deliberate strategy on the director’s behalf to present the culture and history of the Bra Boys as comparable to that of the richness of the culture of indigenous Australians. He does this by recounting the colonisation of Australia to imply that the Bra Boys’ origins stem from convicts that were marginalised from mainstream society along with indigenous Australians: ‘it was a harsh beginning for the first convict inhabitants and the native Eora people whose land included the beach of Maroubra…many of the poor lived among the persecuted aborigines in bays and caves around the Maroubra area.’ The emotive language of ‘harsh’ and ‘persecuted’ elicits sympathy for the people and including the convicts in the same sentences with references to the indigenous people creates an association with them. This association is further encouraged through the adoption of the term ‘tribe’ to refer to the Bra Boys. Crowe says, ‘…the brothers, along with their childhood friends were raised by the beach tribe of Maroubra. ‘Bra Boys’ as the tribe is now known,  has grown to become one of the most infamous and recognised surf tribes in the world…’ The repetition of the lexical choice of ‘tribe’ continues throughout the text, the word becomes a motif that Abberton wants viewers to associate with the group as it lends them more credibility and authenticity. Crowe continues: ‘…as the centuries pass, the tribe names change, their culture has survived.’ The term, ‘centuries’ attributes the group a long history and the use of ‘tribe’, ‘culture’ and ‘survived’ all through Crowe’s iconic Australian, masculine voice work to present the historical context of the Bra Boys as being lengthy and stooped in the broader history of Australia’s colonisation. The inclusion of this historical context at the beginning of the documentary is successful in presenting the Bra Boys as a group worthy of respect and admiration for their resilience and ability to survive.

Sunny Abberton directed Bra Boys in an attempt to present the group to which he belongs as reputable and to debunk the attitudes that the group is merely a gang of thugs involved in criminal behaviour. To achieve this, he incorporates the recognisable voice of well-respected Australian Russell Crowe which lends the content of the text credibility and attests to its authenticity as a uniquely Australian story. The inclusion of an edited account of both Australia’s historical context and that of the Bra Boys narrated by Crowe impresses upon viewers the idea that the Bra Boys are indeed Australian underdogs, and as such, deserve respect. Clever editing, selection of detail and the ordering of that detail in the situational and autobiographical context of the director and his siblings combine to achieve the purpose of presenting the Bra Boys as a group whom have overcome impoverished childhoods to become surfers worthy of reverence for their talent and resilience.


How has a visual text been constructed to convince their audience to accept particular views and values?

The documentary Bra Boys composed by Bra Boy, Sunny Abberton, displays many of the core views and values shared throughout the Bra Boys tribe. Abbertson uses visual techniques of interviews, motifs and archival footage to convince the viewer to accept the values of loyalty and localism and their view on the police force, that they are cowardly and corrupt. The text’s construction reflects these elements, allowing the viewer to experience them from the perspective of a Bra Boy.

The text uses symbolic imager and interviews to cause the viewers to accept the Bra Boys’ deep-seeded value of loyalty. This is displayed not only in interactions and dialogue of the subjects, but also through the reoccurring epithet, ‘My Brothers Keeper’. This motif is first seen in the intital interview of Koby Abberton, pro-surfer and Bra Boy who rather unorthodoxly, is interviewed without a shirt on. This displays in clear view the tattoo across his chest: ‘My Brothers Keeper.’ This permanent marking on his skin symbolises the strength of his commitment and loyalty to the group. In front of a black background, Koby talks about the security that comes with belonging to the group: ‘You know the family life can ed at any time, but the boys will never die.’ This statement alludes to the broken, dysfunctional nature of many of the biological families of members of the group whilst elevating the bond between the group members above that of traditional family ties. The viewer is positioned to acknowledge and accept the value of loyalty through Koby’s determined voice and solemn facial expression conveyed through the eye-level, mid shot and regard the members of Bra Boys with respect for their loyalty and commitment that was forged through the necessity of their traumatic childhoods.

Similarly, the director also uses interviews to add credibility to the value of localism presented within the text. Localism is an extreme idea, one that many think is a thuggish act of savagery. However, in the documentary, it is presented as a value akin to being patriotic and proud of and protective of your origins. Abberton includes snippets of an interview with Sean Doherty, whom we are informed through written codes is the editor of Tracks surfing magazine. Doherty justifies localism as: ‘Without it, the whole thing would disintegrate. It’s about loving where you come from.’ The positive light that Doherty shines on localism as a necessity, is a stark contrast to the visual footage depicting grown men fighting. However, Doherty’s explanation, builds on the connection made between the Bra Boys and indigenous Australians made in the opening sequence of the text: ‘…many of the poor live amongst persecuted aborigines in bays and caves around the Maroubra area…’ to develop the idea that the Bra Boys have a sense of ownership over the Maroubra beach and therefore any act of localism is an act of guardianship used to protect it. Further, the motif of the word ‘tribe’ employed to refer to the group as it alludes to and therefore associates the rich culture and traditions of indigenous Australians with the Bra Boys encourages the viewer to perceive the Bra Boys’ localism as warranted, given the context of conflict endured by both the boys and the community over time.

The Bra Boys do not shy away from their view of the police, that is, they publicly think of the local authorities as cowardly, corrupt and unjust. These views are depicted clearly in the text and are validated by various interviews and archival footage included to encourage viewers to adopt this view. Early in the documentary, a recount is composed of an all-out brawl between off-duty police officers and members of the Bra Boys. This is included to prove that the police are no better than the surfers and that they think they are above the law, simply because they are tasked with upholding it: ‘They got off scot-free… some of my friends lost the deposits for their houses.’ This statement from Bra Boy Mark Matthews shows that even though both sides participated in a ‘good ol-fashioned brawl’, the police were not charged at all, while the surfers were, forcing them to sink hundreds of dollars into legal feels. Paired with the numerous references to the police’s unjust and unfair dealings with the Bra Boys, they are depicted as manipulative, corrupt and cowardly. The inclusion of actuality footage on a hand-held camera of the brawl, attests to the account of events given by Matthews and other Bra Boys and works to prove that the police are equally responsible and fallible as the Bra Boys. These codes create are successful in creating a sense of distrust within the viewer of police. Interestingly, the police are never interviewed for their version so that the viewer unreservedly  accepts and internalises the Bra Boys views that the police and authorities are flawed.

Sunny Abberton manipulates many visual codes cleverly to impact its viewers, causing them to slowly accept the values and views presented within the text. These values of loyalty, localism and the disdained view of police possessed by the Bra Boys are conveyed effectively in the way the text is constructed, particularly through common conventions of symbolic imagery, interviews and footage. 

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