Pondering the self identity of bogans

In 2016 a commenter, Treena, pointed out that this post is pretty judgmental and unloving. She’s right. I don’t, as a general rule, delete or edit my mistakes. I want to own them. But having read this post again, I regret the way that I spoke about other people. Strangers. My neighbours. This post is unloving, ungracious, a bit superior, and, to be frank, it is poorly written. And I trust that you’ll forgive me for all of that. I hope would certainly not write a post like this now, one of the interesting things about blogging over such a period is that there’s not much in my archives that represents where I am now in terms of my thinking, writing, or maturity, but it is interesting, and perhaps encouraging, for me to look back on old posts and be able to see where I’ve come from, for good or for ill. So thanks again to Treena for being so bold as to call me out, and I apologise for this post. I recommend not reading it, and certainly wouldn’t recommend thinking it speaks for me, or should speak for you.


Last Sunday, as we were driving home from church in our conservatively silver and thoroughly ubiquitous Holden Vectra, I caught a flurry of pink movement out of the corner of my eye. It was birdlike. Feathery. But fluorescent. It happened again. I looked in the rearview mirror – and bearing down on my tail, like a bird of prey, was what can only be decribed as the Boganmobile.

If Bruce Wayne had been traumatised, as a child, by a swarm of bogans rather than bats, (just what is the collective noun for bogans? A Track suite?) this is the vehicle he would drive (and quite possibly, assuming the guy was wearing a wifebeater under his Jim Beam shirt, the outfit he’d wear).

This, friends, is my recreation of that car. We did try to take a surreptitious photo out our window – but it came out blurry on account of my saying “no, Robyn, don’t stick the camera up so obviously – that platted man and his ladyfriend minions will attack us if we make eye contact”…

The question racing through my mind as this car first tailgated, then overtook, then drove next to us was “how cool does this guy think he is with that cigarette smoke billowing into the back seat where his two passengers sit gawking at his every move?” Or, to frame the question in a more sociologically correct manner “what is the self conception of the bogan when it comes to the question of his/her identity?”

Do bogans know they are bogans? Or do they believe they are normal and the rest of society weird? Do they think “why do people waste money on new cars and clothes when a 1980s Holden (or in this case Toyota) will suffice? Why spend money on new clothes when you can wear freebie promotional gear from your beverage company of choice and a pair of threadbare trackpants? Why drink anything you have to spell that is not made in your state’s finest brewery – or if you’re feeling a little adventurous – some VB? Why is it taking so long for this trend of adorning one’s motor vehicle/home with religious relics and costume jewelery to catch on?

Are bogans born bogans by a genetic quirk – are they an evolutionary throwback, a quirk, a mutation – or, is it likely that through the propensity to cast one’s oats widely and early – the bogans will in fact inherit the earth as the next stage of human development. Homoboganus? Or is it a matter of nurture – are bogans brought up bogans by bogan dads, with bogan grandads – do they suckle on tins of VB, raised by the pseudo-surrogacy of weekly V8 Supercar Events, drag races and trips to the dog tracks. Do Bogans raise their children draped in Australian Flags with the warcry “kiss the flag” shouted each and every Australia day?

At what point can you no longer tell the difference between nature and nurture?

Is there a conversion rate? Do non-bogans ever become bogans for love, does anybody catch a wiff of sweaty mullet and think “that’s the hair style for me. Goodbye lattes. Hello Blend 43 in styrofoam cups, reheated in the microwave with yesterday’s Dominos. You’d think not. Unless there’s some appeal I just can’t fathom to a life lived reliving the classic moments in culture from the late 80s and early 90s sucking on a Winnie Blue and enjoying the music of INXS, AC/DC and any other bands whose names involve a four letter acronym.

Friends – can you answer any of these questions? Are there any ex-bogans in the house?

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

16 thoughts on “Pondering the self identity of bogans”

  1. Hey! Some of my best friends are bogans… (no really).

    I like to think I rescued my husband from a slide into boganinaty – he did at one stage listen to MMM after all.

    But perhaps we all have a little bogan in us, however much we deny it.

    1. A true story:

      Two young people, both children of drag racers, meet and fall in love. But alas! she is Ford, and he Holden…

  2. I think you’ve made a grave identification error here. Bogans by definition don’t drive a Toyota. Commodores and Falcons are the only cars driven by bogans. This must have been a related subspecies.

    1. Peter,

      I think Cressidas hold a special place in bogan folklore. I didn’t check – but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had an ironic sticker on the Toyota logo.

      Amy,

      How will that couple fare in sweet Verona?

  3. Do bogans know they are bogans? Or do they believe they are normal and the rest of society weird?

    My family would be classed as bogan by people from Arthur’s family’s neck of the woods. We’d say we’re not nearly as bogan as the people a suburb north. But the label ‘bogan’ doesn’t stop you from looking down on others, especially in Australia. The checkout chick flogging her guts out at Target will tell you, with more than a hint of superiority, that she knows more about hard work anyone with a uni education.

    Do they think “why do people waste money on new cars and clothes when a 1980s Holden (or in this case Toyota) will suffice?”

    It depends what you like. I can’t speak for cars but I’ll give you a clothes example. My pastor from Melbourne’s poshy eastern suburbs criticises me for wearing my ugg boots and trackies to church (especially when I’m leading!). But I just want to be comfy at church, and I like how it feels more casual and family like – no pretensions!

    I think Christians in particular need to be careful about our attitude to ‘bogans’. I grew up in Sydney’s western suburbs. The congregation in the church my family planted turned up on Sunday in flannelette shirts and half of them went outside for a smoke as soon as the service was over. They smacked their kids publicly and took more than a sip out of the Communion cup. They were as despised as the tax collectors and prostitutes that Jesus hung out with.

    1. We’d say we’re not nearly as bogan as the people a suburb north.

      And they’d say they’re not as bogan as the people a suburb north from them… I think you’re onto something – the flag wearing pic I posted above comes from a great SMH article on Australia’s use of “bogan” as the only politically correct pejorative for “things I don’t like as part of Australian culture” (it didn’t show up until just now due to some quirk in the WordPress space/time continuum – I thought I had posted a revised version of this, but I hadn’t…)

      I don’t think all uggy wearing tracksuit panted person out there is a bogan. I think, perhaps, all Dada wearing people are bogans though… Dressing for comfort isn’t bogan. But people who dress for comfort, drive a V8, drink VB (because that looks like V8), watch motorsport, and decry anything intellectual – they’re probably bogans. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

      It’s not that I don’t love bogans. It’s just that I don’t understand them… Or I like to pretend that I don’t. Because this blog is highbrow.

  4. When I was first going out with Tamie, we saw a ‘Wu-Tang mum’ at the train station. Actually, she was wearing Dada, but hey. I pointed her out to Tamie like some kind of freakshow. Tamie found it difficult to express her indignation. I was simply oblivious.

    I’m pretty sure the way we talk about bogans is not-so-thinly-veiled racism. Bogans are the niggers of Australia, no?

    An eastern-burbs curate — what a nice young man! — was telling me recently about how he’s trying to ‘reach out’ to bogans on his soccer team. His main observation: ‘They swear an awful lot.’ Yeah, good luck with your evangelism, mate.

    And I’m not having a go at him. He’s no different to me: well-bred, well-spoken, well-educated… The kind of person who has precisely nothing to offer a bogan.

    1. Arthur,

      I’m pretty sure the way we talk about bogans is not-so-thinly-veiled racism. Bogans are the niggers of Australia, no?

      It’s funny that you say that – because I would have said racism was a bogan trait…

      If I was going to talk about reaching out to bogans part of my reaching out to them might be informing them about the wonders of boutique beers over and above VB and XXXX. Beers with names made up of entirely capitalised letters are pretty bogan. Right?

      I actually can talk bogan (just not about cars). I like footy. I like boxing. I had a rat’s tail when I was eight (though it was never platted).

      This is, actually, to turn a not very serious post serious, one of the problems I have with the notion of contextualisation (and I know it’s all Pauline at heart). I don’t think you need to become a bogan to reach the bogans. You just need to know what makes bogans tick and how to answer bogan culture with the gospel – you want to be proud of belonging to something, to have a group identity, stop wearing the flag and start carrying the cross bro. Die for your mates.

      Slightly related to the Wu-Tang thing, a mate just asked me if I’d be willing to give an evangelistic talk at a Hip Hop Church service thing that he’s starting in Brisbane. And I said yes. So I’ll have to get in touch with my inner Dada. I think some Ali G is in order…

    1. Oh. Yeah. Hipsters. Steampunk wearing skinny people. The best thing about hipsters is that their skinny jeans rule out any procreation so they’re a one generation proposition. Unlike bogans who wear nice baggy trackpants.

      1. I’ll warn you though, suspect I am a dreadful hipster. Though you can’t be a hipster if you admit to being a hipster. The paradox is killing me.

  5. I think to understand bogans you need to think about what it feels like to sleep in on a Saturday morning with no pressure to get up to do anything. That good feeling of being able to relax and dream about being awesome, lazing about in your PJ’s. Now imaging living your whole life like that, never getting stressed about anything and acting as if you truly are as awesome as you imaging in your sleep.

  6. In my view Bogans (Homo Commodorus) are a genetic throwback to a humanoid ancestor of us all.
    They have no clue whatsoever they are Bogans, they think polite society is to be plundered much like the Morlocks plunder the Eloi in ‘The Time Machine’.
    I don’t feel sorry for Bogans.
    If one wishes to study the Bogan in it’s natural environment, Ballarat VIC is my personal favourite.

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