Dreaming of the 'good life': Gender, mobility and anxiety in wanted down under

Jilly Boyce Kay, Helen Wood

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter


This chapter is concerned with the British daytime television programme Wanted Down Under (BBC1, 2007-),which presents familieswith the possibility of trying on a new life in Australia to test whether they would like to emigrate. Unlike the reality sub-genre of property shows, this programme takes families through issues related to work, daily life and homes, as well as the emotional trauma of leaving people behind, in order to assess whether the family want to embark on a life overhaul. In this chapter we consider how the feminised daytime address of the show encourages participants and audiences to worry over contemporary conditions of family life in Britain during a periodof austerity. Here the ‘good life’ is figured through a relatively imaginary Australia, as an escape from financial pressure and an impossible work/life balance in which time is an increasingly precious commodity. Drawing upon Lauren Berlant’s (2011) ideas around the cultural work of ‘cruel optimism’, we consider the ways in which the programme sets up a relationship to Australia which creates an impossible attachment to a more carefree life through which family time is delivered as leisure time. Here migration is lifted out of the racialised rhetorics which frame current debates in Europe, and is instead heralded as a relatively free and easy life-choice which of course privileges, at the same time that it normalises, whiteness. Women in the programme, and the feminised daytime audience, are encouraged to worry over what such flight means – in terms of the emotional ties to home, but also crucially in their role as ‘doing the right thing for the family’. In Wanted Down Under, this attachment to the good life is both lauded and problematised, highlighting its premise as a gendered structure of anxiety in the current cultural milieu.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTelevision for Women
Subtitle of host publicationNew directions
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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