Luke Darcy, red carpets and the aspirations of young girls

“Whoah, and haven’t those boys done well for themselves? Shows what you can get by playing AFL.”*
– Luke Darcy chairing a prime time TV panel as an interview with three WAGs of West Coast players finally concludes.

It could a line from a Working Dog production. The sleazy backward-looking dinosaur executive, building sponsorship dollars on the lowest common denominator.

It could be a scene from Tony Wilson’s Players, itself a line on the deplorably regressive Footy Show genre.

These parodies are relevant precisely because the original articles are, shockingly, themselves still on air.

Objectify a person and by definition you reduce that person to the status of “thing.” Wanted, feted, spurned, criticised, all on the strength of one or two characteristics. Often (usually?) appearance.

At this time, when community education around the prevalence of domestic violence is rising, and we begin to understand the links between objectification and control, control and violence, this casual sexism is worse than wrong. It should be called out. It’s inflammatory.

We need leaders in our community. Leaders to show us the way. Leaders to not just talk about “doing things better,” but to actually act to do things better.

Actions and behaviours are what matter.

Societal views may take time to change, but it is up to us to change them. Tonight at the Brownlow Medal and at the Dally M Medal we again see red carpet modelling preceding the vote counts.

The Working Dog TV executive character would be all over this. “Spruce up the vote count. It’s like watching paint dry. Blokes everywhere. I love watching footy players get pissed at a highlights show as much as anyone, but we need to go to the next level. We need tits and arse. Make it happen.”

Reverse the genders and imagine the scene.

And now the Red Carpet show is promoted as a television feature. Women glorified not for achieving anything, nor for thinking, nor for behaving, but for their appearances.

It stinks.
It should be cancelled.
One day it will be.
One day we will have leaders prepared to act in the interests of community health.
One day instead of hearing a male footy player thank his “beautiful fiancé,” he’ll thank his “clever fiancé,” or his “creative fiancé,” or just “Rachel.”
One day, we’ll see the Women’s best and fairest winner celebrated. For effort and achievement.
Change will come.
And it can start with calling out casual sexism.
It’s a societal problem. But we can fix it.

For today’s young girls are now gratingly greeted, even by well-meaning friends and family, with appearance-laden observations.
– that’s a nice dress.
– has your hair grown?
Whereas boys are greeted with behavioural observations:
– what have you been up to?
– how did your footy go?

Even at school, male students are typically critiqued for the content of their work, while female students are for its presentation. It leads to the prettying of girl’s work, all borders and headings. And to content improving for the boys.

Luke Darcy is not the worst. But he does it. It’s a continuum from him to your local Grade 2 kids. And we all owe young girls a lot better.
*quote estimated from memory, a few days after the event.

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. G’day mate,

    Your point of view is good. Even I like beautiful women, I am sick and tired of seeing media reporting how footballers’ WAGs are dressed. The Brownlow medal is to honour a best and fairest player. Focus on how AFL players play good footy.

    But if we see only boys’ achievements, we could be labelled sexists. As you comment, we need to see how these great ladies help footballers and influence them. Partners, mentors, family and friends are doing good jobs for footballers indeed as well as do themselves.

    Thanks for sharing your points of views.


    PS I am disappointed about Billy Brownless’ comment on ladies. He is such an arrogant bloke, I sense.

  2. I agree with your take, David.

    I also fell asleep well before it ended.

    But for what I did watch, my internal thoughts were precisely as above. Can you imagine a the same event for women,football, netball whatever, being televised in the manner of the Brownlow. Just wouldn’t happen, and besides, any award ceremony in which votes are counted round by round, is seriously boring, no matter the sex. Not conducive to compelling TV.

    The other thing I felt was that the show, for your reasons above, felt like something out of the ’80’s… Even quaintly old fashioned. Retro TV. Unfortunately, its current day and someone/people/producers still think it is representative of our world . Certainly not my world, nor most of the blokes in it, that I know.

    Yoshi, you don’t miss a beat.

  3. Hi DW

    There is no doubt that aspect of the event (and mediation of the event) is operating. It would seem it is still the dominant narrative. However, I’m not sure how dominant it is. I think there is a contest of narratives playing out that are worth noting and they are muddled, as is our current and developing social narrative. Here are a couple of other narratives I identified.

    I was intrigued (from the filming and casual observations I made) with the seating during the count. Guys sat with guys. There were more than a few shots of guys hugging each other, almost intimately. Their affection was noticeable and palpable. There was a closeness, a warmth, a bond that spoke to another narrative (one that didn’t get the attention that the fabricated narrative of the red carpet received).

    While watching the red carpet segment last night (again, casual observations) I was left thinking how drab men looked. Not in dress. But in presentation. It was as if women could walk and chew at the same time. Men had difficulty doing so. Of course the women attending understand that this is a side show to the real event but still they made the effort and got involved and looked great for doing so. Men (mostly) presented as if it was a chore. Boring.

    While thinking this through I asked myself if this same event occurred but women were in charge of the AFL and the media and the narrative what would be different. My sense is that women would still make a big deal of looking glamorous for a significant event but a bigger expectations would be placed on men to lift their game.

    If women were in charge, what would be different, to return to your essay DW, is that this would not be the sum reason for being, as opposed to the current mediated narrative. So questions on the red carpet might, you know, go past that fabulous gown to the Masters you’re completing or the organisation you are running or choir you started.


  4. Interesting piece, mate. Terrifically written.

  5. If you feel like having a little piece of your soul destroyed, look at the comments on the red carpet photos on any social media platform. It ranges from the standard “you’re batting out of your league mate” (although, perhaps not with the correct use of your/you’re) to the much less polite. It is all built off the same premise, however.

    That said, I agree with Rick – the only interesting thing about the Brownlow last night, other than Fyfe’s speech, was the conflicting narratives playing out. The role played by Daisy Pearce and Tayla Harris some baby steps in the right direction.

  6. Not to play devil’s advocate, but I actually quite enjoy aspects of the red carpet as a bit of light entertainment. I’m not overly interested in fashion, but I do like seeing all the different dresses and appreciating the amount of work gone into some of these “creations”.

    That said, the red-carpet interviews are an absolute joke. In years gone by, there was at least the token “Who do you think will win tonight?”, but it was barely asked last night. The players (the people we’re actually meant to be celebrating on the night) are basically treated as a handbag, and questions are focused on how long the whole process took (girls only), and when the couples are going to get engaged/married/have a baby. It’s a great opportunity for these women to demonstrate they have brains and beauty, and it’s rarely, if ever, taken.

    (The Auskick kid asked the best/most entertaining questions out of anyone to be honest)

  7. Well said Dave

  8. kath presdee says

    Hear hear Dave.

    I’m a little perplexed at why we have red carpets at sports awards nights at all. Women are a substantial proportion of Club members. We aren’t just spectators, we’re also involved at all levels of the game – junior, amateur and professional. We play, we coach, we umpire, we administer. We can umpire, we can cheer and some of us even write about the game.

    Watching Gillon McLachlan speed read through 600 or so names, with pauses to try and build suspense, needs something else to be considered entertaining. But a lead up where we’re judging a woman’s worth by the dress lent to her on the off-chance she gets photographed or interviewed, and the bloke’s ability to score off-field isn’t really what we’re looking for is it?

  9. I agree with this hole heartedly.

    The red carpet ‘parade’ is a load of bollocks and should be scrapped.

    I understand the ladies enjoy frocking up, and by all means they can continue doing so – but the whole ‘procession’ part just seems to be such an out dated concept for mine.

  10. Thanks Dave.
    Will never forget JB’s droolings during the red carpet coverage some years ago, marveling at all the ‘racks’. You can take the boy out of the changerooms but you can’t take the changerooms out of the boy.


  11. David, school holidays here, poolside at southern suburbs indoor aquatic centre, so I’m still thinking about some of your points….not sure the event needs to cancelled, not so sure of the idea that it’s casual sexism, either…but certainly, I think, there is something in the way the show is produced and delivered that hints to such thoughts.

    I do like the event. Fitting. I do like the red carpet. I do like the dresses.. And I do like seeing the boys with their partners, and something of their life beyond the grassy arena of the footy oval. But, there is something grating about the way the girls are shown??? i have asked myself what is it that I find annoying….and I think it’s that they are shown to us, TV viewers, as being all the same, all beautiful, and stunning and that’s it, not a personality in sight…..Red Carpet interviewers …dig a bit deeper, it’s an opportunity, for a real conversation, even if they are just snippets, and more compelling viewing.

  12. “And we all owe our young girls much better”

    The use of the word “owe” suggests that the power of positive change rests with men and that this patronage should only be directed to “young girls.”

    Unfortunately Luke Darcy and Billy Brownless are not on their Pat Malone – the abuse, diminishment and suppression of mature women, women and girls is hidden in plain sight in every culture/society on the planet.

  13. sorry mate but can’t understand why you’d even watch. It doesn’t happen without voyeurs.

  14. Heidi’s a friend of mine, and Shaun Higgins’ partner. She wrote about the night (her first Brownlow) from her own perspective if anyone’s interested.

  15. I concur that we must expect more from the media but this is the commercial organisation which recently replaced a cooking show with (I’m told) cat videos. ie a poop sandwich with another poop sandwich.

    Great article and lively thread too.

  16. Thank heavens I am in Boston watching the Red Sox and the New England Patriots! At least these are real games taking place.
    As usual Pete you are on the money and without a sponsor
    I must confess that this has been brought to you by Mildura Oranges and the Murray River

  17. B Brownless did what?
    It’s going to take some time, but the dinosaurs will fall.
    Minimum possible damage on the way out, though, please.

    Yoshi – I reckon we can al appreciate behaviours of someone else – that’s fine. But when we veer into leering or valuing someone on their appearance alone, then we de-humanise them. Like they’re a piece of meat.
    Kate – I caught my first glimpse at ~9:45pm. Minimal change in format over 15 years or so, it seemed.
    R Kane – emotional vulnerability displayed by blokes is a good thing. Women as people with hopes, dreams, skills, plans is a good thing. At a loss though, when our culture encourages otherwise unknown women to truss up for a ogle event.
    M Zurbo – Thanks. appreciate your perspective.
    D Brown – thanks for the tip. I’ve avoided the event itself, so comfortably placed to avoid the comments.
    S Black – Fair enough that you like the dresses and dressing up. But we need to acknowledge that it might as well be a computer-generated figure or model wearing the stuff. The human i lost. The woman is lost. The woman at this event is valued for her appearance. Slippery slope.
    DJlitsa – cheers
    K Presdee – that’s a fine summary.
    B Footner – No one’s saying we should “stop dressing up,” exactly. But we should stop the meat-market event of parading young women in front of the (“insert collective noun here”) of sexualised male emperors.
    H Bob – Tidy example.
    Kate – poolside commenting. Love it. The parading is the dodgy bit, I think. Thumbs up, thumbs down.
    Jen – thanks. the “we owe” bit I had in mind coming from “we” as “society”. (Not “we” as in “men”). I recognise your point, strongly.
    Crio – Is this the “turn it off if you don’t like it” argument? I didn’t watch it. But that’s a false argument anyway. We could use that argument about any anti-social activity e.g. child exploitation. If you don’t like it, look away. Some things need to be legislated for the common good, lest people get hurt (bashed/ otherwise traumatised).
    S Black – brilliant. That’s a great link. Interesting that Heidi felt so nervous ahead of running the gauntlet. I’m glad she came out of it feeling good.
    M Randall – Fair point. We should never expect societal leadership from a commercial entity. The change will probably come through dollar causes (people stop watching, boycott sponsors) or through legislation (people leading their elected officials to the outcome).
    C bob – You must have a tidy frequent flyer points balance. Nice plug.

  18. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Totally agree with you,OBP mystified at comments suggesting blokes take more care in there appearance
    Wearing suits for goodness sake.A well known footy identity comment from his wife no way will I ever ever go to another brownlow to me sums it up perfectly

  19. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Agree with the sentiments ER. The dinosaurs will become extinct eventually. Women’s National League will help fast track the change. Having said that my wife and daughter watched the Red Carpet and left the room when the count started. They like the fashions, but are they not also enabling the cattle show?

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