A new Australian series is proving how authentic storytelling and diversity in casting can equal success. “Bump” is about teenage parenthood; and it’s just been renewed for a second season.
Gabriella Mancilla tuned in for this review.
A highlight of Bump is its representation of the Latin American diaspora in Australia, particularly Chilean-Australians.
The series, now streaming online, explores the trauma experienced by teenage mothers and their families.
In the first 10 minutes we meet Olympia (Nathalie Morris), a gifted teen with big plans for her future – until she suddenly goes into labour in the bathroom of her school in Sydney’s inner-west. Viewers discover the pregnancy in the same jarring way Olympia does.
The baby’s father, Santiago, is played by Carlos Sanson Jr, an Australian-born Chilean actor.
Producers Claudia Karvan (who also plays the unsuspecting new grandmother) and John and Dan Edwards, have made a demonstrable effort to maintain authenticity when representing Latinx characters. Not only do they make up much of the supporting cast, they also play key roles behind the camera. Notably, Steven Arriagada, an Indigenous Chilean writer, and Leticia Caceres, an Argentinian-born director.
The series is quick to pull you in and doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of labour. While it avoids moralising, it presents Olympia’s decision to raise the child as correct, but also a hindrance. Particularly given “Oly” had big plans to work for the United Nations in New York.
— ScreenAustralia (@ScreenAustralia) January 9, 2021
Teenage pregnancies are not the only social issues at play. At one pivotal point, the series critiques “whiteness” and its relationship to feminism. Oly is a gifted student with the potential and desire for excellence. She is also a passionate feminist, with the first episode showing her bedroom filled with feminist iconography, including images of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Jacinda Ardern and Malala.
Despite her passion for female empowerment, the series quickly establishes her social position as a middle-class, white young woman.
Oly and her family are concerned that motherhood could stop her chasing her dreams but “Angel” (Catalina Palma Godoy) – a Chilean family friend of Santiago’s – is the first to point out how “privileged” that makes her compared to Santiago.
For instance, when Oly decides to name the baby without discussing it with Santiago, Angel points out that the specific brand of racism wielded by white women allows them to weaponise their femininity to reinforce power structures.
In a particularly tense scene, Oly tries to smooth over her differences with Angel by claiming that the South American feminist movement and her own brand of feminism are fighting for the same thing. Angel responds that the struggles fought by different women are not always the same.
The script explores the ongoing culture clash between Oly’s white Australian background and Santiago’s first-generation Chilean-Australian.
The series does hit a few cringeworthy moments in its initial introduction of Latinx culture. Santiago’s father’s dancing in the staff room and speaking in Spanish to Claudia Karvan’s character comes to mind. However, it redeems itself in its exploration of experiences specific to the Chilean diaspora.
Santiago’s parents for instance were actively involved in the protests against General Augusto Pinochet, a right-wing dictator who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990. This detail is significant given the large number of Chileans who migrated to Australia to escape the dictatorship. During his time, Pinochet’s regime was responsible for the disappearance, torture and murder of thousands of Chileans.
The script goes a step further than simple recognition of this historical context. It also subtly points to the intergenerational trauma experienced by first-generation Chilean-Australians, whose parents or grandparents lived through the dictatorship.
This is captured in Santiago’s fear of the police in contrast to Oly’s defiance. Oly’s attempt vouch for Santiago’s good character, feels like another nod at the social structures at play in the relationship.
Given that this series is one of the more notable representations of the Latin American diaspora in Australian media, it was refreshing to see aspects of our culture and experiences reflected on screen.
The series also received an astounding reception, breaking Stan’s record for the biggest premiere of a series.
Production on Season 2 is scheduled to begin soon.
— Gabriela Mancilla @imgabm_