ACT News

Retired general David Morrison takes aim at Game of Thrones' blatant violence

The man who confronted the Australian Army's misogynist culture from the inside has now taken aim at Western culture's fascination for violence and pornography.

Lieutenant General David Morrison, the retired Chief of the Australian Army famous for his 2014 video address on violence against women, spoke at a breakfast in Canberra supporting young men on Tuesday, and went off script during questions.

Lieutenant-General David Morrison, retired chief of the Australian Army, at the Menslink breakfast.
Lieutenant-General David Morrison, retired chief of the Australian Army, at the Menslink breakfast.  Photo: Developing Agents

"I wasn't going to use this example,  but to hell with it, I am sure everyone will keep my confidence," he said, causing laughter across tables of business leaders at the Menslink event.

"I don't get Games of Thrones," he said amid more laughter. "I get violence, how can I not as a general?

"I'm not a prude at all, the use of nudity and the depiction of the human body is absolutely a part of art and has been since the very earliest days. But look, I will tell you now, I was watching part of the fifth series of Game of Thrones, and I was at this late and I am being very honest with you. It is just now the glorification of violence for violence's sake, and the use of nudity in Game of Thrones is now, I think, pornographic."

Yet the show was awarded Emmys and was the most popular television show in the Western world.

Advertisement

General Morrison asked what messages this was sending to young men. At a time when violence against women was a great social issue confronting Australia, people should be questioning how they were  entertaining themselves, he said.

It was not until he turned 56, and as the Chief of Army, he began to see and hear things which disturbed him.

"My awareness came very late and I am glad it did. The most important lesson that I have since learned is about culture. I had thought, not unreasonably that this great institution, your army, had a culture that supported most, if not all, who voluntarily chose to join and serve in the nation's name," he said.

He saw men go off the rails in the army which was for many their first family, which called them to account. He saw people talking amongst themselves in peer groups, and using body language to isolate others. The army was a microcosm of Australian society deeply imbued in culture.

That culture applied equally to a football team, a family group, a mining organisation, the government of the country as it did to an army.

"Consider the stories we tell ourselves about Anzac, it is one of the great, powerful parts of the national narrative and yet in the hands of some it can be used as a narrative of exclusion," he said.

General Morrison said two words, Aussie Digger,  caused most people to think of a man who was Anglo-Saxon, probably from a rural background, a natural soldier who fought better with a hangover, who never saluted officers –  especially the Poms.

"Where is the face in that narrative for women, or for men and women of non-Anglo-Saxon heritage, for men and women of non-heterosexual orientation?"

He said stories about Australians could implicitly exclude those who didn't fit the stereotype. Australians needed to pause and think about our culture, and check in mid-sentence about who was excluded. When people thought about their quiet heros, those people were not football stars, nor prime ministers, nor generals, they were millions of men and women who recognised they needed to find causes bigger than themselves, like Menslink.

Menslink chief executive Martin Fisk said young men were getting wrong messages about violence and women. One reason was movies these days rarely showed a hero achieving anything without violence, or a hero vulnerable to life's challenges.