Effie: Just Quietly – Make-Ups and Makeovers (2001)
Effie (Mary Coustas) interviews a range of people on the subject of beauty. They include make-up artist Napoleon Perdis, fashion designer Alannah Hill, cosmetic surgeon Dr Darryl Hodgkinson, 80-year-old cosmetic surgery enthusiast Dalma Edwards, actor Rowena Wallace, health sociologist Dr Liz Eckermann and gunshot victim Kay Nesbit.
Comic character Effie first appeared in the sitcom Acropolis Now (1989-92) before wandering out of fiction into the real world. Effie visited Papua New Guinea adding humour to an otherwise straightforward informational film, Big Hair Woman (1996). And in this magazine-style documentary series she interviews a collection of people about a different topic each week.
Effie joins a tradition of comic interviewers that includes Andrew Denton, Norman Gunston (Garry McDonald), Dame Edna Everage (Barry Humphries) and more recently John Safran. Just Quietly brings to mind Denton’s series The Money or the Gun (see The Money or the Gun – Heroin, 1989) in particular. While Effie sends herself up, her treatment of her interviewees is relatively even-handed. Her own opinions on the topic are not in the foreground. Instead Coustas and her co-creators let the issue’s complexities emerge via the interviewees and their contrasts. Like Denton, Coustas’s comic persona allows her a bluntness in her questioning that a more serious interviewer might not get away with. Some surprisingly frank and revealing moments result.
This episode’s subject is body image and the pursuit of physical beauty, balancing voices from within the fashion and beauty industries with more critical perspectives. What surfaces is the suggestion that the pursuit of a physical ideal is seldom about looks alone. Dalma Edwards talks about wanting to wipe the traces of past hardships from her face, while designer Alannah Hill says she cannot leave the house without her 'mask’.
It’s interesting to see these confessions being made to Effie, herself a mask of sorts for creator Mary Coustas. Effie is all bouffant hair, heavy make-up and raucous outfits. She is preening, loud and confident, and her pride in her hair in particular, is a running joke. To what extent do Effie’s questions and interjections represent the real opinions of her creator? It isn’t always clear.
Effie sends up and celebrates Coustas’s Greek Australian identity. While not overtly political, her performance and persona seem in part a response to political currents of the time. Just Quietly was created for the multicultural broadcaster SBS in the midst of John Howard’s time as prime minister. Multiculturalism, promoted by the previous Keating Government, had been brought into question by the Howard regime, an issue Coustas/Effie explores more directly in another episode in the series, Wogs.
Effie’s next appearance was as the host of the 2003 SBS talk show Greeks on the Roof, based on the British series The Kumars at No. 42 (2001–06). Coustas has also acted in dramas, including Wildside (1997-99).
Make-ups and Makeovers is episode one of the six-part series Effie: Just Quietly.