Positive Representation of Ned Kelly in Modern Culture

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Words: 801 |

Page: 1|

5 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 801|Page: 1|5 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Ned Kelly is called the Robin Hood of Australian history and pop culture. Recognized by many Australians as the only ‘heroic’ colonial figure, Ned is a symbol of resistance to authority. He has a symbolic importance to the national identity through his larrikinism, charm and care towards his family and friends. Despite this, many still regard him as a scandalous outlaw. A victor of this game of tug of war in the media, however, is emerging after the release of the 2003 film “Ned Kelly” directed by Gregor Jordan and the poem “Freedom,” written by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, as they both portray Ned as a virtuous yet ill-fated social bandit, who embodied the Australian identity.

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In the 2003 film, “Ned Kelly,” the Australian bushranger is portrayed as a common man who was caught up in a series of events that he had simply no control over. This is shown when Ned is chasing Kennedy at Stringybark Creek. Judging by the duration of this chase, Ned had every chance to kill or at least aim at Kennedy, however he doesn’t. Kennedy shoots so Ned fires back. This suggests that Ned was only trying to save himself. Furthermore, Ned approaches the policeman in frustration and anguish to the thought of now being a murderer, so he desperately tries to save him. The camera, accompanied by dark lighting, remains on Ned’s stressed face. The only sounds present in the background is the sound of racking birds, Ned’s repeated apologies and the Kennedy’s screaming, which draws the audience’s attention. With a face of sympathy, Ned ends the policeman’s misery and pain. Only the sound of departing birds remain. Birds have been a repeated symbol of Ned’s actions throughout the movie. After saving Richard Shelton, his bravery is represented through a soaring eagle. However, the flying birds are a sign of Ned, forever tainting his reputation as a ‘hero.’ This scene forces the audience to question what really happened at the shootout at Stringybark Creek. “Didn’t Ned shoot Kennedy because he was trying to avoid capture?” “ I didn’t know Ned tried to save him.” Was the incident at Stringybark Creek all just a freak accident? The audience continues to question the truth about his crimes when the Kelly Gang are robbing the Jerilderie Bank later in the film.

Ned orders Steve Hart to return a watch he stole off a citizen. When Hart does, the man calls them common criminals, which angers Ned. The camera shows him frustratingly combing his head, sighing heavily. This implies that Ned, though a vigilante, wasn’t ruthless or cold-blooded. Jordan uses mise en scene, specifically costume design, to emphasise this. Instead of the riding boots, khaki trousers and gun-belts which a typical outlaw would sport, the Kelly gang are clothed in a similar way as the people around them. He doesn’t look like your typical grubby outlaw. This tidy costume also reflects his behaviour towards his hostages as he doesn’t beat them up or threaten them. When explaining his actions, he justifies them by stating that he’s trying to save his family and friends who were unlawfully imprisoned. Let me ask you this, if your family was thrown into prison for no reason, would you just leave them to rot? I didn’t think so. This challenges the audience’s perspective of not only Ned, but the Victorian police as well. Ned explains that the reason for his mother’s imprisonment was because of “the lies of a policeman named Fitzpatrick.” In addition, Ned and other bushrangers are described as victims in the poem, “Freedom.” Bushrangers are inferred in the third paragraph as “All things wild and tameless,” and Noonuccal describes them, using alliteration, as being “Hunted down and hated.” Lines such as “Brumby on the wide plain, All men out to break you,” and “Every hand against you, May you still defy them!” implies that the “men” and the “hands” against them are the Law and this is confirmed in the last paragraph in the line, “May you foil the man-foe!” Each stanza links back to the bushrangers as Brumbies and dingos. When Australia was developing, horses were replaced with machines, therefore Brumby’s symbolise freedom as they were released into the wild. This relates with Ned as he is known as the last Bushranger before Australia became the modernised country it is today.

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It can be said that the representation of Ned Kelly in “Freedom” and the film “Ned Kelly” is overwhelmingly positive. With the cunning use of mise en scen and metaphors, Noonuccal and Jordan do a very successful job at shaping the audience’s views about the daring Australian bushranger. Ned Kelly, as we now know, was a victim of police brutality, however, stood ground and fought for what he thought was right. He committed crimes, yes, but he had an honest and just reason.

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Cite this Essay

Ned Kelly Was A Hero By Cooper Soderlund. (2022, December 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
“Ned Kelly Was A Hero By Cooper Soderlund.” GradesFixer, 07 Dec. 2022,
Ned Kelly Was A Hero By Cooper Soderlund. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2024].
Ned Kelly Was A Hero By Cooper Soderlund [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Dec 07 [cited 2024 Apr 13]. Available from:
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