Years ago I used to enjoy eating at the Great Northern hotel on Rathdowne St with friends who used to live nearby in North Fitzroy and North Carlton. I’ve not been there in several years – perhaps before the smoking ban in pubs came into effect – because the large rear beer garden was new to me when I was there last Wednesday night. The food is as I remember it – generous serves of familiar pub food and lots of good beers on tap.
Unfortunately what is also new since I was last there is a commercially packaged trivia competition hosted by a roving speaker with a radio mic and the PA turned up to 10. Compared to the genial, gently spoken man who did the pub trivia without amplification at the former haunt of the group of friends I was with on this occasion, the London tavern in Richmond, the trivia at the Great Northern was an intrusive and disruptive affront to the conversation at our table.
Before I explain more about the trivia, I should say that there is nothing wrong with the food. I tried one of the specials, a parma with fetta and olives on top, which came with amazing chips and a salad. My friend, who likes his steak well done, felt slightly special needs when his steak burger arrived with its own special flag, but the burger looked impressive.
It quickly became apparent that the trivia was not an ironic hipster oriented review of bogan culture. It was not ironic, but the content was primarily the kind of American oriented gutter pop culture, sport and misogynistic sexual innuendo popular with the subhuman underclass.
The Great Northern is a child friendly, family oriented venue, and I have no issue with this. It’s not a fashionable venue, but a comfortable one, and this is a good thing. The people at the pub on the night we were there were diverse in age and fashion aesthetics, but most seemed to be playing the trivia. My table abstained and watched in increasing disbelief and distaste as the evening proceeded.
The trivia was founded on a morass of mediocre questions about mainstream American films, television and music. What we found most offensive was the stone aged sexual politics. One question required participants to convert a picture of American celebrity Paris Hilton into the sound of the word ‘whore’. Another showed a picture of a fully clothed older woman and asked us to guess whether she was a ‘tranny or granny’.
The worst question showed a photo of a young blond woman wearing shorts and a tshirt, and asked us to guess whether she was a sports start or a porn star. There were of course no equivalent questions about men, or the appearance of men or their integrity as sexual beings. In comparison, the sexual politics of this event made the homophobic principle of Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar sound like a radical lesbian separatist.
The vile underclass aesthetic of the trivia was not what we expected or wanted from a comfortable North Carlton pub. It was offensive, distasteful and a powerful disincentive to returning. By all means visit the Great Northern hotel for a beer and a meal, but don’t do it on a Wednesday evening when the subhuman peformance provided by Funky bunch entertainment is in progress.
Helpfully, their site details the dates and times they appear at the various pubs they service, so you can use that to ensure you avoid them completely. Unless of course you’re a bogan, somehow lost in North Carlton, who can’t find your way home to Frankston or Craigieburn. But then you wouldn’t be reading this review, because it uses too many big words for you.