That’s not to say that some of the old “rules” haven’t endured – or that there isn’t a whole new set emerging.
Seventeen-year-old Celine Ajobong, who plays Ruby, says in real life some of the “rules” for girls are still difficult to push against. “Like, with boys, you can’t go and talk to a boy first,” she says. “You have to know his friends, and then his friends will hook you up.”
Sound familiar, ladies? “But I’m like, ‘What if I want to cut out the middle man? What if I just want to talk to him myself?’ ” In her experience, it’s not that her peers are trying to control her, necessarily. It’s just that, well, they’re the rules.
‘Learning from this younger generation has been really wonderful.’
Pia Miranda, Mustangs FC actress
“But I think there’s a lot more importance now placed on unpacking these kinds of things and asking: Why shouldn’t I be the first to talk to a boy?” she says. “Why should I have to wear a dress? Where are these ‘rules’ coming from? And how can I break that down?”
“I was really lucky – I have the most incredible parents,” says 18-year-old Emmanuelle Mattana (aka Marnie). “They were always, like, ‘If you find something you love doing, then go for it.’ ” But that wasn’t the case for a lot of her friends.
For previous generations of women, the rule was your primary ambition had to be to catch a husband. Now there’s a different set of rules. “It was like, if you’ve got good marks you’ve got to study law. Or you’ve got to study medicine.” She grins. “Or if you’re not that bright, then maybe economics.”
But, like Ajobong, she feels the times are changing. “I think a shift is coming. People are starting to realise that it’s important to honour people’s callings.”
A massive change over the past couple of decades – and one to which we’re all still figuring out the rules – is social media. It’s certainly something the characters in Mustangs wrestle with. It’s something all the actors in Mustangs have to wrestle with in real life, too.
Miranda is strict-strict-strict with her own daughter: no social until she’s 16, and even then it’ll be monitored. For Miranda herself, having a presence on social media is a necessary part of her working life. “I obviously post, but I only have work accounts. I don’t have personal accounts. And I try to be as real as I can. If I’m going to an event I’ll post a picture of the dress because people have loaned me the dress and that’s part of the payment, that’s the currency. But I say that. And I say I had three hours of makeup. Or whatever.”
The two girls take quite different approaches. Mattana hit her teens at precisely the time Instagram arrived and she and her friends were the first generation to negotiate what it meant having it in their lives.
“This obsession with the appearance of things. It was a baptism of fire,” she says. But eventually she came out the other end feeling she had the power to dictate what was and wasn’t acceptable. “So I have really strict rules for myself,” Mattana says. “I would never post a selfie. I would never post a photo of me in full makeup unless I’m at an event. No bikinis. Especially as I’m really aware that our audience is young girls.”
Ajobong’s “rules” are more relaxed. “It’s my own gallery – things that make me happy, things that I’m proud of, things I want to share with other people,” she says. “But it’s a very small part of my life. And it doesn’t define who I am.”
There are areas where the rules are non-negotiable, though. In Mustangs FC, that’s the imperative to be a good sport, regardless of how challenging that might sometimes be. For the girls, that’s equally important in their own lives. And Ajobong finds the sporting metaphor useful.
“You can’t ever know what the outcome is going to be. You may have done all this training and have all these skills – but that other person has also been training and has skills. And it’s not who’s better or who’s more worthy. Everyone tried their best. No one’s superhuman. Just accepting that you did your best, that’s sportsmanship. Being kind to yourself.”
Mattana agrees. “Now, more than ever, I’m thinking – just be kind to one another. There’s so much horribleness going on, to me it feels like that’s the one weapon we have. Kindness.”
Mustangs FC (season 3) premieres on ABC ME, Wednesday, 5pm.