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The GC: is this what we’ve come to admire?

datePosted on 10:59, May 4th, 2012 by Lew

After some consideration of my sanity, I watched the first episode of The GC. It was more or less as I expected. I’ll probably never watch another minute of it, but it’s not a show for me. Nor is it a show for all those other high- and middlebrow honkeys (including Mike Hosking, TV reviewers, and 10,000 Facebookers) who are wringing hands and clutching pearls about how it’s empty trash that glorifies superficial extravagance and shallow excess at the expense of what is “real” or “authentic”, how it’s exploitative and demeaning to Māori, or whatever.

There’s some merit in these critiques, and in the complaints about NZ On Air funding, which it seems to have been allocated to a slightly different show than what ended up actually getting made. But ultimately I don’t think it matters. The GC tells us important things, not only about the beaches, bods and booze society it portrays, but the society from which its participants originated. The most legitimate object of critique is not the show, or its cast, but the system that makes such a bizarre phenomenon not only viable, but compelling.

Always bound to be something. Don’t matter if it’s good or not. Mama always said, “finish your kai. Don’t be fussy!”

Tame (pronounced “Tommy”) was talking about aunties, but the statement expresses the main reason many young Māori leave school and go to The GC and places like it in the first place: because they’re places where there always is bound to be something that’s better than nothing; you take your opportunities as they come up, and eventually you’ll be ka pai. Aotearoa, for many young Māori, is not such a place: the release of employment data showing that Māori unemployment is twice the national average will be no news to anyone who’s been paying attention, and the trans-Tasman wage disparity for those who are employed remains broad. If a kid like Tame can roll like a wideboy property investor on a scaffolder’s coin in The GC, and the counterfactual is minimum wage, gangs and prison back home in Timberlea, why not? As Annabelle Lee-Harris, a producer for Māori Television’s Native Affairs, said on Twitter:

Stay in NZ with the other 83 k unemployed youth or go to the GC where everyone has $ and lives in bikinis? Seems like a no brainer #TheGC … You can’t deny Maori have a far better quality of life on #TheGC. It may seem shallow but actually their kids aint gonna get glue ear etc.

Returning to the question: is this what we, as a society, have come to admire? The answer is yes; this is the neoliberal reality in which we all live. The truth is we always did admire it; it’s only the nouveau-riche cosmetics we cringe at. When our hereditary nobles and “real” celebrities live their extravagant, idiotic lives in public we celebrate them. When a bunch of brown kids do it, all of a sudden they’re an embarrassment; they’re abandoning their heritage, dishonouring their ancestors, should get real jobs and get back in their place.

But it’s all very well for snooty middle-class (and, I suspect, largely middle-aged) white folks to peer down their noses and mutter about how much of a shame it is. It’s easy to do when you’ve got options, mobility and capital (both financial and social). It’s easy to do when you’re not forced to choose between keeping your ahi kā burning, staying with your people and trying to preserve (or find) your place in society on the one hand, and earning a decent wage and staying out of prison on the other. It’s all very well to mythologise and romanticise Māori as a noble people, beyond wealth, if you don’t have to live their reality. And the Māori reality is not static. NZ On Air funding was sought and granted to examine aspects of the contemporary Māori reality. If you look beyond the caricature, the phenomenon examined by The GC is an aspect of the contemporary Māori reality. This goes some way to mitigating the criticism. Former TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis was completely serious (if wrong) when he cited Police Ten-7 as a legitimate portrayal of Māori on TV; there are few outside the niche market occupied by Maori Television, and like the shows on that underrated network The GC at least has the benefit of being made by, for and starring Māori. You don’t have to be very cynical to conclude that there’s a racial motive, however unconscious, behind calls for The GC to be cancelled and its funding redirected to saving TVNZ7, which Paul Casserly recently called “Pākehā TV“.

Maybe the “I’ve got mine” flight to material wealth is simply neoliberalism dragging people away from their values and further into its clutches, but at some point it stops mattering. Māori have had enough generations of being told to be patient, to make do, to play nice and they’ll get what’s good for them. Those who do the telling are are far from impartial. How long are Māori supposed to wait for the Pākehā justice system to make things right, to repair the alienation and dysfunction and reverse the discrimination that still affects them? And even when the system does finally deliver, it’s no sure thing: emerging Māori business leaders are mocked as fools when their ventures fail and abused as fat-cat tribal oligarchs when they succeed. As far as Pākehā society is concerned, Māori can do very little right, so the only surprise about the Mozzie phenomenon is that there are still so many young Māori who haven’t given up waiting for the NZ system to work, and set about making the Australian one work for them. We expect them to act in their own self-interest, and we construct economic and political mechanisms to that end. This is our system, not theirs: if you don’t like their rational responses, don’t blame them: blame yourself, and your part in making it so.


56 Responses to “The GC: is this what we’ve come to admire?”

  1. Rachel Cunliffe on May 4th, 2012 at 11:41

    Brilliant post, thank you for the insightful commentary.

  2. Mike Smith on May 4th, 2012 at 11:44

    Good piece. Applause.

  3. John Salmon on May 4th, 2012 at 11:59

    What did Mike think? Can’t find his comments… :S

  4. Stephen on May 4th, 2012 at 12:06

    to John salmon – it was in the paper – ‘Broadcaster Mike Hosking said television had reached a new low. “Congratulations to TV3 for providing this country with the most appalling, low rent, pointless piece of televisual crap I have ever seen in my life,” he said.’

    by the way, great post – most original comments I’ve read about the show

  5. Lew on May 4th, 2012 at 12:07

    Sorry, yes — borked a couple of links. Now fixed.


  6. Chris Philpott on May 4th, 2012 at 12:14

    Nice read, Lew – though I’m not sure whether to be offended at being called a “middlebrow honkey” ;) (For the record, my review would’ve been exactly the same if the show was about a bunch of Pakeha living in Gisborne.)

  7. Scott Anderson on May 4th, 2012 at 12:32

    I’m wondering too if some of the shock and calls for The GC to be taken off air stem from the novelty of seeing a tv show about young Maori where none are unemployed.

  8. Michael on May 4th, 2012 at 12:36

    Many thousands of NZrs hit the nightclubs in town every weekend, doing just what these people are doing – yet we see it on tv and it’s the end of the world.
    Maori on tv without mentioning tikanga, being the approved aspirational role models (he’s only a scaffolder), or being societal victims that need our help – the end of the world.
    Maori looking pretty affluent and just enjoying it as if they were rich kids out of Remuera – the end of the world.
    The show is worth every penny of taxpayer funding just for the opportunity to throw up a mirror to the people who react so violently against it.

  9. Brad on May 4th, 2012 at 12:39

    I think a bit too much is being read into the reactions of most people

  10. James on May 4th, 2012 at 12:42

    I agree it tells us about the reality of the attraction of the GC, and I *am* interested in finding out more about that. But we all know the reality TV format distorts what is recorded into something else.

    If the story stays at the level of ‘what shall I wear to the next party’, I can’t see how it will tell me more about their situation than I learned in the first episode.

  11. Graeme Edgeler on May 4th, 2012 at 12:54

    Still not pissed off with you, I’m afraid =)

  12. Sanctuary on May 4th, 2012 at 13:12

    The only thing you need to know about reality TV is that the last thing it is is real. Once you work that out, you can see it for what it is – grey propaganda.

  13. Pablo on May 4th, 2012 at 13:14

    I guess the questions begs: if what Lew writes is true (and I believe his insight to be correct), then can we say the same about disenchanted twenty-something Italian Americans (“Guidos” and “Guidettes”) in Jersey Shore and assorted alienated Chavs in Geordie Shore? It strikes me that in all three cases wealthy White producers find reality TV gold in the nihilism of marginalized working class youth, with ethnicity a nice icing on that cake.

  14. Peter A on May 4th, 2012 at 13:27

    Nice commentary, Lew. And well-delivered. Thanks.

    Your comment…
    “The truth is we always did admire it; it’s only the nouveau-riche cosmetics we cringe at.”
    … rings true to me.

    TV, like almost every other form of entertainment, is largely a matter of taste. That applies in triplicate to ‘Reality’ TV and faux controversy du jour like this.

    – P

  15. Pania whauwhau on May 4th, 2012 at 14:01

    kia ora for the really insightful korero. before reading this i totally hated the show and felt like it was letting us MAori back in aotearoa down and I also felt like these boys were plastics as but like you said this is their reality. i still refuse the constant barrages of job offers over in aussie to help my Maori peers but i can’t get past the fact that they choose to leave all their maoriness behind to create a new life. Yes they can still be Maori way over there but it’s just not the same. we still have to pay to get our whanau home for their tangi and mozzies still want all the benefits of a marae and a tangi even though they not here to help with the marae maintenance. i still get hoha with beautiful maori men who insist on having white girlfriends, and beautiful maori peple who insist on having a kirituhi rather than a tamoko. i know there’s no mahi here but we still need our whanau to help.

  16. TerryB on May 4th, 2012 at 15:11

    A very insightful post Lew, thanks. Very thought-provoking.

  17. Alex on May 4th, 2012 at 15:22

    Thank you for this article. It goes some way to explaining the unprecedented vitriol against something as lighthearted and inconsequential as the “Maori Jersey Shore”. For the “middlebrow honkeys”, the very concept of Maori who are able to embarrass themselves with their own success and outside the New Zealand system seems to have provoked their indignation and upset their idea of “You can succeed, but only when we let you.”

  18. SHG on May 4th, 2012 at 15:34

    Fascinating article, although as a Maori who left NZ and moved to Australia I haven’t seen GC and thus have no frame of reference.

    Meta comment?

  19. Moata Tamaira on May 4th, 2012 at 16:55

    I think you’ve got some good points to make, Lew, particularly with regards to the reasons young Māori make the break for Australia. I have cousins who have done just that and they seem to be enjoying a pretty good quality of life over there.

    However, your theories about the reasons for the outcry related to the show don’t hold as much water as they should because, well, it’s just not a very good programme. In fact it’s a horribly bad programme.

    And trust me, that’s not the Pakeha half of my genetics saying that. It really is shit and I can completely understand people being surprised/disappointed that it received NZ on Air funding.

    I can’t speak for anyone else but I doubt I’d be reacting more favourably to the show if it focused on vacuous Pakeha 20-somethings in Aus. Vacuous 20-somethings are UNIVERSALLY annoying. Especially to anyone who used to be one (which is most people over 30).

  20. Lew on May 4th, 2012 at 21:00

    To start off, let me say thanks, and welcome to all the new readers.

    Moata, let me clear a few things up. First, this is not a defence of The GC on entertainment or ‘quality’ grounds. I found it execrable. But there’s more to any TV show, and especially any reality TV show, than mere entertainment. They convey important information about where they’re from, and who for, and that’s the point of this piece. Second, I don’t mean to say that all Māori must inevitably like and support The GC. There’s diversity of opinion. Morgan, for one non-random example, hates it and has real concerns about its portrayal of Māori, and as he says, he’s the target demo.

    Fine. My point, though, is that the response I’ve seen (and I’ve done due diligence) has been pretty strongly split by ethnicity, age and class, and a lot of the criticism seems to assume that because *I* don’t like it it’s not worth liking. You seem to be doing this as well, talking as if quality is something that can be measures with a ruler. Vacuous 20-somethings are UNIVERSALLY annoying, right, and yet they’re the subject of nearly every wildly-successful reality show ever made, and a good many comedies and dramas besides.

    Another thing, more generally; as I said to Chris on the tweets, ‘middlebrow honkey’, while not exactly a term of endearment, isn’t much of a criticism either. It’s just a term that describes most of the media establishment, and the source of most of the criticism of The GC. Well, of course. Mormon housewives aren’t the target market for pro wrestling, folks who hate sports can’t be expected to care about Boil Up, and so it goes. But criticism should at least extend to an awareness of who the target market is, and why they might care about something, even if you don’t, and why the wider social context might be relevant.


    (Hrm, some weird comment artefacts there.)

  21. Talei Morrison on May 4th, 2012 at 21:03

    Fantastic! My thoughts exactly!

  22. DeepRed on May 5th, 2012 at 01:31

    I watched the first few minutes of Episode 1, and my suspicions were confirmed – it’s taken cheesy ersatz to Jersey Shore levels. Somehow that’s the real reason for the negative reactions to The GC, rather than actual Maori-bashing.

    My take on the issue is that The GC is merely the trigger for something that’s been simmering for some years, and it took this one show for it to start boiling over.

  23. Melissa on May 5th, 2012 at 09:56

    Thanks for an interesting piece. In terms of the public backlash (as it were) I’m not sure that ”racial undertones” are really that much of a factor. As Moata says, a show about white kiwi kids being well-off and vacuous would inspire a whole lotta hate too, and i think a show that was actually about young Maori being successful (in a non-kardashian sense) in Australia would be great. I wonder if the GC hate is more simply a result of them being kiwis. It’s a bit like watching one of your family members join Jersey Shore – suddenly, the vacuity and terrible behavior that once, when done by people who you so little identified with that were almost a foreign species, was entertaining, becomes much more real, and you start seeing it for what it is.

  24. Lew on May 5th, 2012 at 10:05

    Melissa, I’m open to the explanation, but if that’s so, why does the majority of criticism of the show seem to be from white middle-class middle-aged folks, while the majority of those supporting it seem to be Māori and/or working-class and young?

    I’m not alleging purposive or conscious racism here — I’m saying that it’s hard to detach from one’s underlying prejudices.


  25. Jade on May 5th, 2012 at 10:57

    I agree with Brad, too much is being read into the responses of the audience. Personally, I could not bring myself to watch it, not because of the Maori people on it, (I actually had no idea it was only Maori, I thought it was NZers in gerneral) but because Reality Television is NOT quality television. And quite frankly, the GC is riding on the backs of Jersey Shore and Geordie Shore. By funding this we really are beating a dead horse. Its been done before in a specific niche market and it just so happens that the same style of television is not suited to our own culture – thus the backlash. And lastly, I have Maori heritage so there are no racial motivations behind my reasoning, and I am young. Don’t just apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ to us please because many of my YOUNG, MAORI friends detested the show also.

  26. Morgan Godfery on May 5th, 2012 at 14:36

    I detested the show too, Jade, and I think Lew makes an excellent point. You’re right, the Jersey Shore/Only Way is Essex style show is not suited to our culture and even less so to Maori culture.

    My objection is that Maori are selected to showcase the qualities that these shows encourage – arrogance, narcissism, ignorance and so on. This, I think, showcases a fair degree of unconscious racism. The same is true in Jersey Shore where Italian Americans were selected (of course it would be too overtly racist to select Black people) and in Geordie Shore where lower class hooligans are selected. Middle class, anglo-saxon whites are not portrayed, although they are often the target market and, in my opinion, do a fair degree of sneering against Maori/Italian Americans/lower class Brits.

  27. Hugh on May 5th, 2012 at 19:54

    @Morgan: What makes you think it’s aimed at middle class people? The middle class TV diet is documentaries and historical dramas, not reality TV.

  28. Lew on May 5th, 2012 at 20:31

    Morgan, thanks for weighing in. I’m interested in your argument that such a format has an essential conflict with “our” (presumably Aotearoan) culture, or Māori culture more specifically. I’m not convinced; much of the favourable response I’ve seen has made the case that “bugger off somewhere where we can get a job” actually is one of the more viable options open to young Māori, and it’s a legitimate and often successful strategy. Among the criticism, there seems a reasonable amount of love for The GC — much of it among those who are two or more of young, working-class and Māori — and it rated pretty well (not stunning, but not bad for a first run). The media narrative around its reception has been that it “divided” audiences, not that they universally hated it. And I think the debate around the “quality” or value of The GC is less interesting than thinking about why people have responded to it in the ways they have.

    There are important differences between Jersey/Geordie Shore and The GC — particularly the expatriate aspect of The GC, given the importance of turangawaewae and whakapapa and the risk of alienation from both that emigration presents — but Pablo’s observation upthread is a good one: there’s mutual exploitation going on here. A small cadre of marginalised working-class youth with few options and fewer scruples have found a way to monetise their situation, and the mainstream that marginalised them has found a way to monetise them in turn. One important question that observation raises is: who is ultimately exploiting whom? Is the wealth and (superficial) freedom afforded by The GC lifestyle a good tradeoff for the cultural risks noted above; can those cultural risks be managed or mitigated; if so are they? And there’s also the obvious point that 99% of Mozzies don’t roll that large, so even if the tradeoff we see portrayed on The GC is an obvious win, is that true more generally?

    These are hard questions that Pākehā society can’t adequately answer for Māori, but I think it’s a debate that desperately needs to be had.


  29. DeepRed on May 5th, 2012 at 21:12

    Hugh: “What makes you think it’s aimed at middle class people? The middle class TV diet is documentaries and historical dramas, not reality TV.”

    Or house porn. Or cooking porn. Or crime porn.

    Lew: “One important question that observation raises is: who is ultimately exploiting whom? Is the wealth and (superficial) freedom afforded by The GC lifestyle a good tradeoff for the cultural risks noted above; can those cultural risks be managed or mitigated; if so are they? And there’s also the obvious point that 99% of Mozzies don’t roll that large, so even if the tradeoff we see portrayed on The GC is an obvious win, is that true more generally?”

    I suspect that such nouveau riche flagrancy sets unrealistic expectations for many a thwarted social climber, thereby inflaming their existing inferiority complexes.

    What’s also getting people worked up is the inconsistency between being told that TVNZ7 costs too much to continue running, while NZ On Air funding goes to prolefeed like this. The race to the bottom is ever closer to hitting rock bottom.

  30. Lew on May 5th, 2012 at 21:30

    “Prolefeed”, and the argument that a Māori programme should not be funded so as to maintain high-middlebrow honkey “Pākehā TV”. My point exactly.

    One of the best comments I’ve seen was that The GC should have aired on TVNZ7, so as to ensure its viability.


  31. DeepRed on May 5th, 2012 at 21:51

    ““Prolefeed”, and the argument that a Māori programme should not be funded so as to maintain high-middlebrow honkey “Pākehā TV”. My point exactly.”

    I recap the first post I made in this thread: “My take on the issue is that The GC is merely the trigger for something that’s been simmering for some years, and it took this one show for it to start boiling over.”

    I suspect the fallout wouldn’t have been much different if it were a bunch of Hutt Valley trailer trash, or ‘Asian airheads’ in Howick, rather than Maori in the GC. What they’d all have in common is a sense of nouveau riche ersatz.

  32. Keir on May 7th, 2012 at 01:19

    Hang on Lew, it’s a bit glib to assert that TVNZ7 is honkey tv. In fact, I reckon it’s pretty offensive to shows like Te Karere etc.

    I am also really suspicious of your theories of class here Lew. I would submit a good bulk of the criticism of the GC comes from (or is agreed with by) those stalwart defenders of middle brow culture, the working class family man and his wife.

  33. Lew on May 7th, 2012 at 08:55

    Of course it’s glib, Keir. Did you read Paul Casserly’s column? (Edited to add: in reality, every other channel bar Māori Television is Pākeha TV inasmuch as any content that isn’t explicitly targeted at honkey middlebrow folks is either exceptional or incidental.) And are you talking about the Te Karere that has, for many years, been produced on TV One, and is merely repeated on TVNZ7? The fact is that much of TVNZ7’s programming does is pitched to middle-class liberal-arts-educated sensible mainstream Pākehā folks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good TV, and I think the channel is a valuable thing. But then, I would; it’s TV by, for and about folks like me.

    The argument I’m making is not entirely, or even mainly, about class — it’s about the intersection of class, ethnicity and age, of which ethnicity (I argue) is the most significant. So I’m sure you’re right; there’s criticism of The GC from working class blokes and their wives. But I’ll bet you can add “white middle-aged” to the front of that and it’ll remain substantially true.


  34. Keir on May 7th, 2012 at 13:06

    So is much of Maori TV’s programming. And in reality, I would imagine that much of the defence of The GC is coming from liberal arts educated Pakeha. I would suggest that the people most likely to be offended are not liberal arts educated at all.

  35. Belinda Borell on May 7th, 2012 at 14:40

    Tena koe Lew. Thanks for this article. I couldn’t agree more with both your analysis of the situation for Maori youth and your responses to the comments aired here.

    I also agree with your analysis of where (socially) the criticism has been coming from. As someone interested in “white privilege” within our colonial context, I have seen some of the most blatantly paternalistic and patronising elements of anti-Maori discourse really come to the fore in this debate.

    I am much reminded of Irihapeti Ramsden who claimed the attacks on Maori as unintelligent, dispossessed, lazy, criminal etc… will be nothing to the attacks they will be subject to when they are successful. I would argue the outrage about the GC shows we are on this huarahi.

    Again, thanks for your thoughts. Tautoko.

  36. Bill on May 7th, 2012 at 17:31

    I just don’t like it because it is lazy, cheap and boring programming. Good on the people who have moved to the Australia looking for a better life, I hope they find it.

  37. Lew on May 7th, 2012 at 17:59

    Keir, that’s probably true in spheres like this one, where liberal-arts-educated Pākehā predominate. And that’s part of the point of this piece: there’s a media discourse going on about The GC that marginalises most of those to whom the show is pitched, and most of those to whom the show might speak.

    You know how the blues, and motown, and hip-hop didn’t take off until white folks got interested in them? Like that, in reverse.


  38. Keir on May 7th, 2012 at 18:09

    But I am pushing back on this concept of a discourse because I think you are failing to adequately analyse who is speaking here. It reminds me heaps, in fact, of the reaction to the guy that researched bogans, or possibly even to hip-hop tours etc, which was, yes, predominantly arising from middle-class pakeha etc, but also involved a fracture within that group, and also involved a resentment of said middle-class pakeha.

  39. Lew on May 7th, 2012 at 19:40

    Keir, hang on. I’ve stipulated that there’s considerable diversity of opinion on the topic. But the target of the piece is those middle-class (middle-aged) Pākehā who are snootily tut-tutting about The GC, rather than looking to their own, very substantial, role in creating a society where this phenomenon is inevitable.

    I haven’t said the criticism is *only* coming from middle-class middle-aged Pākehā; only significantly. The media coverage of the past week substantiates a fair chunk of this, and at least makes clear that those leading the discourse fit this description. I suppose it’s mathematically possible that a high proportion of the thousands of haters on social media, the comments to news stories and discussion threads elsewhere, and folks quoted in coverage, are secretly young working-class Māori, but if you believe that, you probably believe Eric Clapton invented the blues.


  40. Vincristine on May 7th, 2012 at 22:00

    Sometimes a crap TV programme is just a crap TV programme, without overlays of race, gender or age

    It really just is a terrible television

  41. Lew on May 7th, 2012 at 23:01

    Christine, if you wish to argue that there is no racial, class or age dimension to The GC’s reception, have at it. But please spare us the essential-quality nonsense.


  42. Keir on May 7th, 2012 at 23:49

    Well, I’ll be honest, the only people I know who liked the GC (or rather, will even admit to watching it) are young, well-educated, & high status. Contrariwise, the people I know who disliked it the most were young, not so well educated, and not so high status. Obviously not a representative sample, but.

    And I certainly am not saying that is being driven by young Maori guys; I am saying that it is very easy to talk in very broad brush strokes about groups, and sure it’s a good starting point, but it is not super accurate once you push it beyond the caricature of nice white people and the nasty brown people produced as an inevitable result of those nice white people’s politics.

    (There’s also something worrying about the complete dismissal of any qualitative discussion of the show; after all, mightn’t Maori have a desire for quality in their TV? Isn’t a discussion about the quality of the show integral to an analysis of the reactions?)

    I also don’t think nice middle brow NZers comment on newspaper websites. I would imagine, frex, that if you talked about the GC on talkback radio, you’d get a pretty scathing response. That isn’t coming from nice NZ.

  43. Lew on May 8th, 2012 at 08:01

    Keir, the point is that any discussion of the quality of the show is bounded by other factors. A person’s assessment of whether the show is good, or worthwhile, is to a large extent determined by who the person is in relation to the audience the show is pitched at. This isn’t true of The GC alone, or of reality TV more generally — it’s true of every bit of media. People who dislike sports don’t like Boil Up, skater kids aren’t so hot on Downton Abbey, that sort of thing. So you can’t meaningfully have the ‘quality’ discussion outside the ‘identity’ discussion.

    The post is not about the audience response (which isn’t knowable without surveys) but about the discourse (from which we can infer some things about the audience response). While any such discussion is going to be inexact, theorising audiences from “who I know” is even more tenuous, because it’s bounded by who you know. The public media discourse, on the other hand, is, well, public.

    We do know a few things about the audience for The GC; the show is pitched at young Māori; and 413k people watched it, including 40% of the Māori audience for that timeslot. We also know a few things about the sort of folks who make up the response demographics: on the internet news sites: whiter and more middle-class and probably older than the target demo; on social media: whiter, more middle-class and about the same age. Those leading the discourse (media elites, arbiters and tastemakers) are whiter, almost universally middle-class/much wealthier, and much older than the average. Looking at the actual content of the discourse makes it more clear: talk about Māori and young people in the third person, expressly racist comments, discourses of quality that take for granted that The GC has no merit (even without having seen it), and that’s not getting into the outright “good riddance, more lazy Māoris off to Australia” racism. So I feel reasonably comfortable making the qualified generalisations I have.


  44. helenalex on May 9th, 2012 at 16:11

    A person’s assessment of whether the show is good, or worthwhile, is to a large extent determined by who the person is in relation to the audience the show is pitched at. This isn’t true of The GC alone, or of reality TV more generally — it’s true of every bit of media. People who dislike sports don’t like Boil Up, skater kids aren’t so hot on Downton Abbey, that sort of thing. So you can’t meaningfully have the ‘quality’ discussion outside the ‘identity’ discussion.

    Nah, not really. Sure ‘it didn’t appeal to me so it’s no good’ pseudo-criticism is just lazy crap, but anyone should be able to give some assessment of the quality of a show regardless of whether they’re in the target demographic. I have no interest in sport, and if I were to say ‘Boil Up is crap because it’s about sports and sports are boring’ that would make me an idiot. But I can still look at the depth of its analysis or the quality of its humour, even if I won’t be able to appreciate either to the same extent as a sports fan. Likewise, ‘GC is prolefeed’ is an inherently invalid argument no matter who makes it; ‘GC is rubbish because it’s exploitative/misleading/racist/shallow’ can be a legitimate argument no matter who makes it, although granted it carries more weight when made by someone who demographically should enjoy it.

    Nothing against your main argument, especially since the only criticism I’ve read of the show is Morgan’s (also I haven’t seen the show itself). But the argument that only people in the target audience can validly comment on the show just doesn’t work. By that logic no-one over the age of 12 could legitimately comment on whether Sesame St is better or worse than He-Man.

  45. Lew on May 9th, 2012 at 17:20


    anyone should be able to give some assessment of the quality of a show regardless of whether they’re in the target demographic … ‘GC is rubbish because it’s exploitative/misleading/racist/shallow’ can be a legitimate argument no matter who makes it

    I agree, and I wish people would make arguments on the actual merits like this. Morgan’s criticism comes closest; another that’s pretty decent is this by TV3’s Ally Mullord who, despite an interest in promoting the thing, levels some reasoned critique. But almost none of the criticism makes any attempt to engage with the material before writing it off, and almost all of it misses the point that the mere portrayal of contemporary Māori reality on TV is half the point of the show. I submit that these two things are linked.


  46. Max on May 9th, 2012 at 20:54

    While it is a horrible show, it isn’t nearly worth the column inches/blog lines written here. Ignore it, hopefully it will go away.

  47. Lew on May 9th, 2012 at 20:56

    And yet you add to them.


  48. Max on May 9th, 2012 at 21:01


  49. AJ on May 9th, 2012 at 21:23

    Nice piece. Well written and well considered. Keep it up!

  50. Morgan Godfery on May 9th, 2012 at 21:43

    The show is, I think, attractive to young Maori in that the lives of the characters represent something that is attainable or easily imagined. On the other hand mainly older Maori dislike the show for, what they deem, an unrealistic portrayal of Maori.

    On the culture point, I think NZders are essentially understated – the passionless people is a good description – and as a result the traits paraded in the GC do not mesh well with what NZders consider right, proper and normal. The same argument applies to Maori culture. Although Maori value “cheeky” characters, probably best encapsulated by Maui, there is considerable value placed on humility. The GC is many things, but not humble.

    The cultural risks emigration creates are not easily mitigated. Maori living overseas and not contributing to the whanau, hapu and iwi can be regarded with scorn and, in extreme cases, excluded from many aspects of Maori life, for example the Marae. Having said this, most Maori manage the isolation from their culture well. If anything, Maori living overseas appreciate their taha Maori more than many Maori living, for want of a better term, the Maori life.

  51. Makere Edwards on May 9th, 2012 at 23:45

    Not all Maori who leave for Australia get to lead or want to lead such superficial lives as those on TheGC. Many travel to Oz to genuinely find employment but return home broke and disillusioned, unable to find work for a number of reasons. I think young Maori are being seduced into thinking that the gold coast is the promised land. The GC reinforces self indulgence with little responsibility back to the whanau or for their actions and where getting tatoos has been glorified and glamourized as crucial signs for their Maori identity because there is no Maori support systems in place for them while they live away from home.

  52. Joseph on June 13th, 2012 at 17:20

    Hi Lew,

    Nicely written article.

    I can only speak for myself here. My distaste for this show is not racially motivated. I cannot stand the Gold Coast & a lot of the people who live there.

    The GC is about a bunch of Maori boys who live there and act just like the rest of the residents. I don’t want to watch a show about anyone from the Gold Coast living their superficial, oxygen-wasting lives.

    Now, if people don’t like a show then the obvious solution is to not watch it. There are plenty of idiotic shows like the GC and a lot of people lap them up. If that’s what you’re into then fine. In the case of the GC however tax payer funds have helped to make it which is where my gripe is. If they want to make this crap on their own dime then fine, they will be very successful doing so.

    The reason it seems that most of the complaints come from the middle-aged “honkies”? – My money would be on the fact that this generation doesn’t understand the youth of today & thinks that most of them are decadent so & so’s. The GC only exemplifies this opinion.

    Young Maori loving this show? – The word “young” stands out here. Most young people these days brought up by TV look at this GC life-style and think “Choice bro”. Cruise around in a cool car, bang some hot babes, get some mean-as tats & make heaps of cash for not doing much at all. This is a lifestyle that is extremely desirable for much of the youth of today, both Maori & Pakeha.

    The bottom line is, I think, that the show is cringe-worthy & we all had to pay to make it. If it was a bunch of white boys from Wainuiomata doing the same thing then I would think the same.

  53. thegoat on August 21st, 2012 at 14:25

    I live in Australia, and I loved your post. Couldn’t have said it better myself. There is much focus on flight or brain drain between NZ and Australia because of income disparity, but seriously, anyone who lives here knows that many people come over here to make a new life for themselves. In the final shake down the cost of living pressures are similar here as they are in NZ if you are seriously trying to make your way – save money, get a house etc.,
    Being Maori in Australia is just another ethnicity added to the mix, and I really do think (after 10 years here) that it’s easier for young Maori to make their way in the world without all the s**t that’s heaped on them at home. It’s more than just the money, it’s the opportunity to make your own way in the world without the expectations that you talked about in your perfect post. Touche.

  54. Work in progress…. | Kiwi Back in Sydney on August 21st, 2012 at 14:36

    […] more on this to come, but perhaps have a read of this very well written blog post on kiwipolitico. It’s about a new reality TV series featuring a […]

  55. barvasfiend on August 21st, 2012 at 14:48

    I too wrote a blog post with references to three recent articles about kiwis living in australia and the push//pull factors involved
    you can see it here:

  56. […] a read of the blog KiwiPolitico where the writer argues much of the fuss is due to implicit racism. Is middle New Zealand so used […]

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