Jun 12, 2012

Revisiting the GC

I’m revisiting my opinion on the GC. After a few weeks watching the show, it’s nothing like I imagined. Last month I labelled the show racist. This call, in the context of the first episode, was a fair one. However, the show hasn’t taken the trajectory I expected it to.

The GC suffers from an identity crisis. There’s a tension between recreating Jersey Shore and on the other hand presenting a realistic portrayal of Maori on the Gold Coast. These two ideas don’t sit well together. For ratings sake, the producers have to make the show entertaining and that involves relationship dramas, the boys on the prowl and so on – Jersey Shore stuff in other words. However, the rationale of the show was to present a realistic portrayal of Maori on the Gold Coast and the show was funded along those lines. Finding an acceptable balance is hard task and one the makers of the show don’t seem to have achieved. I’m sure Bailey Mackey, one of the producers, want’s to strike a balance and present Maori in a positive light. However, the format of the show isn’t conducive to doing so. The show is not billed nor designed as a documentary – it’s a reality drama series and comes across as such.

Failing to strike a balance has resulted in mixed reviews. On the one hand, commentators have praised the show as reflecting the aspirations and reality for young Maori. Unlikely commentators, most notably Fran O’Sullivan, have praised the show:

Instead of wallowing in some tribal backwater, they have skipped across the Tasman to build successful entrepreneurial futures alongside other Kiwis in Australia and enjoy the "sun, surf and sex" lifestyles.

Although O’Sullivan’s phrased her point poorly, its essence is true. The GC portrays what is becoming the best option for Maori – Australia. Although, as Paul Little says and I agree, the Gold Coast is a “cultural desert” it’s a desert with jobs, money and opportunity. The opportunity to cast off the cultural and political baggage that comes with being Maori in New Zealand.

Much of the negative criticism has claimed that the show does not realistically portra Maori on the Gold Coast. I tend to agree with this view. Few Maori, if any, would spend most of their time on the beach, on the town and mucking around in front of a mirror. How many property developer slash scaffolders do you know?

Much of the criticism is in this vein and, for the most part at least, is just middle class sneering. Wellington and Auckland intellectuals throwing stones from their sophisticated towers. Having said that, some of the criticism from those towers has been insightful. Paul Little makes the point that:

With their distorted values and priorities, Tame, Jade, Zane and their "neffs" (friends) could hardly be more representative of contemporary NZ culture and identity. Whether they intended to or not, the show's makers have created a subtle, devastating critique of NZ today.

To a certain extent, the cast of the GC represent New Zealand youth culture, more specifically Maori youth culture. The cast represent what the values many young Maori hold and their approach to life.

Of all my complaints, however, I don’t like the level the show is pitched at. There is no time given to how the cast deal with conflicting cultural values. How do the characters reconcile their lives in Australia with their upbringing and obligations back home? But, of course, the show isn’t designed to answer these questions and fair enough. If anything these aren’t questions for a prime time show, they’re questions for Maori. One's I don't really know the answers too.


  1. Ae, agreed...

    Our research has on how the earthquakes in Otautahi have impacted on Maori, ( http://www.lincoln.ac.nz/conversation/maori-resilience/ ) highlights the mobility of Maori is a key factor in our resilience. This predates colonisation but is now so entrenched I think we need a conversation on the longterm effects which will such things as Maori who have property rights in Aotearoa but lack citizenship...

    1. I have that very dilemna. My only mokopuna was born in Aussie and his parents haven't applied for dual citizenship. I have told them I'm not leaving my Maori land interests to an Aussie but in truth I don't really have the heart to deny my mokopuna his turangawaewae! A conversation along the lines you suggest would be very interesting.

  2. The problem with the GC is that is is trying to be both titillating sex fest and documentary, and achieving neither. There would be a huge audience for the former, if they screened it on MTV and (further) dumbed it down. There would also be a reasonable audience for the latter. As it is though, this show will probably not last long, unless it decides what it is and sticks to it.

  3. "However, the rationale of the show was to present a realistic portrayal of Maori on the Gold Coast and the show was funded along those lines. Finding an acceptable balance is hard task and one the makers of the show don’t seem to have achieved. I’m sure Bailey Mackey, one of the producers, want’s to strike a balance and present Maori in a positive light"

    Just to be clear, are you arguing that portraying young Maori realistically and portraying them in a positive light are the same thing?

    Because that seems to be the basis for a lot of the dislike of the GC, but I'm not sure it's true.

  4. In most cases, yes. In the case of young Maori in Australia, I think a realistic portrayal would also be a positive one. Anecdotally speaking, almost all young Maori who make the move do so for employment opportunities. Again, from an anecdotal perspective, those who do so end up making something of their lives. From the cast of the GC to Maori in the NRL to (more realistically) Maori in Australian mines and the Australian defence force.

  5. oh get over your silly notions - this GC is NOT typical of any MAORI in NZ or Aus for that matter - your sweeping comments -c condemning Maori are without justification ... how many Maori people / youth women who have moved to Aus have you spoken with -- your column is so empty - kinda like some of the GC cast & which we have discovered are NOT all Maori people. The GC youth are poorly educated, mumble & strut & pose & think & utter meaningless petty silly nonsense - last time visitors. maria and whanau hamilton

    1. I'm wondering whether or not you've read my post or you're referring to something else? In any event, I haven't condemned Maori nor said the GC is an accurate portrayal of Maori in Australia. I explicitly said that I agree with the view that the show is not an accurate portrayal.

  6. The GC. Absolute proof that even UNTALENTED Maori can make it big. Just think what a Maori with an education might find over there ?

  7. I dont like the show either, but at least these young Maori are independent, working, have positive outlooks and prospects and opportunity. same cant be said for their whanau back here in a lot of cases. I would have been more interested in a series as pitched to NZ on Air that looked at the issues from a wider perspective and across a range of age groups. this is a reality show pitched at 18 - 25 years I reckon (I have some of those at home and they love it).... its a Kiwi / Oz version of the Kardashians. entertainment and thats all.

  8. It's important to discuss the details, but to be economical let's look at the bottom line. $419,000 - even if it yields that in revenue, it's still neither a meritous or thrifty way to spend tax-payer's money.

    That's $419,000 that could have gone into seeking educational outcomes for our kids, or $419,000 delivering content relevant to main-stream Maori, rather than a select cut of rakatahi (who I think it would be insulting to say, represent all of our youth)

  9. I think it's good that attractive white Aussie women are finding Maori males more appealing than their white counterparts. This must really piss a few of them off.

  10. This is not conforming to the negative stereotype of Maori! All that brown skin (bad) and tattoos (bad when it's Maori) and flamboyancy (bad when it's Maori) and muscle (bad when you haven't got any and when their on Maori) and culture (bad) and success (bad when it's Maori) must really annoy the rednecks.

  11. I've only watched the first episode but these are not Maori - they're lebs (lebanese). YUK!!! And I'm a white Australian woman who LOVES maoris!!



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