When it comes to matters of principle, consistency is everything. Hard to take seriously those who scream blue murder about unfairness on one hand but are happy to turn the other cheek when it suits. Rather than standing up for what's right and just, it seems they're simply standing up for what's best for them. That's the problem facing Seven Sharp co-host Ali Mau these days as she repositions herself as a champion of tolerance.
Last time we saw Mau on mainstream tele she was co-hosting Breakfast with perpetual broadcasting delinquent Paul Henry, the bloke who managed to ridicule almost every vulnerable minority group in the community. On many of those occasions Mau was sitting beside him, giggling and making mock protests, and all but joining in on the fun. By "fun", we mean things like Susan Boyle being called a "retard" and the GG's ethnicity being questioned.
Now? Well, Mau's out; gay, pro-same sex marriage and an outspoken advocate of tolerance. All very good, you'll agree. Yet, in an interview published in last weekend's Sunday Star Times she baulked at the suggestion she could have done more at the time to distance herself from Henry's Archie Bunker impressions; that she was complicit in the offence caused. "Complicit is going a little bit far", she reckoned. "I was there."
Ha. Talk about denial. The precise reason Mau was complicit in Henry's minority group bashing was that she was there. No-one else was. It wasn't as if viewers could grab him by his tie and interrupt. There were, usually, just the two of them: he going out of his way to appeal to people's base instincts; she tch tch'ing away beside him and telling him he was awful. By choosing to co-operate; by continuing to co-operate, Mau was entirely complicit.
Mau says Henry didn't intend to be cruel. We'll have to take her word on that. But asking whether Henry had the requisite sense of empathy to realise he was being cruel or not is hardly the point. He was constantly unreasonable and wrong-headed. Good grief, Garth McVicar might not have meant to be cruel when he linked gay relationships with crime. But his performance was still vile. Same goes for Henry. Mau needs to accept some responsibility for that.
Cards on the table time? I'm a great admirer of Mau. From the way she's stood up for gay rights to the manner in which she coped with the very dubious business of being outed by a media organisation, she's impressed as a woman of true substance. For all that, it's difficult to reconcile her principled stances today against her "see, hear and speak no evil" routine alongside Henry a couple of years back. Something doesn't compute.
Maybe it's time Mau came out again. No, no - not in terms of her sexuality, of course; rather as someone who needs to express regret over her contribution to some of Kiwi TV's most shameful performances. True, no-one should ever be held responsible for what comes out of Henry's foul gob. But it still wouldn't hurt for Mau to recognise her reluctance to challenge more strongly such obnoxious and belittling points of view.
At least then, when it comes to supporting some of the genuinely important issues of the day (such as same sex marriage) there wouldn't be any suggestion Mau's just picking and choosing on the basis of what suits her best. At least then, there would be some consistency in what she appears to believe in; that is, her views would carry even more weight.
Don't get me wrong. All power to her for standing up for people now. Respect. Still, a shame about those damaged in the past.
» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.
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