Our 'new normal' is a reality show

HOPE AND WIRE: Tributes once pinned to the wire fence which used to surround the site of the former CTV building.
HOPE AND WIRE: Tributes once pinned to the wire fence which used to surround the site of the former CTV building.

Vicki Anderson reviews the second part of the three-part TV drama Hope and Wire.

Did the Earth move for you last night?

If only Gaylene Preston had spared us from the thrush, racism, violence, weird chicken stroking, stilted teenage sweethearts and ''disaster sex".

Last week's launch of Hope and Wire, a three-part television drama series about the earthquakes and their aftermath, was something many in Canterbury simultaneously anticipated and feared.

Created by award-winning Wellington film-maker Preston, it has polarised viewers.

Perhaps, and correct me if I'm barking up the wrong road cone here, this is because post-quake it has often felt as if things are being done ''to'' us in Christchurch, rather than ''with'' us.

I refer to the ''special war-time powers'' that hide all manner of callous acts and acquisitions; the disturbing colour-coding of our suburbs (yellow, red, green); the exhausting insurance wrangles and the blatant destruction of our heritage buildings.

The continued portrayal of our city in Hope and Wire as a stereotypical place of skinheads and random violence, is irritating and offensive.

Our city has skinheads and violence, of course, but there is a much greater story to be told. As one of the characters said last night: ''The problem is, they just don't do complexity.''

People are outraged because in this flattened city characters like ''Joycie'' outnumber the skinheads 70,000 to one.

Last night the cookie-cutter characters returned, pearls in place, to battle red tape, thrush and insurance paperwork.

Again I found the real footage the most affecting. Again Joycie, played by Rachel House, and Len's characters shone.

Last night's episode began in Lyttelton, the epicentre of it all.

It was there, outside the Lyttelton Library, where the Lyttel Stitches group encouraged people to join them making hearts that eventually went on the wire fences, that the phrase ''hope and wire'' was articulated by The Eastern's Adam McGrath.

Highlights were Simmo Abbari, a classically-trained chef, who played himself, determined to get his wife's ashes from a broken building within the cordon.

He lost his restaurant in the September 2010 earthquake, got another one up and running which was destroyed that December. His next restaurant was locked behind the cordon after February 22, 2011.

Lyttelton stalwart Al Park helped tell another story.

Park ran popular live music venue AL's Bar which was destroyed in a devastatingly contrary process by Cera post February 2011.

In last night's episode Park helped tell of futile attempts by owners of the Southern Blues Bar to get their sign before its building was demolished.

Nothing in the stories of Park and Abbari were made up. The characters are invented, the stories are real.

With the majority of the city's venues destroyed, I went to a lot of house parties in random places post-quake.

We shared food and live music. Such events were supportive and immensely comforting.

Christchurch's only rape crisis centre closed last week after being turned down for Government funding.

I mention this because of something hinted at in one of last night's storylines involving a house party hinted at.

It cost taxpayers, through Government funding body New Zealand On Air, $5M to make this TV series.
Which do you think most deserved $5M?

Ryan, played by Jarod Rawiri, is a character I'm warming to. There are many Ryans in this city and the all too familiar stories of places like Sunshine Close are worth sharing.

But how many times in one minute is it necessary to use the phrase ''teenage sweethearts''?

It was shockingly bad dialogue. Pun intended.

Preston's heart is in the right place. It is the task of storytellers to translate human experience. This is a human experience which is mighty difficult to translate to the small screen.

Perhaps with distance we may view this series with kinder eyes, but right now many are still living this painful ''story''.

In less than a minute, life was stripped back to what really counts for people from all walks of life. We share a common bond which is complex to articulate.

After the dust settled, kindness and incredible community spirit rose up. This is the true heart of our quake story.

Everyone in Christchurch has a broken heart on a wire fence somewhere. Hope, intangible as it is, has helped us get through.

Wire?  It coldly barricades us from our city. I resent the sight of wire fencing almost as much as I resent the silent army of road cones and the word 'resilience'.

Our ''new normal'' is a reality show screening 24/7.

There's always hope that those things being done "to" us are for the best. But sometimes hope isn't enough.

The Press