TV show has huge potential to explore identity of expat Maori

23:08, May 10 2012

I was at my son's football practice last Sunday and someone said to me, "Go Bailey Mackey and The GC".

I smiled as I know Bailey but I didn't have a clue what this other guy was saying to me. Bailey has been pretty active with Maori TV and Maori sports as well as iwi politics so I just assumed that the comment had something to do with all of that and I probably should have known about it.

It wasn't until a couple of days later when I heard someone mention The GC that I joined the dots and realised Bailey was behind the controversial new programme. I say good on him.

I see everyone out there has their opinion on the show and TV3 must be loving that. The old adage that any publicity is good publicity tends to stand up in cases like this. And, despite the gasps of shock and disapproval at the amount of money spent on producing the show, I have to ask the question how much do we spend every year on purchasing vast amounts of international crap television?

At one level it boils down to individual taste of course. It wasn't so long ago that TVNZ experienced a backlash from loyal audiences when the viewing time for Coronation Street was changed. I haven't watched that show since Minnie Caldwell was being served by Annie Walker in the ladies' cozy of the Rovers Return and would rather do thirty minutes of The GC than The Street any day of the week.

From my perspective there is much more to The GC story than meets the eye. Firstly it is about producing a home grown version of a genre of television that has proven to be very popular in other parts of the world. This is common for New Zealand television. We watch something successful like Masterchef or Who's Got Talent and then we make our own cheaper, home grown version of it.


The critics, the bloggers and the tweeters all have their opinions and New Zealanders generally fall in behind and begin to follow the show, connect with the characters and fall prey to an already proven entertainment recipe.

I can hear everyone saying that this is different because the show is so horrible and shallow and scripted and blah, blah, blah. It doesn't matter.

The GC is a reflection of a point in the evolution of television entertainment where shows that capture the drama of people's lives in real time have utterly blurred the line between reality and fantasy.

Whether they be fat people trying to lose weight, desperate people wanting to be a star or a group of pretty, bronzed 20-somethings partying hard, these shows capture something of the drama of real life while also being inevitably influenced by the presence of cameras, crew and an audience of millions.

The GC style of show may prove to be appealing only to a limited audience but it will have a following and it is consistent with current popular culture. Secondly, though, is the premise upon which it seems NZ On Air has approved the funding. Some people are clearly cynical about the connection between a seemingly distasteful and gauche production like The GC and searching questions about Maori identity but I disagree.

I think there is huge potential to explore the question and how well that is achieved will be the ultimate test of Bailey Mackey's talent.

The migration of tens of thousands of Maori to Australia is having a major influence on the evolution and expression of Maori identities.

An elderly relation passed away a few months ago and six of his grandsons flew back from Australia to attend the tangi.

They are all 20-something and live in Western Australia working in physically demanding jobs earning good money. All of them were able to afford to fly home with their young families and when they arrived here they got stuck into supporting the whanau to manage the marae.

They are all browned up and most bear quality Maori tattoos and when their grandfather was carried from the house they and their cousins performed a rousing haka. Their lives are still heavily influenced by a Maori upbringing and they have strong identities but now, with the death of their patriarch and the three thousand miles distance between them and home, they are in new territory.

Will they come home? Unlikely if there is no work. How do they stay connected and impart a sense of being Maori to their kids? How important will those things be as they settle comfortably in to the Lucky Country?

These are some of the questions that The GC might traverse as they follow the seemingly shallow lives of these young expat Maori. If Bailey can't take it there it will be the slow-paced train wreck many are predicting.

The Press