Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: We love to laugh at suburb stereotypes

Ah Auckland. Certain suburbs are proving popular fodder for satirical social media pages - but do they cut too close to the truth? Photo / NZ Herald
Ah Auckland. Certain suburbs are proving popular fodder for satirical social media pages - but do they cut too close to the truth? Photo / NZ Herald

The Humans of Remuera Facebook page is ostensibly an anthropological examination of such creatures in their natural habitat. While the founder claims to be "an impartial journalist documenting the lives of the people of Remuera", the page's by-line ("White people, coffee and [L]exuses") betrays its true intent. It is, of course, a send-up, a forum for poking the borax, a satire revealing some of the small-minded, superficial attitudes held by the pampered, materialistic folk fabled to inhabit this particular Auckland suburb.

With deadpan references to private schools, big houses, flash cars, overseas holidays and voting for the Act party, it's proving popular. Obviously inspired by the successful Humans of New York project, this local one - which has attracted over 18,000 "Likes" since inception on 15 June - serves to highlight the shortcomings of the demographic concerned.

Deliberately out-of-touch quotes are matched with photographs of supposed Remuera residents. Beneath one such image are the words: "This election I'll be voting National, I'm not worried about their stance on climate change. Rising ocean levels won't affect me, I own a penthouse apartment". As with most satire, not everyone is in on the joke. One person responded with: "Why is our generation so selfish? Have we no thought for the future generations."

Also misunderstood was the faux character who admitted that "my dad got me a job at his business. It was easy as, beneficiaries are just lazy". Appalled responses included: "I bet the interview process was real rough on you! Wake up you idiot!!!!" and "Not everyone gets handed things to them on a silver platter from daddy".

Private schools are fair game: "People mock King's but honestly we're not as stereotypical as you would expect." The accompanying photograph of a plaque indicating the school's "Richwhite Room" serves as the (in this case, authentic) punch-line - as does the comment about a nonexistent "Poordarkie Room". Confused yet?

Of course, it didn't take long for a genuine citizen of Remuera to take offence at such content: "It just reeks of jealousy of people who work hard by those who have never shown any initiative in their lives." But when the message ended with the threat of legal action, doubt was cast as to whether this person was truly affronted or simply continuing in the spirit of the page.

Having a laugh at the expense of certain suburbs is a well-worn Auckland tradition. The stereotypical traits of inhabitants of particular parts of the city are perpetually ripe for mocking. "Overheard in Herne Bay" is a Facebook page devoted to exposing the foibles of people with an affinity for "Lululemon, designer dogs, the Elbow Room, Porsche Cayennes, Range Rovers and Sally Ridge".

The presumed habits of inhabitants of another Auckland suburb are also aired on a well-patronised Facebook page which features references to drugs, swearing and violence - and faces accusations of racism. Meanwhile, a Twitter account records conversations "overheard on the Devonport/Auckland City ferry". Such gems include: "We flew Economy this time. Never again," "There is nothing I hate more than a mall Foodcourt" and "I've been spending all my time at the bach."

Many of us like having a go at suburbs where the locals come across as just a wee bit precious.

"Scratch the surface of a Grey Lynn resident and you'll often detect a whiff of self-congratulatory smugness that's anathema to inhabitants of the rest of Auckland," I may have written once. Some readers reinforced the theme: "it is a suburb of over-privileged Nimbys and the colour of gentrification appears to be taupe" and "there's a real snob factor there". One wrote of "elite cultural smugness".

The truth is that you're not a bona fide Aucklander unless you can mercilessly make assumptions about the voting preferences and close-minded attitudes held by the residents of at least half-a-dozen of the city's suburbs. We like to believe that a mere postcode can clue us into what beer someone drinks, where they shop, what they wear and what car they drive. It might not be very PC but it can be very funny - and mocking one geographically-defined sector of society can serve as an excellent bonding exercise for everyone else. Long may the Humans of Remuera page flourish!

What's your view on this kind of suburban satire? What are your favourite suburb-based stereotypes?

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Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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