Like many people, when I first saw The GC, I was shocked. I could barely believe the evidence of my eyes and ears. Rather than rush to judgment and into print, I thought it only fair to give the programme a chance. Several viewings later, my first impression has been confirmed; this is a masterpiece.
The GC follows the escapades of 10 20-something young "Mossies", Maori Aussies, one born in Australia, the rest in New Zealand, who spend long periods either on the beach or in clubs and occasionally doing some light work. They are described as having such occupations as "scaffolder/investor", a trade of which I'd not previously been aware, property developer/glamour model, singer and, of course, DJ.
On the evidence of the show, days, if not weeks, go by without them doing anything except getting drunk or trying and failing to have sex.
Like most New Zealanders, they prefer to live in Australia. They have chosen Queensland's louche, sybaritic Gold Coast as their domain, an area of long beaches and apartment towers and one of the world's largest cultural deserts, lacking the fashion sense of Victoria or the productive drive of New South Wales.
They are heavily and badly tattooed - there's not a lot of dignity in having "Wassup" written on your chest. They drink too much, dress badly, objectify the opposite sex, are obsessed with their appearance, dance badly, over-groom, overestimate their own abilities and believe the world is waiting for them to reveal their greatness, blame everyone else for failures that are their own responsibility, accessorise badly, lack ambition and are incapable of expressing themselves coherently.
And that's their good points.
Much of the public outrage centred on NZ on Air contributing $420,000 to the show, or roughly half the cost of a Grey Lynn do-up, a sum I imagine would not have kept the cast in tattoo ink and hair gel for the eight episodes of the series.
The complainants overlooked NZ on Air's mission statement: "to reflect and foster the development of NZ culture and identity through broadcasting".
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.
The horrified reaction from people whose television sets apparently receive only TV3, and lack an off switch, uncannily paralleled an incident described in Chapter 12 of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein: "At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification."
The negative reaction to The GC wasn't that of decent folk shocked at some uncouth behaviour. It was the horror of the monster confronted with its own reflection.
In other news about New Zealanders in Australia and our depiction on television, Kiwi expat Max Barrett, incensed at a TV commercial parodying NZ accents, is alleged to have assaulted an employee of the station that broadcast the ad. The outcome could have been different if only he had stopped to ponder the irony that Australians, of all the races on the planet, feel entitled to make fun of the way other people speak.