Auckland film-maker Roseanne Liang contemplates a world without men
I'm constantly thinking about humanity, what value it has and whether it's a cancer on this world or whether there's something worth saving.
In 2018, Trump was mid-term and we were starting to hear really bad things about what his regime was like regarding women and agency over their bodies. At the same time, we were watching "The Handmaid's Tale" and the second season ended very heavily. It made us feel so hopeless.
We were sitting around the table here trying to come up with an idea to make the leap from web series to television, and talking about how to deal with the way we're feeling about the world right now. Comedy became the delivery mechanism to make that more digestible and kind of lighten the load.
"Creamerie" is a post-apocalyptic black comedy set eight years after a virus has wiped out all the world's men. The rest of the world has turned to sh** but New Zealand is doing fine. There's universal healthcare, education and menstruation leave. Fertility levels are normal and there are stores of frozen sperm. But women are carriers of the virus and male embryos die within a few hours of conception, so there's only enough sperm for two more lifetimes.
One night, three dairy farmers accidentally run someone over and discover "she" has a magnificent beard. It's a man who has somehow managed to survive off the grid. Instead of turning him in to the authorities, they decide to keep him in their shed for themselves.
In essence, it's a gender swap, but it's also a complete tonal shift from "Handmaid's Tale". We wanted to create something like the deadpan hilarity of the banal type comedy made famous with Taika Waititi's work and Flight of the Conchords, with a political subtext —this idea that absolute power corrupts absolutely, no matter who you are, and that the corruption of the patriarchy is not limited to men.
I'm not into the binaries of masculine and feminine, but it does feel like the world is out of balance, and I don't know that going to the other extreme would necessarily fix it. We wanted to apply the principles of yin and yang; that for every force there is an equal opposing force, and we need both in society to propel us forward. On one side, we're fighting and raging for feminism. On the other side, masculinity should allow itself to be more vulnerable.
I never thought of it as a feminine world, growing up with two older sisters and going to a private girls' school [all three were dux at St Cuthbert's], but I definitely thought of it as competitive. Academically, there were no limits. I didn't feel I had to be polite about my ambition and drive to learn.
As a teenage girl, you can go to sleepovers and talk about your feelings; there's a great emotional openness to it. But it can turn on a dime — that petty "Mean Girls" thing. You never know when you might say something wrong. I had friends at school, but I felt like an outsider. At university, where there was more diversity - not just culturally but socio-economically - I felt like I'd found my people.
The value of female friendship is one of the show's themes. Working with the [all-women] "Flat3" team has been an absolute joy. They keep me on my toes. We can be brutally blunt with each other, and the moments of challenge we've been through have only made the bond stronger.
This apartment, where I do my work, is a two-minute walk from our home in Herne Bay [Liang and husband Stephen Harris have two children, aged 9 and 11]. Every time I come here, I give thanks for having a space where I can go into the trench. That's my name for it, the inner space you go to when you write or do creative work.
I think Roald Dahl had something like this, where he could walk down to the bottom of the garden to a little room that was his. When you think of the great writers of all time, they're usually male and had entire staff and a wife to keep the children away, because a man's work was important and not to be interrupted. To have a space that acknowledges my work in that way has been really significant for me.
There's a lovely picture window, looking out on trees and the harbour. If I stand in the corner, I can see the bridge. But honestly, I spend most of my time, staring at the wall. See the label I've stuck there? It says, "Just do the work", because I'm a procrastinator and will just go on social media or start scrolling the news.
So is there any hope [for humanity]? The answer always has to be yes. One of the messages in our show is that there's value in life being a bit messy and not knowing all the answers, and maybe there's an inherent goodness in that.
As told to Joanna Wane
"Creamerie", a new show by Roseanne Liang and the team behind comedy web series "Flat3", screens on TVNZ 2 and OnDemand from April 19.