Of racists and marionettes
Your Weekend TV reviewer Jane Bowron shares her small-screen highs and lows.
Putting your racism on the line is the name of the game in the three-part documentary series First Contact (Maori Television, 8.30pm, Monday).
Starting from the premise that six out of 10 people in Australia have had little or no contact with indigenous people, First Contact takes six celebrities on a journey to discover their attitudes toward First Australians.
Supposedly parking their prejudices at the start, it will be interesting to see how singer Natalie Imbruglia, former Miss Universe Australia Renae Ayris, comedian Tom Ballard, music producer Ian “Dicko” Dickson, actress Nicki Wendt, and politician David Oldfield fare as the weeks pass.
Even before the journey starts, former beauty queen Renae Ayris is recorded on a promotional video saying that Aborigines needed to forgive whatever they think happened to them, and just try to be equal with everyone else. She is called a racist and attacked on social media.
Dicko fears he might be a “big racist” with dismissive attitudes. Actress Nicki Wendt says she fears Aborigines and thinks she’s different from them because she smells different and brushes and flosses – twice daily.
But all eyes are on David Oldfield, who co-founded the One Nation party that helped get Pauline Hanson elected to the Australian Federal Parliament in 1996.
The outspoken politician is no team player and hangs back when the group is invited to interact with indigenous Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. He is reticent to the point of rudeness in joining in with cultural tribal activities.
In a ceremony where the participants have parts of their body painted with red ochre, Oldfield cites sensitive skin. Blinking from behind masks of thickly applied ochre, the rest of the group fix Oldfield with the withering looks of team players who’ve had the decency to dip their toes in the water.
Oldfield’s unwillingness to accept and learn from the experiences of First Australians contrasts with most of the group, who seem shaken by the back stories to lives lived in a fog of alcoholism, violence and entrenched family suicide.
After the series went to air in Australia, Oldfield complained that the edit job left out footage of his distress over the treatment of Aboriginal children.
In another journey, back to the cutting edge of “supermarionation” and the adventures of retired astronaut Jeff Tracy and his five sons, reacquaint yourself with the international rescue fleet in All About Thunderbirds (Jones, Thursday, 10.30pm).
Creator and producer the late Gerry Anderson explains how the signature palm trees that stood either side of the launch pad were hurriedly improvised at the last minute to accommodate Thunderbird 2. The palm trees were made from broom sticks with fronds attached to their ends that had to bend back as the ship passed through.
Puppet designers were always dashing down to the chemist to buy condoms to use to manipulate the state-of-the-art mouth workings of the puppets. And the show’s bit of posh totty, Lady Penelope, was a rogue composite of London It girls whose mod clothes were slavishly copied for her ladyship’s tiny wardrobe.
Thunderbird craft and crew experienced the first real lift-off in big toy merchandising, and the show has enjoyed several comebacks with fathers spreading the Thunderbird disease down to their sons.
Fizzy news coverage of Pippa Middleton’s wedding last weekend – the frock! the guests! Harry’s girlfriend! – didn’t extend to detailed reportage of any stag or hen parties, but I’m quietly hoping James Matthews (I think of him as “Mr Pippa” if I think of him at all) got himself a nice shave and a nose-hair trim.
Because while I have pretty much no tosses to give about the British Royal Family or their wider whanau, I understand that for other people they offer a gold standard in How Things Should Be Done, and I want men’s Groom Parties to catch on.
The groom party is a new alternative to old-school stag dos. Stag nights traditionally focus on the consumption of vast quantities of booze, the occasional removal of the groom’s eyebrows – hilarious! – and a visit to a strip club. And while we’re here, let me say I’ve never understood that whole “getting sexually aroused in groups” thing but maybe it’s an unspoken way of saying, “This is my horny face, Nigel – am I doing it right?” in which case, it’s kind of sweet and entirely appropriate on the eve of pledging your life to Your One In Particular.
Nevertheless, the groom party is an even more appropriate companion activity to the bridal party’s spa day and possibly sets things up better for a little more gender-empathy in married life.
Because once you’ve had a taste of grooming and pampering – a perfect shave, clean nails, hairless ears – you’re going to want to continue with the upkeep. Ask anyone who has stoodtood back and admired a well-trimmed hedge or a neatly mown wn lawn – that kind of satisfaction is addictive. Change one washer successfully and you’ll spend the rest of your life looking for leakyky taps to mend just for the joy of it.
Traditionalists may baulk at what they view as the “feminisation” of men – but stand down, brother. Oilingiling your beard won’t actually turn you into a lady – gender is somewhat more complex than that. Plus, a little more self-focuss might make you less impatient with your other half.
Instead of jangling your keys in irritation while she finishes her makeup and finds the right shoes, why not take that moment for yourself to pat a little serum round less angry eyes.
A touch more male grooming may also have benefits efits in the workplace. Pay equity, for instance.
One of the reasons women don’t “lean in” round the board table – and we don’t talk about this enough – is becauseause we’re often transfixed by the wildness of your eyebrows.
Listen carefully at your next team meeting and youu may be able to hear her thinking, “Bloody hell, Andrew, you really need to get plucked.”