Māori Stereotypes in Mainstream Media

Wall identifies four dominant stereotypes within contemporary media which help to reinforce colonial perceptions of Maori. One of these stereotypes is the caricature of “the comic Other” which, while seemingly good natured holds malignant implications (Wall 42). The NZ Anti-Drink Driving commercial Ghost Chips plays on this stereotype, featuring a  young Māori man considering the effects resulting from discouraging his drunk friend from driving under the influence. His thought process is childish with his initial concern being a girl thinking him “dumb”, extending to his friend dying and haunting him as a ghost. Wall states that a systematic feature of this trope is the emasculation of Māori, reducing the appearance of a threat. The still below reflects this strategy through the innocent, possibly naïve, smile on the man’s face. While stemming from the ‘good-naturedness’ of Māori, this stereotype simultaneously trivializes and belittles Māori culture.

 

legend-pub-poster
NZTA. Ghost Chips. 2011. The Wireless, http://thewireless.co.nz/themes/risk/a-hard-sell-to-stop-mates-driving-drunk

 

In contrast to the “comic Other” is the “quintessential Other”, a form of representation propagated largely by contemporary Māori. Emphasizing elements important to Māori such as connection to nature, family and spirituality, this archetype seeks to reinvent Maori identity. The theatrical poster for the film Mahana depicts imagery consistent with these views. We see the connection between man and land, and the influence of family, but disparate to the “comic Other” as seen in the commercial still, the “quintessential Other” is depicted in Mahana as much more serious, reflective of the resilience of hard-working rural Māori, perhaps generating a preferred identity as strong in the face of adversity, particularly after centuries of denigration.

 

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Tamahori, Lee. Mahana. 2015. Flicks. https://www.flicks.co.nz/movie/mahana/poster/

 

 

Works Cited:

Wall, Melanie. “Stereotypical Constructions of the Māori Race in the Media.” New Zealand Geographer, 1997, pp. 40-45.

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