Tut Tut Taika
I like Thor. And the Hulk. Even though one is Nordic and the other green.
I don’t like being called racist.
Truth be told, I don’t like being labelled at all, but that one is right up there as possibly the worst. Sexist, ageist, whateverist.
I was born and raised in the south of the South Island. A Southern Man then, all stubbie shorts, boots and rifles and Speights and dogs and utes and blue and gold and each and every other cliched piece of imagery you can conjure. There were all sorts of cultural mixes going on, from surfies to rugby-heads to liberal hippy students and potheads and musso’s and religious zealots and poor on the flats over looked by the wealthy on the hills. Generally, I was just one chubby round white face in a sea of white faces.
But, some of my best friends are Maori (s).
Yes, I said it. Partly because it is true, but also because it is the go to get out for those who want or need an out clause, when it comes to their views on race. That I had and have Asian friends, Oriental friends, Samoan and Tongan and Cook, English and Scots and even Australians, is not the point. The race, creed or colour of who you chose to associate with is not relevant to anyone unless you, or they, decide to make it that way.
What is relevant is the respect we have and show for one another.
I respect a man like Taika Waititi. Even while most likely mispronouncing his name. I, like many the world over thanks to his continued success, believe he is an immensely talented person. Like all creatives, what he presents to the world can be a bit hit and miss, depending on your tastes. It took a second look at Boy before I was hooked, but I could watch Hunt for the Wilderpeople all day and find no liking for it. Meaning obviously, I couldn’t watch it. Maybe he did a great job with the Thor thing, don’t know, maybe not. Haven’t seen it. The vampire stuff lost me.
Taika Waitit’s views and opinions are just the same. A bit hit and miss.
Like all of us he is obviously a thinker. The difference is, for a guy like Taika, he has a voice. A variety of platforms and soap boxes from which his every word will be lapped up by an adoring media. No one can begrudge him that and no one can argue his right to have a take on things, his point of view.
But like everyone, his perspective is distorted. It is impossible for anyone, anywhere, anytime, to be completely subjective. Doing so simply would not be human. We are a haphazard bunch with our emotive input and output. We can be vitriolic one moment and stunned into silence the next. We are full of pride or shame or righteousness or uncertainty. So Taiki, not for the first time, has made wide, sweeping, generalised statements. Emotive statements.
I don’t know how or where Taika grew up and nor do I know how that may or may not have had a lingering affect on the man. Where I was raised, more importantly educated, there was not a single thing culturally relevant to our very own New Zealand/Aotearoa in school. We did World War Two in history, which certainly had a huge role to play in the identity of this nation, but it wasn’t until I was an adult I ever heard of the New Zealand Wars. I could learn French or Latin. Not Maori. I wanted to speak Spanish.
Electives meant I could study the history and culture of ancient Greece, formative stuff for the entire western world we now live in. But Hone Heke taking an ax to a flag pole sounded like pure myth. And who knew it wasn’t a one time deal…he went back four times!
I have been to Otakou Marae many times. Down there on the ‘Otago’ Peninsula they would probably still cringe at the way I pronounce it. I hate to think what I sound like to the folk up here in the mighty Hokianga. But it’s okay, I have kids, the next generation, to set me straight.
Maybe I am not the target of Taika’s rants. I hope not. As a family we make the attempt to nail a bit Te Reo and as part of our colloquial vernacular, there is a surprising amount of the Maori language in our everyday. So I try, just like I did in France, Spain, Portugal, and even Scotland, an impossible language to comprehend after a pint or two. I am told it is English but am yet to be convinced.
If a local mispronounces a place name, because everyone does and always has in his or her time there, is that their fault? No. Is it their responsibility to try and change such a cultural misrepresentation? Partly.
The French insisted on calling me Michele. Michael in French. Irritating but I wasn’t about to change much in my time there and would have needed to care more. However, I did my bit. When I met a Guillaume I called him such, trying my best to repeat it the way it had been said to me. I didn’t call him William or Willy or Bill. The Irish called me Mik (ironically?), Eastern Europeans Mikhail and virtually no one Mike, the way I say it. I answered to all and anyone.
The cheese eating, wine sipping, bread baking Frogs also referred to my home land as Nouvelle-Zelande. I think of myself as from Aotearoa.
Land of the wrong white crowd?