Literally tens of people lined the streets of Vermont to watch the opening ceremony of The Bachelor Winter Games, which debuted in the US on Valentine’s Day. And then New Zealand appeared.
It’s not news that as a nation we’re particularly fascinated by how the rest of the world sees us. I’ve died inside more times than I can count watching nasally TV interviewers ask visiting movie stars, athletes and musicians what they “think of New Zealand” with beseeching, slightly damp eyes that seem to scream: PLEASE SAY YOU LOVE IT, WE’LL ALL DIE IF YOU DON’T.
Saying that, I’m not immune to the thrill of seeing ‘one of ours’ featured in a glossy magazine or playing their hearts out on a big American stage. I’m only human.
But what happens when people on the other side of the world, untethered to our particular identity as a young, colonised nation and associated cultural complexities, are asked, “So, like, what’s New Zealand all about?”
This question was recently answered by the showrunners for The Bachelor Winter Games, a dystopian nightmare where contestants from various international franchises of The Bachelor compete at winter sports in return for sex points, or something. Representing the proud nation of En Zed in the four-episode series are season two Bachelor, actor Jordan Mauger (who definitely didn’t do any of this purely for exposure), shaka-throwing swearbot Lily McManus and yoga teacher Ally Thompson. The All Blacks of awkwardly making out with strangers, if you will.
In true Olympic spirit, the proceedings were kicked off by an opening ceremony parade showcasing each country’s symbols of national pride.
Eventually we see a contestant pawing vacantly at another contestant’s furry hat like a bored cat, and then just off camera a sound familiar to many of us – a cry of “Waewae takahia!” is heard, the command to stamp your feet that commonly signals the beginning of a haka or waiata-a-ringa.
By this guy….
“There’s the boys doing the haka dance,” remarks commentator Chris Harrison, the Ru Paul of The Bachelor US, “and that can only mean one thing… Noo Zealand.”
That can only mean one thing… I’m about to shit my pants with embarrassment.
Fascination fought with despair as I watched four white guys and one a-bit-brown one in Hawaiian pa’u, anklets and $2 Shop stick on tribal tattoos placed literally everywhere, barking “Ka ma tee, ka ma tee, korr korr” like deranged goblins. Basically, exactly the same nonsense that got a bunch of students’ asses beat in the ‘70s.
The most disappointing part is that two actual New Zealanders followed behind this bleak, hammy display and were: Totally. Fine. With it.
Lily yells: “Give it up for these boys!” while Ally simply screeches “Waaaaah haka!” because words are hard. Either Jordan is so forgettable he’s turned invisible or he’s not there, who’s to say. I’m not a scientist.
Much like the “Māori tribesman” bit in Zoolander 2: We’re Too Old To Be Making Zoolander 2, or this guy who wrote a book about how the natives of New Zealand will all be dead soon, there’s not much you can do to affect the attitudes of people who couldn’t point to your country on a world map let along understand the complexities of tikanga Māori. But perhaps we might have expected our NZ representatives to stand up for their country a little better, give us a little more mana on the world stage, even if there’s only 50 people watching.
Future Kiwi international reality TV representatives, for the love of god: see something, say something.
Watch the clip here.