Alex Casey sits down with Boganologist Dave Snell and his mate Fro, stars of TV2’s docuseries Bogans, to find out what’s actually going on beneath the leather jackets and car exhaust fumes.
I was embarrassed to be sipping a peppermint tea next to two of New Zealand’s premiere bogans. “Let me know if you want any more hot water” the waitress cooed, as I wished I had ordered something with a bit more grunt. Luckily, it wasn’t just me that was wrecking their rough metal vibe. A crooning boy band ballad swelled through the small French-themed cafe, it was pretty much the perfect situation to get down to the nitty gritty of the beer-fueled Bogan world. I informed them that we were listening to the dulcet tones of Backstreet Boys ‘Incomplete’. “I’m so glad I didn’t know that,” said Fro. “I didn’t know it either!” Dave cut in, defensively. Once we had established where we were all at musically, it was time to talk about TV2’s new documentary series Bogans.
Promising “beers, boobs, and burnouts”, the show explores the bogan community in Hamilton from the inside. Centering around self-proclaimed bogan and PhD-holding Boganologist Dave Snell, it’s a subcultural study featuring good mates, killer pranks and a fair amount of amateur pole dancing. Like lifestyle-reality shows The GC and Jersey Shore, we’re given our key characters in the guitar-shredding opening credits. There’s Kate Mate, Dr Dave, Fro and Anton, all leading us into this hazy Hamilton world where Justin Bieber CD’s get sledgehammered and wet t-shirt contests are par for the course.
Dave: I’ve always been into heavy metal and hard rock, and when I moved to Hamilton people started calling me a bogan. I started doing some undergrad research into boganism, and then went onto my Masters, and my supervisor suggested I do a PhD.
I did my doctorate in social psychology that looked at processes of identity and community called ‘The Everyday Bogans’. I used Bogans as the case study for all the processes. People took a lot of interest in the term ‘Boganology’ and a lot of opportunities started to arise.
Had you already identified yourself as a bogan, or is it something that you have to be given by other people?
Dave: I think I found out about it from other people, and then realised it was the perfect way to describe who I am as a person.
Fro: I never thought of myself as a bogan, but other people gave me the name. I’m not ashamed of it, I wear it with pride. If it means getting into the music and hanging out with like-minded people, I’m happy to own it.
How does someone become a bogan? What would I have to do if I wanted to be one?
Dave: It’s a frame of mind. Bogans are just New Zealand’s national identity taken to an extreme. We pride ourselves on being easy going, having a beer with your mates and a barbeque – that sort of thing. It’s from a working class culture, sharing time with similar people. That’s how the community functions.
[The song in cafe changes to ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ by Stevie Wonder]
Why is Hamilton in particular such a bogan stronghold? And maybe certain West Auckland regions?
Dave: It’s the working class culture. The stereotypical jobs that you associate bogans with are working class occupations, Hamilton fits perfectly within that. It’s urban enough that it has these bigger groups of people, and then you have the smaller satellite towns like Morrinsville and Te Awamutu. There’s a lot of bogans there. It’s a balance between having enough working class people in working class jobs and having enough room to drive your car around.
Fro: It’s all about getting the right combination between urban and rural. Even though there is about 100,000 people in Hamilton, it’s still very much a farming community and everyone knows each other.
Why does the bogan community continue to thrive?
Dave: We are just so meshed into New Zealand society that people can recognise the symbolism and celebrate our culture regularly. As kiwis, even if we aren’t within a bogan culture, we still are familiar with the traits and view it affectionately.
Fro: Everyone can relate to “work hard play hard”
The only other big TV representation we’ve seen of Boganism has been in Outrageous Fortune, how does that compare to reality?
Dave: Outrageous had more of a focus on the criminal side of things, which might not be accurate for everyone. But everything else from the attitudes to the clothing was spot on.
Fro: Outrageous Fortune started representing quite negative stereotypes of bogans, but I think it really turned around and portrayed them in a positive light by the end. We are all just people, at the end of the day.
Is that what you are hoping Bogans has achieved?
Fro: I think that is something we have wanted across all the projects – getting across that bogans are just everyday people who like particular things. We just like our music a bit louder and we maybe drink a bit more. You can be a lawyer, and be at a concert with a plumber – there’s no class at gigs. Music brings people together like that, it’s like The Force. I want people to know that we aren’t just absolute munters.
Are there things in the show that you wouldn’t normally have done?
Fro: Actually, when we went to West Fest there was this one scary ride that went up and spun around. I got talked into doing it and luckily I was too fat to fit in my seat safely.
Dave: I don’t even know if it will make it onto the show, but we went to a pumpkin carving carnival.
How do you make a pumpkin bogan?
Fro: We painted up one pumpkin to look like a member of Kiss, and put a whole lot nails in the other one to make it look like it had a mohawk. We put a chain in its nose, and someone stole the chain.
Did you find it hard to “be yourselves” in front of the camera crew?
Fro: People would always tell us to be ourselves, tell us we were doing great, but then ask us to repeat the entire same conversation from a different angle. That was difficult to do. It was very hard to not look at the camera.
Did you rope in all of your buddies to be in it? Were they tough to convince?
Dave: Not really. With all of our projects, we always try and involve local musicians in what we do. We have the attitude that if someone gets their foot in the door, they hold it open for as long as possible so as many people can follow them. Bands do that with promoting each other, and we tried to do that too, getting the camera pointed at as many of our mates as possible.
Fro: You don’t shit on your mates, basically.
[‘Wish You Well’ by Bernard Fanning starts playing]
What’s next for you after Bogans Dave? Will you be branching out into any other New Zealand subcultures?
Dave: I’m keen on the straight edge movement, and have a fascination with Magic: The Gathering. In an episode of Bogans we went to Armageddon, and I find those groups of fans really interesting as well. There are quite strong links between comic book culture and metal culture, like Kiss released a series of comic books.
Fro: Weren’t they printed in their own blood?
Dave: That’s right, apparently the ink got mixed up and their blood ended up in an issue of Sports Illustrated. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ve never let truth get in the way of a good story.
Bogans airs on TV2 Thursdays at 9pm, click here to catch up on TVNZ Ondemand
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This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.