Pop CultureSeptember 1, 2017

What else can New Zealand society blame on Westside?


After some scared principals blamed Westside for all their woes, Sam Brooks investigates what other carnage the Outrageous Fortune prequel has caused.

Earlier this week, five high school principals in West Auckland blamed Three’s fictional series Westside for driving children away from their schools. Let’s be straight here: this is balls-out stupid. What would that conversation even look like? What parent is sitting down and watching a fictional show set 30 years ago, and then using it to decide their child’s education? What world do you think you’re living in, high school principals?

You might decide to buy some clothing after watching a television show, or you might hear a cool song and go buy it on iTunes after seeing it on a TV show. Those are respectable, common choices to make. You would not change your child’s school after seeing Rita West wear some pretty damn awesome clothes and drink gin-and-tonics with her cool friends Ngaire and Carol.

Honestly, if anything, that would make me want to send my child to a West Auckland school. It’s hard to mix a good G&T.

It’s like blaming Shortland Street for people finding dicks on iPads, or being evil twins, or for blonde surgeons having far too many children. Instead, I would hazard to guess that it’s a fairly complex and well-ingrained series of factors – the perceived quality of private and semi-private schools, the desire for religious people to send their children to a similarly religious school, and the increasingly common tendency for people to commute for their education, work and leisure.

In saying that, culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I decided to do some thinking about what effects Westside has actually had on these innocent times.

A Kiwi and two Aussies.

The trend of Australian actors playing iconic Kiwi roles

I have nothing against Australian actors. I am known to enjoy a good Nicole Kidman or a Cate Blanchett, and if the angles are right, even a Naomi Watts. But Westside is starting a trend of people taking our iconic roles, with Reef Ireland playing Wolf West and Ashleigh Cummings playing Cheryl West (Wikipedia calls her Miller, but that’s a filthy lie).

What next? Chris Hemsworth playing Michael Galvin in I Am Chris: The Unauthorised Michael Galvin Story? The woman who plays Irene from Home and Away playing a tragically recast Yvonne Jefferies? Jacki Weaver playing Helen Clark?

Westside started this trend and it looks set to continue. I for one am not impressed.

Which two of these are wigs? Email us with your guesses!

The continued employment of wig-makers

There are artforms that bring pain to the world, some that bring pleasure and some that bring both. There are artists that do the same.

Wigmakers are people who bring only joy to us. They bring illusion to drag queens, dignity to bald men and volume to women. The higher the hair the closer to heaven, the bigger the wig the bigger the glory. While I might rage against Westside for bringing Australian actors into our iconic New Zealand roles, I welcome the boom in wigmakers that it has given us, because the wigs of one Antonia Prebble are fantastic and need to continue to be made.

Wigmakers bring nothing but joy to us, and in return I wish nothing for them but constant joy.

Rita West or Loretta West?

Being surprised when people don’t look like their grandparents

We all look like some version of those who preceded us. I am told I am the spitting image of my mother, who in turn is more or less a fifty-fifty split of her parents, a man of about 6’4 who was for some reason assigned to work in submarines during the Second World War and a kindly librarian lady. I do not look like either of these people, given that I possess the genes of an entirely different person and ethnicity.

What I’m saying is that it’s fortunate that with the genes of both the West family and the Whatever-Cheryl-West’s-Family-Is Called, it’s very fortunate that they’ve had two people who look exactly like Antonia Prebble.

I am angry that I don’t look exactly like my 6’4 grandpa, and angrier that Westside is perpetuating the myth that I ever could.

The cast of school-ruining Westside.

The likely forthcoming TV prequels

Westside has been a perhaps surprising hit for TV3. With three seasons in the can, and a fourth on the way, it’s nearly got as many seasons as its predecessor. Looking at this success, maybe our drama producers might go and pitch prequels for other seminal and less-than-seminal NZ shows.

Who wouldn’t love seeing what Shortland Street was like in the 70s, or a version of The Strip set in the 20s, or Go Girls during the Depression Era? It’s probably more expensie, less achievable and less buzzy than the 80s, but if you’re going to riff on old ideas for diminishing returns, you could do a lot worse. Melody Ruled/Will Rule, anybody?

The OG Wests.

Starting Outrageous Fortune from the beginning

I never saw Outrageous Fortune when it was on the first time. I instead spent my TV time watching The Hours on a weekly basis, because I was the worst. So when I was on enforced bed rest earlier this year, I decided to start watching it again (on Lightbox, where you can find all the episodes, handily enough). I figured that if I was enjoying Westside, I should figure out the genesis, where all this came from, especially given the actually fine but kind of frustrating year long gap between seasons.

This may or may not surprise you: Outrageous Fortune is a good show. It’s got a cracker cast, and whatever Lang/Griffin hit on in 2005 still really resonates now. Which brings me to my next point…

Queen of New Zealand Television.

Missing Queen of New Zealand Television Robyn Malcolm a lot

Robyn Malcolm, you guys. This is not to say that Antonia Prebble isn’t great, and if there’s a heir to the ‘Queen of New Zealand Television’ mantle that I just made up right now, it would be Antonia Prebble. She’s got the same kind of charisma and watchability that makes Robyn Malcolm so great, and it’s a star power that seems to follow her regardless of what role she plays, onscreen or onstage.

But Robyn Malcolm, you guys. I miss her. She brings something special when she comes onscreen; it’s that rare and frustratingly undefinable star quality. It’s the same thing that Lucy Lawless has. You see her and you immediately buy whatever she’s selling, whether it’s as Agent Anna or that one woman in The Two Towers that sends her son off, or Ellen Crozier who I remember from Shortland Street even now.

Westside makes me miss her, and miss somebody I have never met. That is unacceptable, and it must be answered for.

Click below to catch up on Westside seasons one and two on Lightbox:

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