One of this year’s must-see moments of NZ television aired at 10am on a quiet Sunday morning and almost everybody missed it.
It’s not often that New Zealand television presents debate as you’d imagine it: critical, emotional, and at risk of derailing at any moment. The last election debates between party leaders, though pitched as the pinnacle of verbal jousting, were anything but. New Zealanders are simply too self-conscious to express their honest opinions publicly. That is, until Tau Henare said Once Were Warriors is crap and dropped the n-word on live TV at 10am on a Sunday.
It wasn’t a special Sunday, in fact, it was two days ago.
The show is Marae, a weekly current affairs show promising “your window to the Māori world.” Typically hosted by Miriama Kamo or Scotty Morrison, this episode is instead chaired by Jenny-May Clarkson and the two major stories are the appointment of Wally Haumaha as deputy police commissioner, and an interview with Alan Duff.
Somehow, despite a fiery debate around Wally Haumaha’s appointment (that is very much worth a watch), it’s the Alan Duff segment that brings the pull quotes. In less than 15 minutes of morning television, the following, and more, is said.
Alan Duff on his childhood
I saw things and experienced things that no child should. I think it broke most of my siblings, maybe it killed one of them. Yeah, I think it was shit. But others will say ‘well that was the making of you’, and it was.
Alan Duff responds to Māori academics who said Once Were Warriors reinforces negative Māori stereotypes
I’m not a fan of the Māori academics. I think they’re just as cowardly as their Pākehā colleagues, up there in their ivory towers making pronouncement down on the rest of us ordinary folk.
Alan Duff responds to critics who say he likes to put the boot into Māori
I would like to put the boot into my critics. I would love that. Nothing would give greater pleasure than to put the boot into these cowardly people who attack me from behind the pā walls. So what do I say to my critics? Nothing. I got nothing to say to you.
A clip of Duff speaking to a primary school assembly. He asks the audience if they think he had a good life. There are affirmative murmurings. He asks again. The kids chorus “Yeeees”. He retorts “Well I didn’t.” The kids look confused.
Alan Duff on if he’s proud to be Māori
I’m hugely proud to be Māori, but I don’t have to buy this version shoved on me. They’re not going to shove any kind of version of being Māori onto me.
Alan Duff on if he’s mellowed
Have I mellowed? I think I’ve always been fairly mellow but I don’t get pushed around.
Jenny-May Clarkson back in studio
Hhhmm that’s fair to say. Mellowed? Not sure.
Māori academic Ella Henry on Duff’s comments about Māori academics
I don’t see myself as representing some kind of apologia for every Māori who’s got a degree. I’ve taught predominantly Māori and I’ve been able to be part of literally thousands of Māori’s journey through university so I’m not going to worry about his critique of Māori academics like there’s some kind of stereotype of us. Just like there’s some kind of stereotype of Māori men. They’re all brutes and Māori academics are all wankers.
Former ACT Party member Donna Awatere Huata
Ella had a very violent childhood and so did I, and we move on. I think it’s important for Alan to, in a sense, go through a bit of decolonisation training because he’s reflecting a lot of the stereotypes and myths about our New Zealand people in the New Zealand Herald, which is why they have him, obviously. Every article that he does is basically putting the boot in and we’re not his critics, we actually love him. We just deserve a little bit of love back.
Donna Awatere Huata on Alan Duff’s perception of Māori men
If we could get Alan to have a session with Anne Salmond and talk about how gentle our men were. All of the stories that the early commentators make about how gentle and what loving fathers we have and colonisation has produced the monsters that he describes.
A collection of thoughts on Once Were Warriors
Ella Henry: I thought it was an important milestone in Māori history. That book and that film started a conversation that I think is still really important and I applaud him for that.
Donna Awatere Huata: He produced a masterpiece. That’s the fact of the matter, it is a masterpiece.
Co-founder of Korowai Tumanako, Russell Smith: It is a masterpiece and it started a conversation but I’m not sure how that conversation unfolded was healthy for Māori men and women.
Former National Party MP Tau Henare: Once Were Warriors is not a masterpiece. It’s a sad story about gang violence and that. You know what’s a masterpiece? The Chronicles of Narnia, that’s a masterpiece [hard cut to Russell Smith laughing].
And this exchange between Huata and Henare
DAH: it is a masterpiece.
TH: No it’s not, it’s crap. There’s no doubt that he can write a good story.
DAH: Give him his due.
TH: Absolutely give him his due. But get over the fact that he continually bags Māori.
DAH: He just doesn’t know any better.
TH: He’s the only nigger that does that.
DAH: He just doesn’t know any better. He needs Dame Anne Salmond.
TH: He needs a clip around the ears.
Soon after, the segment and the show ends. It’s almost noon. Families are getting home from church. Others are on their way to church. Few are watching TV. Which means few witnessed live the most explosive 15 minutes of broadcast New Zealand television in a long, long while.
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.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.