Mixed Messages: Māori/Pasifika Masculinities and Aotearoa/New Zealand Identity in Television Advertising, 2000–2019


  • Matthew Bannister




There is an ongoing association between masculinity and New Zealand identity which can be traced in popular culture and television advertising. Until the early 2000s, white (Pākehā) men/homosocial “Kiwi blokes” predominated but television advertising has since featured a steady increase in Māori/Pasifika men and boys, which also reflects their greater prominence in local popular culture (in comedy, for example). Similar to representations of African American men, Māori/Pasifika masculinities are subject to binary stereotyping: generally more positive in advertisements for commercial products and more negative in anti-drug public service advertisements. These categories relate to the incorporation of non-white subjects into colonial, patriarchal discourse (and shift according to its imperatives). One important shift internationally is the emergence of non-white fatherhood as a way of signalling ethnic diversity while also reaffirming colonial and neoliberal values. There is a related shift from the male “hard bodies” of the 1980s and 1990s towards a more relational, “softer” masculinity; locally, there is a shift away from the “hard” Kiwi bloke (or non-white sporting “warrior”) towards “postfeminist fatherhood.” This features kindly, often humorous paternalism and “magical” scenarios, including literal and metaphorical father/son relations, which may, in the local context, take on connotations of tāngata whenua welcoming manuhiri (Pākehā) into “their land.” A “progressive” discourse of positively imaging Māori/Pasifika men as implicit “fathers of the nation” (and clearly there is a slippage here between Māori and Pasifika through the use of ethnically ambiguous actors) justifies heteronormativity and reconfirms the homosocial emphasis in New Zealand identity as well as neoliberal values.


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