Brand New Zealanders: The Commodification of Polynesian Youth Identity in bro'Town
Thesis DisciplineMass Communication
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Maori and Pacific Island youth are the 'it kids' of Aotearoa New Zealand television today, as the exceptional success of the television series bro'Town attests. Corporate sponsors clamour to associate their brands with the hit programme, from international heavyweights including Coke and Vodafone to local players such as G-Force. Likewise, celebrities from at home and abroad proclaim their support for bro'Town in guest appearances on the show. But, what is at stake when the visibility of Polynesian youth in the media is so inextricably intertwined with the commercial imperatives of major corporations and pop-culture celebrities? This paper attends to an absence of critical response regarding the role of commercial influences in the representation of Polynesian youth identity in bro'Town. In striving to be popular, contemporary television in Aotearoa New Zealand often addresses the preconceptions of its target audience. The commodification of Polynesian youth identity in bro'Town, therefore, may be interpreted as a marketing strategy to tap into a popular ideological shift towards multiculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand without disrupting the dominant ideology of white, middle-class masculinity from which capitalism derives. Although bro'Town offers specific challenges to popular stereotypes of Polynesian youth culture, the discursive construction of Maori and Pacific youth identities in the show is still circumscribed by a consumerist ethos that demands adherence to Western capitalist culture in Aotearoa New Zealand. Bro'Town operates in complicity with pre-existing binaries between masculinity/femininity and heterosexual/homosexual and thus implicitly reinscribes the status quo for youth in Aotearoa New Zealand today. Moreover, bro'Town's multicultural ethic is largely contrary because the series fails to contest popular stereotypes about other ethnic minorities. In Brand New Zealanders, it is argued that the corporate co-option of Polynesian youth culture in bro'Town ultimately does less to pry open new discursive spaces for the development of youth identity than to operate as a vehicle for the deliberate shrinking of consumer choice.