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“Hope and Wire”: Disaster & collaboration

Written By: - Date published: 3:09 pm, July 4th, 2014 - 10 comments
Categories: christchurch earthquake, class war, disaster, socialism, tv - Tags:

Responses to TV3’s miniseries, Hope and Wire, based on the Christchurch quakes & aftermath, have been mixed.  The main cause of the division is likely to be that it is an Auckland outsiders* view of the events, and that it deals with some general themes.  For people in Christchurch the experience of the quakes are very raw, they are still dealing with the deep impacts, and many feel they have been neglected by the authorities, and NZ in general. (The opening 2 episodes can be viewed here).


Stuff’s review is here, with many comments from the public added underneath. Russell Brown’s review and comments by others here.

The soap format, focused on people and relationships, suits the main theme, of hedonistic individualism versus community collaboration.  I explained more about this, and the accusations of clunky delivery of the drama here.

Responses indicate that many people in Christchurch feel the drama does not represent a recognisable Christchurch, or ring true with respect to their experiences of their quakes.  This would be a very likely response from people still dealing with the aftermath, especially if they feel their struggles have been neglected.

A particular criticism was of the mis-representation of Christchurch as being dominated by hedonistic, binge boozing people, vomiting in the gutters on Friday nights: a city where stereotypical skinheads run rampant, dispense violence and willfully break the law.

The opening scenes are of partying, glass breaking, young people, speeding noisily through the hedonistic streets in cars.  These scenes are immediately followed by the introduction to Len (played by Bernard Hill) and his partner Joyce (played by Rachel house) walking home.  Here Len makes explicit that the programme is as much about general themes, as the specifics of the Christchurch experience: themes of inter-generational tensions, and the “neoliberal revolution”; of wealth seeking individualism versus community solidarity and collaboration.


Len on the couch

In his Brit accent, he says of the people partying:

The leaders of tomorrow; the “I” generation. When I was their age, we were organising revolutions.[…] The only revolution this lot are likely to lead is a stampede to the stock exchange.

I think he is talking partly about his partying skinhead neighbours. In a Brecthian move that breaks the narrative, Len then addresses the audience directly:

When I first came to New Zealand in 76.  1976. It was, it was like a little socialist paradise. It was a slightly more boring version of Rumania. And then they sold it.  And the rich got richer, and the poor got poorer. A lot poorer. Unfortunately that included me and Joycie.

But, you know what, when Christchurch got the tremors, I thought, “You know if this gets really bad, maybe those sons and daughters of all those rich out there, might stop vomiting every Friday night and join the revolution.”

This makes it explicit that the programme is as much about the state of NZ as it is about Christchurch.

The first 2 episodes (shown end to end) then proceed to show how selected characters respond to the quake, with many working collaboratively to help those in need.

Len takes on the exploitative landlord Greggo (played by Joel Toebeck) [19 minutes into the video]. Rather than accept the offer of not paying rent for their damaged accommodation, Len negotiates a deal for all the landlord’s renters in the neighbourhood paying less rent. Len says to Greggo,

Ah, right. I see. divide and rule, then, eh, yeah?  I’ll tell you something.  I’m not having those young men next door ripped off.  they are the leaders of tomorrow, and I am their representative. So the United Tenants of Muntville, will pay 25% of the rent.

They negotiate and agree on them all paying 30% of the rent.



As the episode proceeds, we see various characters working to support each other.  The student army gets into swing early on.  Some young women decide that life is short, and they don’t want to die virgins.  But when one of them, Holly, soon finds out sex was not all it is cracked up to be, and she has some itches, her two friends supportively accompany her to the STD clinic.

Then, in the immediate aftermath of the devastating February quake, Holly finds her brother Tim being bundled, unconscious, into Greggo’s car.  Holly is there for Tim in total support.  Greggo, is on the spot helping out with the causalities, and drives them to the hospital.

Joycie is a stand out character for me in this episode.

Rachel_House Joycie Hope and Wire

In the aftermath of the February quake, still in shock, she trudges back through the liquefaction, carrying her bags of shopping, as no buses are running.  She doesn’t go straight home, but stops to help an elderly, housebound woman. Then heads home to where she takes a leading role in organising the neighbourhood survival procedures.

In spite of all the shortcomings quality-wise, I am intrigued by the main themes, and I have started to care about some of the characters.

On the other hand, I can understand why many Cantabrians will be angry that the specific details of their struggles have been neglected – again- whole more universal themes are pursued.

*Edit: Russell Brown quotes director Gaylene Preston as calling the programme “a postcard to Auckland”.  Others have called it a northern view of Christchurch and the quakes.


10 comments on ““Hope and Wire”: Disaster & collaboration”

  1. Sacha 1

    “it is an Auckland view of the events” – no, both writers are from Wellington.

    • karol 1.1

      Thanks. That comment was due to me collapsing a couple of things I read. Russell Brown stated that director Gaylene Preston described the programme as a “postcard to Auckland”. Others on Stuff, called it both a “northern view” and an “Auckland view”.

      Will amend.

  2. just saying 2

    I liked it more as time went on. I think it was brave to try and weave together the lives of very disparate people, and although that seemed to lead to cliched beginnings, I think over time it will be richer for it. I was surprised by how ambitious the programme was in scope – the Christchurch quakes as a drama exploring New Zealand of today. Something tamer would probably be less awkward and clunky, but I’m pretty sick of smooth and slick and it opens the door for possibilities that a more polished apporach might not allow.

    There has been a lot of criticism of the programme misrepresenting Christchurch, but it seemed (more as it progressed) that it isn’t really about Christchurch or the quakes.

    There is lots to criticise. My small bugbear is that (especially in the beginning) women were being shown being quite passively distressed, while the men were shown taking action and being more stoic. My own limited experience of sudden disaster is of how stereotypes are immediately swept away.

  3. Shona 3

    Rachel House, Whangarei raised and a keen participant in the local drama scene as a child /teenager. She is a positive role model for all those aspiring thespians who aren’t afraid to try and make a career in NZ.

  4. ianmac 4

    The program was unsettling but so it should be. I am glad I watched it and many of the critics were Christchurchians but the essence of human responses both good people and bad people coping with chaos was pretty good. What the city should be proud of is the way that people in neighbourhoods gathered and helped each other. Even a rotten cup of tea was symbolic of good intentions.
    I am quite prepared to be unsettled again next week.

  5. Grumpy 5

    It were shite!

  6. Philj 6

    Grumpy, that’s the rural rivers bro.

    • Grumpy 6.1

      It was dire. Just saying it was ok because Gaylene Preston did it is stupid. It gave an Auckland view of Christchurch which was completely off beam and trivialized a seriously traumatic time in all Cantabrians lives.
      Poorly acted, scripted and directed, what more can I say.

  7. Philj 7

    Fair comment,Grumps. I do agree that this drama doc gives an ‘Auckland’ view in as much that ‘Auckland’ (media)(except Campbell Live) had enough of the Christchurch about 6 weeks after the last big one. And most of the political power (and embarrassment for under performing Government response) is in Auckland. IMHOthe public of NZ wanted to help Cantabs more and this Gov has done the minimum. This, I suspect will be the underlying message of Hope and Wire. I am surprised that NZOA funded a bunch of lefties to tell this story of govt underperformance. I await the election results in Christchurch.

  8. Populuxe1 8

    The stereotypes were cringeworthy. Christchurch is made to look entirely populated by bogans and skinheads – I actually can’t remember the last time I saw a skinhead tbh. Pakeha males are all depicted as awful, selfish human beings – absolutely denying the reality that EVERYONE was a trooper and amazing to everyone else in those horrible days. All the usual prejudices and patterns of behaviour temporarily ceased to exist. The Bad White Man stereotype is every bit as reductive and contrived as the Magical Polynesian cliche (basically a variation on this http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MagicalNegro )
    and the grotesque overuse of the word “munted” really grated.

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