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Subversion and Ambivalence: Pacific Islanders on New Zealand Prime Time

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Title:Subversion and Ambivalence: Pacific Islanders on New Zealand Prime Time
Authors:Pearson, Sarina
Keywords:Aotearoa New Zealand
Milburn Place
Pacific Islands
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LC Subject Headings:Oceania -- Periodicals.
Date Issued:1999
Publisher:University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Citation:Pearson, S. 1999. Subversion and Ambivalence: Pacific Islanders on New Zealand Prime Time. The Contemporary Pacific 11 (2): 361-88.
Abstract:Representations of Pacific Islanders in film and mainstream media have often
been negative and marginalizing. Opportunities for Pacific Island communities
to present counter images, express resistance, or enter into dialogue with these
stereotypes have been limited. However, some instances of resistance have
emerged recently, not on film but on broadcast television in New Zealand.
Because the "small screen" is less capital-intensive than film, and because public
service broadcasting provides some support for minority programming in New
Zealand, television is a significant instrument through which Pacific Islanders
counteract hegemony. The sketch Milburn Place was one instance in which television
comedy could be potentially subversive insofar as it made Samoans "visible"
on the New Zealand mediascape. It provided a forum in which to critique
social inequality and racial intolerance as well as celebrate an emerging New
Zealand Samoan identity. This paper discusses and documents how Milburn
Place used carnivalesque strategies to disempower stereotypes and to raise serious
sociopolitical issues in a "safe" arena. However, the nature of comedy, and
parody in particular, ensures that multiple and contradictory interpretations
occur. Ultimately, Milburn Place negotiated an ambivalent path between subversive
and reactionary readings, under the exigencies imposed by commercial television
and New Zealand's majority culture.
Appears in Collections: TCP [The Contemporary Pacific], 1999 - Volume 11, Number 2

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