Morningside 4 Life!

Everybody always complains about global warming as if it was nothing but bad news. I’m as guilty here as the next person. So I wanted to take a moment to set the record straight, by bringing to your attention one of the major benefits of global warming.

Global warming has already led to rising sea levels worldwide and the problem is expected to get much worse. In its report on global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said it expects global sea levels to rise by between 20 and 90 cm this century, and to rise further after that. The rising sea levels will wipe whole nations off the map and displace millions of people, producing a massive refugee problem with serious economic implications and leading to violent conflict over resettlement [here].

“Dealing with environmental refugees will have a much more serious impact on the global economy and global security in fact than what wars have ever done to this planet,” said Rolph Payet, a presidential adviser from the African island nation of the Seychelles.

As things stand, even by conservative estimates, rising sea levels are expected to make some islands uninhabitable within less than a decade; the island nation of Tuvalu will be entirely underwater by 2050 [here]. In other island nations, such as Kiribati and Vanuatu, rising seas have already displaced local populations, driving people out of more low-lying coastal villages and producing large groups refugees in need of resettlement [here]. A bit further afield, at least one inhabited island in the Andaman and Nicobar chain was already  borderline enough that the Boxing Day Tsunami destroyed it completely-wiped it off the map.

But that’s the negative side of the picture… and as I said there is a positive side. All those refugees have to go somewhere, and they will bring with them a rich cultural heritage. While the Australian government knocked back requests by Tuvalu to resettle its citizens displaced by the impact of global warming, New Zealand agreed to accept an annual quota of refugees [here] – no doubt mindful of the cultural enrichment that immigrants have already brought to the country. The New Zealand city of Auckland is already the largest Polynesian city in the world in large part because of past immigrants and refugees from other Pacific island nations. And it is in the richly-diverse, globalized, multi-ethnic Auckland suburb of Morningside where we find bro’Town.

brotown_leafbro’Town, New Zealand’s first animated TV show, hit the airwaves in 2004 and has since gone through 5 seasons. It follows the adventures and misadventures of five boys from the Morningside community, their friends and family. As more and more islanders are forced to flee the rising seas, places like Morningside will become ever more diverse, with new immigrants joining the older ones, like the residents of bro’Town – the Samoan brothers Vale and Valea, Sione from Tonga, Jeff da Maori (a native Kiwi, mate), Mack – half Scottish, half Samoan and all Kiwi, Abo the Australian Aboriginal, the South African Joost van der Van Van, Fong from Hong Kong and all the other members of this happy, globalized community.

bro’Town is the brain child / love child of the comedy and acting group, the Naked Samoans, who were also responsible for the 2006 film, Sione’s Wedding (aka “Samoan Wedding” in the USA). Over the past few seasons, an amazing selection of A-list New Zealand figures have made guest appearances on the show, including New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess), Keisha Castle Hughes (star of The Whale Rider) and members of the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks.

The show received some criticism when it was first aired. Academics argued that bro’Town‘s depictions were racist and reenforced prejudices about Pacific Islanders and Maori. When asked about the show’s racism in interviews, the Naked Samoans responded that they made fun of everyone. In fact, however, the show has quite a complex take on race, ethnicity and identity in New Zealand, and while it does make fun of everyone it is significant that whites, when they appear, tend to come off the worst (with the possible exception of Abo the Aboriginal, and Aussies more generally) and that the show is dominated by the non-white residents of Morningside. The closest the show gets to a regular white character is the South African immigrant kid, Joost – who despite his apparent racism and overt hostility to the Morningside crew in most episodes is given sympathetic and nuanced treatment in at least one episode. This is in keeping with the show’s powerful interest in and exploration of issues of immigrant experience and identity.

Sadly, the upcoming episode of season 5 of bro’Town is the last for the show, but you can still get to know the boys from Morningside on DVD and online. The very first episode of bro’Town is available in a high-quality stream on the NZ On Screen website [here], and most if not all of the episodes can be found on YouTube, through the channel for Firehorse Films – the makers of bro’Town – and in videos uploaded by fans [eg, here]. Seasons 1 through 4 are available on DVD (in PAL and NTSC formats) from the shop on the official bro’Town website [here], and presumably elsewhere as well, and no doubt Season 5 will be available before too long.

No doubt as sea levels continue to rise, new communities of displaced Pacific Islanders will spring up in New Zealand and Australia and elsewhere, giving rise to “One, Two, Many Morningsides” – and with luck to more shows like bro’Town as well. I can’t wait. Till, then…

morningsidegraf

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