“They Are Not Us” – On The True Meaning Of An Impending Filmic Catastrophe

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By now, many of will have seen the latest tranche of revelations from the leaked script for ‘They Are Us’. They give new meaning to Marx’s famous aphorism that history occurs the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

I shall not say that it gets worse following the opening massacre. But the escalating tide of malfeasance certainly becomes more perplexing in its scope and ambit. We can understand intellectually – even as we disagree with – the logic of putting a reconstruction of the tragedy onto celluloid. It is supposed to be a film about the response to that atrocity, after all. Although that does not make it compassionate or in good taste to include said scene – and nor does it justify the ‘liberties’ taken with the dying moments of cherished loved ones for tawdry dramatic impact.

Yet it is these subsequent scenes of which we have heard today which serve to illustrate the true purpose of this film’s production.

In it, we hear Simon Bridges – or, rather, an actor playing a character called Simon Bridges, who appears to be but loosely based upon the real man – making statements like, and I quote “Come for our guns, you might get bullets.” Or, in case you hadn’t quite got the undercurrent – “If one of those worshippers had one of these they could have stopped this tragedy in seconds.”

Now, these are not lines the real Simon Bridges – dare I say “our” Simon Bridges – has ever, to my knowledge, uttered. Quite the contrary in fact. National, despite some criticism from some of its more traditional support base, supported the changes in firearms legislation brought in following the massacre. One could fairly suggest, as journalist Henry Cooke did, that Bridges might almost have a case for defamation in terms of how inaccurately he is portrayed here. It’s so bad that the lefty-liberal sector of Kiwi twitter is up in arms defending Simon Bridges.

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And nor is this calumny confined exclusively to the then-Leader of the Opposition.

David Seymour appears to have been transmogrified into a Christian evangelical up in arms about Ardern on a religious basis. Now I don’t deny that Seymour can come across as something of a fundamentalist – but he is a free market fundamentalist, not a Christian one. And nothing like the figure they’re put in his place – who is so sufficiently divergent that at least the writers chose to rename him as ‘Solomon Marsh’.

Winston, meanwhile, has … an array of appearances within the leaked material, including uttering a Maori proverb in Te Reo during the course of a crisis meeting. And while I absolutely don’t disagree that Winston could certainly intone something resonant during a big event, having seen him do it with my own eyes … it’s always been European ‘high culture’ (or, in one case, admittedly, Star Wars) or something from the Old Testament. Presumably the writers felt that an older Maori politician in a key supporting role would make for an admirable opening for some sort of “Magical Native American” / “Noble Savage” style trope.

Although that’s partially because I’m not sure an American audience would know what to make of, nor how to handle Winston. He isn’t Trump. He can occasionally sound like Trump. But he’s the wrong colour (neither orange nor white) to actually be Trump in their own domestic political narrative even before we get to both his role in the story and his actual politics in years previous.

But you see, that’s the key to what’s going on here – indeed, why this film has somehow been green-lit in the first place.

It’s been billed as based on (recent) history – a retelling, perhaps, or an exploration. In truth, it is neither.

What it’s actually based on is American politics. What it actually seeks to explore is their own domestic situation – or, rather, how some over there would assumedly quite like their domestic situation to perhaps (one day) be.

We have become, collectively, a dramatic device. We, in this film at least, from the greatest to the least of us – We Are Not Us. We are just window-dressing, staging-props, a veneer of Kiwiness to be draped over more audience-familiar American set-pieces congealed and carved out precisely for that decidedly foreign (to us, to these events, at any rate) ‘domestic’ market.

It is an appropriation and an exploitation wherein anywhere and everywhere and anything becomes nowt but a tawdry bowdlerized morality-play setting for the Americans’ own domestic circumstances.

The only story they are interested in telling is their own one, endlessly re-garbed as from somewhere else.

Hence why we have Simon Bridges, who in real life supported the government’s firearms law change, being reduced to a mouthpiece for NRA style memetic talking-points. Because there has to be a ‘villain’ – and instead of the actual criminal of March 15 in such a role, we have a pantomime political pastiche.

In truth, this is not a novel experience in some ways. Authors and dramatists have done this sort of thing for centuries. Shakespeare wrote plays notionally set in Ancient Rome yet treating issues much more immediately relevant to Elizabethan England – and featuring his actors anachronistically garbed in pantaloons and hearing clocktowers chime, to boot. Although I do not seek to compare those works to “They Are Us”. The former are, unquestionably, works of great literature whatever their inaccuracies. The latter, shall only prove memorable precisely due to the egregiousness of its inaccuracies and outright foundational insensitivity to various of its notional subjects.

Effects which can have us all legitimately up in arms about how our country, our people, and our politics are being downright vandalized in their disfigurement for entertainment-educative purpose. Because the “Us” of “They Are Us”, as we can quite clearly demonstrate, are not in fact “Us” at all.

Now this should not be read, of course, as an attempt to impute that the various political figures “portrayed” in this script are the most salient victims in all of this. They have unquestionably been unfairly mis-represented, in some cases to quite ludicrous extent. Yet that pales in scope to what the victims of March 15 have found themselves in for as the result of this clumsy co-option of their story in order for the Americans to tell themselves something about themselves with the availment of popcorn and a cinematic score.

Should this film somehow still manage to go ahead, it shall prove to be not only a ‘farce’ but also a tragedy and a travesty into the bargain.

51 COMMENTS

  1. Nek Minnit we find out it was to be funded by the Labour Party to be used as a campaign ad for the next election. Don Lemon on radio nz. Rachel maddow prime time on tv3.

  2. Should this film somehow still manage to go ahead, it shall prove to be not only a ‘farce’ but also a tragedy and a travesty into the bargain.

    Totally agree.
    Am really disappointed that Jacinda is being so softly softly about it.

      • Snow White, would you prefer the PM waded in, boots-and-all, and gave this production even more free exposure than it is already getting?
        Sadly it would seem a lot of the commentators here want to use the proposed production for airing their political dislike of the PM/Goverment; surely this issue should be beyond political biases.

        • What are you worried about, Peter?

          Do you think the film could serve as a Catalyst for a terrorist attack?

          I don’t think a film would do that. A tech company is more likely to.

  3. If only there was some sort of legislation enabling the censorship of incitement to hate the National Party or ACT Party …

    • Dude, the borders are unlikely to go back to pre corona levels in Helen Clark’s live time. All the cheap imported labour is over, no secound class citizens. We are back to full employment theory. We need to protect the jobs we got not canceal them. Your just fighting yesterday’s war by persisting with pre corona tactics and strategies of canceal culture. PROTECT THE JOBS!

  4. Yes it’s a political vehicle for the anti gun lobby in the US, truth be damned.

    Similar misinterpretation was deliberately done in NZ directly after the atrocity, where our firearms owners were compared with the NRA as a smear -we have a very different gun “culture” in NZ- and lies were told over gun crime statistics in order to trample any public pushback on rushed, bad law here.
    Now we have escalating gun crime and Rachel Stewart losing her guns over a rash tweet.

    Sensible gun control is laudable, no one will get it by lying.

    • …but they do get control by lying & that’s what it’s all about. Once you have a crisis, you need to demonize some marginalized group to distract from reality & pass the blame, give yourself emergency powers to deal with the “threat”, crackdown on any opposition, repeat as required.

    • The NRA bogeyman in the States is just that: a diversion where legal gun owners are fallaciously portrayed as a serious problem, when, in reality, the “gun violence epidemic” consists of the vast majority of gun-related homicides being gangsta-on-gangsta killings with illegal firearms, perpetrated in places like Detroit, Baltimore and the South Side of Chicago. Legal gun owners in the South are not the problem.

  5. LOL. Let the movie be done. Sounds like it will make Ishtar and Jaws 3 appear like modern day classics. I’m loving how the left are now trying to make this part of ‘Americana’ when all the creative ‘genius’ behind this gong show is Aotearoan.

    This was likely a wet dream brain fart dreamt up in Simon Wilson’s backyard at the height of the Blairite’s covid honeymoon to be funded by the sheeple through government grants. Unfortunately all the idiots involved in the film didn’t grasp that the other side of woke (and the victims’ families) would find this bad taste hence the woke on woke shit fight that has erupted.

    This has obviously been greenlighted and so far down the track of no return that it now appears impossible to stop this out of control dumpster fire being made otherwise why wouldn’t Nicol pull up sticks now. And of course the Blairite ‘knew nothing’ by doing her best Rene impersonation.

    Lol. This sounds so shit I might actually pay to go see it. It could become the first proper comedy in the last 5 years.

    • “all the creative ‘genius’ behind this gong show is Aotearoan.”
      Writers Frank?Does anyone on here know who wrote this shit?
      Obviously it is scripted to appeal to ‘Merika ” audiences . Why the fuck should we countenance this cultural crap?
      Surely what Bridges said is on record? so direct quotes would be primary school level writing one would think.Does require research tho. So onto the too hard basket.

  6. Thank you. Right from the start, the notion of utilising the Muslim tragedy to showcase the PM as nice guy on the global arena, has looked a shocking error of judgment. I do not expect the Muslim community to accept that awful Autumn day being featured like a Peter Jackson splatter movie for political or other purposes.

  7. Yay Hollywood! Let the yanks do their movie. If it helps their country, so be it. If not, no harm done. NZ might do their own movie after all. And at the end of the day, they are us, let’s enjoy their telling. Life imitating art imitating life. Be free everyone!

      • Peter K My objection to this film has nothing whatsoever to do with politics or political bias. It has to do with the sort of people who we in New Zealand are.

        Respecting the raw grief of the Muslim community, many of whose lives have been permanently broken by those brutal murders, would have been a good place to start – and to stop. Cashing in on them with platitudes about bringing about change to another country’s gun culture, is more than insensitive, it is barbarous.

      • Peter K My objection to this film has nothing whatsoever to do with politics or political bias. It has to do with the sort of people who we in New Zealand are.

        Respecting the raw grief of the Muslim community, many of whose lives have been permanently broken by those brutal murders, would have been a good place to start – and to stop. Cashing in on them with platitudes about bringing about change to another country’s gun culture, is more than insensitive, it is barbarous.

  8. Sounds like a dumpster fire of a sideshow. Meanwhile, No Zealand society is bifurcating horribly… *crickets chirping*

  9. The dilemma is that if you censor this as a load of inaccurate bullshit what are you going to do about ‘Braveheart’ , ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and just about anything you see on Netflix?
    I think people have to realise that the mainstream movie industry manufactures and sells fantasy because that is what the ‘public’ want( or the U.S. public which dwarfs the New Zealand one).
    If you want to see good stuff you have to go to niche producers like Sundance.
    Sam Goldwyn; ‘If I wanted to send a message I’d a made a telegraph company.’

    • But Stevie this is New Zealand, and exploiting the Muslim tragedy inflicted upon all of us by a thoroughly bad little Australian runt, makes us look cheap and tacky. That’s because we are.

      Specious justifications – showcasing a nice caring PM – stopping Americans from shooting each other – won’t change the fact that using the Muslim community to make a quick buck, is pretty cheap and nasty. Politicians being lied about doesn’t matter, they’re whopping great liars themselves, but cashing in on tragedy is gutter.

  10. Confusion reigns over the difference between a movie and a documentary. Can anyone quote a ‘factual’ movie about a person or event that accurately portrays a person/events that has been released in the past? Quote from Tom Hanks on portraying real life characters…I will say things you never said, do things you never did, all in the name of entertainment.

  11. I dunno, if they want to make the film then let them go ahead. Are we not a free country?

    No one s forced to watch it and I most certainly wont be watching it

    We used to be totally against totalitarianism now we seem to be inviting it into our very homes, giving it a cup of tea and telling it to put its feet up and make itself at home.

  12. Don’t worry about it. The globalised system will collapse before this film gets made, commencing with America, which is now literally on fire as a consequence of the idiotic policies promoted and implemented over many decades.

    • Jacinda could take a stance just for once in her life:
      “Hollywood, while I cannot forbid you to make any movie, I expressly forbid you to portray me or any character resembling myself or my Office! If you do so, there will be consequences.”
      That sort of message from Fortune’s No 1 World Leader would probably put an end to the whole thing.

  13. labour deserve this. Adern moping about with a bloody hijab on was gag worthy for it’s sycophantic media attention grabbing. Making a film about it is just inexcusably awful.
    Labour’s only hope is to shrink back into the shadows and hope to Christ it all blows over.
    National, and your minion influencers here? Fuck you. You’d a been in there boots and all too so don’t give me any of your crap. You peddle hate and societal dysfunction with a gleeful criminality to sate the greed of your big business privateer mates so just fuck off!

  14. “The only story they are interested in telling is their own one, endlessly re-garbed as from somewhere else.”

    Isn’t that the truth.

  15. I’m not satisfied. I want to go back and insult the very history and origins as well as the philosophy of European Superiority. Changing the way pakeha live today is not enough. I want to change the way the entire planet view White Supremacy ever since they deleted they history of every indigenous culture of the planet.

    It’s not enough that the racist ideology that lives today is purely insulted. Having Te Puapua gives access to the investment community and now has to most importantly get to work.

    It is rural maori who believe that urban maori have been colonised and need to get back to work creating our own libraries in our own languages and dialects in a truly inclusive fashion. After defeating the Maori Cultures only true rival, Donald Brash, they believe they are the only true rival to govern a new Republic, a new Republic that does not answer to mother England but is answerable solely to the vote.

    Again He Puapua has been in motion for decades.

    There is no such thing as maori separatism and the pakeha academic leaders of the unemployed humanities professional created identity politics to confuse white supremacy only there is no such thing as a supreme being. Now they seek power over them when ironically they seek to drawn down power and wouldn’t be able to.

    He Puapua says (I’m paraphrasing here) there is no such thing as a moral code as humans are inherently evil as humans today have never seen a Nazi let alone one in action. Pure evil is something more than action. White Supremacists call for all of humanity to return to democracy as the White Supremacist believes that the plan of He Puapua could return from the shadows so they need to locate and silence every single person who wants Tino Rangatiratanga and to rewrite history to make people like me seem more deviant.

    In my opinion it is truly evil to rewrite a group of peoples history and make it appear as though one is more devious is to change there very philosophy and to make it appear as though as though I am not truly, evil.

  16. NZ actors or crew or producers should not touch this fatberg of a project with a forty foot proverbial.

    All power to any that take direct action of any peaceful form to send the message–NOT WANTED.

    In the fullness of time many horrors from WWII to Rwanda to Chernobyl were dramatised (and yes some wanker on TDB pointed out that WWII movies appeared quickly after the event) but so what? it was analogue times. If this stinker does get launched, no one is obliged to pay to see it, or see it at all.

  17. It could be said that Jacinda Ardern is the master of politics as a performing art, and that “They are us” is Hollywood’s remake of the original New Zealand production. None of it should be confused with the truth.

    • “ Master ” of performing arts politics ? Master ? No. Jacinda=woman= mistress. This is gender appropriation, sexist condescension, and grammatical error. If you can’t get the nouns correct, you could be in a spot of bother when the speech police inflict their pronouns upon us. Seeing these guardians of the undercut hair cockatoo strut can be scary – they’re not thinkers, they’re reactors, and dead serious.

  18. I think the reference was actually to the “mostly peaceful” BLM and co. civil disturbances that persist across the country to this day. Certainly more of a concrete concern than the wholly invisible climate emergency that is so serious and pressing, that nobody can actually point to it.

  19. Curwen this is an excellent summing as to how this horrific Ao/NZ event is seemingly being ‘doctored’ to be consumed by the USA market. That the USA has been forever accepting of such Hollywood misconstructions goes a long way to explaining some of their problems; and unfortunately, by our close association, ours also.

  20. Getting upset with Hollyweird for them doing what they’re supposed to do, which is to make movies based loosely on a real story. It’s kinda dumb to even think that a movie maker has a moral obligation to the public when the determining factor of a movie’s success is how much money it makes.
    So let the real actor(s) act and tell stories and a pretend PM figure out how to build some fuck’n houses!

    • DennyPaoa, Don’t we all, including the movie industry, have a ‘moral obligation’ to act with decency and respect towards each other? You seem to be saying that movie makers only responsibility is to make profits; it would be truly sad if this were so. Isn’t the increasing lack of moral responsibility in society the reason such things as ‘hate’ laws become necessary?

      • Don’t be so bloody overly idealist!
        Capitalism and ‘Morality’ are incompatible.

        It’s not likely the movie makers are really considering the morality of whether they should make it or not. I bet you they are thinking that they are going to make money heaps of it from this movie.
        To the point, all of this hoopla is just free publicity.
        More and more people will get suckered into this moral judgment conversation and the film will ultimately make a killing in the box office.
        The moguls will be hoping for protests at the cinema venues that screen the film too. It could become a Oscar winning film if the woke keep on bleeting on about it.

        • I would disagree that “Capatilism and ‘morality’ are incompatiable”. Greed and morality are certainly incompatiable – and greed is present under all forms of financial control.
          I certainly agree that the Producers will milk the controversy for every box office dollar, so Paddy Gowers expose feeds straight into their profits.

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