A couple of months ago there was all sorts of outcry over the latest Air NZ safety video. Like many people that aren’t super-frequent flyer I rushed to YouTube to check out the vid. It was wonderful. A candy-coloured walk of shame through our very best cultural cringe. Here was the try-hard New Zealand attempting to be quirky and show off its difference, its unique quality – ie: looking like the kid-brother of the world. A day late and a dollar short.
Rapping and break-dancing and retracing the quick-steps around a rewrite of a 30-year song was, apparently, our way of engaging “the kids”.
Soon New Zealand was as united as the time we got together to cancel Willy Moon and Natalia Kills. (And hey, good riddance to those jerks). As with the outrage around the bogan-trash “unruly” visitors, this country is at its “best” (worst) when we all band together to gang up and accuse someone of failing, of being a bully of acting terrible. (And we do this, usually, via an act of bullying or two, by acting terrible, by – as human beings – failing…)
It’s a not very secret not very subtle skill we have.
The “It’s Kiwi Safety” video was one for the guilty-pleasure files. A so-bad-it’s-good celebration of just how shit most of our culture is, of just how behind the times and lacking in awareness any mainstream Kiwi culture is. I loved it. I was staring at the country of New Zealand there on YouTube. Hoping one day I’d get to see it on a plane. Hearing groans and watching cringing was going to be every bit as good and then far better than the reaction to any other recent safety vid.
No, the video was cancelled because some touring famous people didn’t like it. If the Herald and Stuff headliners (once called subs) and muckrakers (once called journalists) had been aware of Denzel Curry earlier (a Laneway headliner) they might have been able to mention him as a person of colour threatening the yoof with his bad language, gun-shot rhythms and probably-negative framing of life. But instead he was the hero on this day. The famous person that tweeted that the safety video was stupid.
New Zealand likes to be noticed by foreigners. Likes to be on side, to be praised. We love our All Blacks and Hobbits being mentioned. We don’t like our national carrier being mocked.
So the video is gone.
Now, none of this really matters. But get this:
There I was just yesterday at Auckland airport – wondering how quick the cancellation would be imposed. Was I going to get Rachel Hunter or the dude from Entouarge or, shudder, Rhys Darby. Would there be no video at all…?
The screens come on and the Kiwi Safety video kicks in. A few on the plane winced. The staff smirked as they stood still in the aisles, their own skills reduced to a statue-like walk-on, trained and then upstaged by a video.
We sat on the tarmac as the raps and the dancing tried to sell safety as….as what? Sexy? Inclusionary? Multi-cultural? Cool? Funky? Fun? Fuck knows. But I loved watching that guy in the blue Swandri banging those sticks together and raising his hootenanny knee. That might be my favourite bit. In that moment I feel so safe. And I’m aflush with Kiwi pride.
So the video plays. And I’m nearly gleeful by the end, as if a honey-glaze has been applied to my soul, I’m near punch-drunk, delirious.
I got to see the It’s Kiwi Safety safety video on a motherfuckin plane!
But the best was yet to come.
The two rows in front of me had malfunctioning screens. They could hear the vital raps but could not see the instructional dancing. So these people would be the ones letting us down if the plane had technical issues. These 12 people wouldn’t know what to do where the rest of us had been thoroughly briefed. We knew to down our cheese melts for instance. We knew how “simple” safety (“Gosh. It’s so simple!”) was. In an emergency we knew what to do. But 12 other dumb cunts, let’s call them the Disciples of Disaster, they would be our undoing. They, like Rhys Darby, Hayley Holt, Shane Jones, Mike Hosking, vapers and cyclists were going to ruin it for us all.
So. An announcement.
“Some people missed the video, we apologise. So we are going to do a manual re-boot”.
Out came the sexy-af flotation devices. Out came the totally on fleek information cards. We were going to follow our crew as they talked us through what might go down in an emergency. They knew what to do. Cue early 1990s boardroom instructional video voice. We were told about the powers and capabilities of the craft. The crew not only knew what to do they actually got to practice a part of their craft. They stood with the tiny whistles in their mouth and beamed like they’d just been paid a bonus, they Sale of The Century-waved in the general direction of emergency exits. We’d heard this in rap before. But now, only now, were we truly listening.
It was exciting. It wasn’t cool at all. It was about as hip and sexy as safety needs to be. Which is to say it was nearly mind-numbing but just thorough enough to save a company from legal issues if the ride went down and panic – as would ultimately be the case – ensued.
But people listened. They had no choice. To truly go “old school” seemed a novelty, a wonderful cruel irony given we’d all just allegedly heard “the message”.
Ironies abound of course. Most of the people behind a push to ban the fun-cringe of the rapping video would hate the music of the rapper from America that also didn’t like the video. Many wouldn’t even consider it music. But we can’t upset the foreigners. Unless they’re scuzzy bogans with no influencing power.
In that instant – being walked through the safety message twice, back to back, I felt about as Kiwi as I ever have. A wonderful inefficiency, second-guessing and lack of awareness drives so much of this country. And I love it.
Air NZ needs to just go back to the “manual re-boot”. Make it cool – or totally not cool – again.
Safety sinks in when it’s not being dressed up. The cabin crew stopped smirking and started smiling. Their roles no longer reduced.
The $2.5m that the video cost – and presumably the ones with the bigger international stars cost even more – could go towards discounts on flights, sure. Absolutely. Or could go to charity. Some of it needs to go into a Kickstarter for the foot-stomping Swandri-guy as his show-reel is now complete.
I don’t care where it goes. Just don’t give a scrap of it to Rhys Darby.
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