“I thought I was like you, but I’m not”: Identity, masculinity and make-believe in Taika Waititi’s Boy (2010)

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    Despite the relative ‘youth’ of the New Zealand film industry, its rapid growth since the revival period of the 1970s is demonstrated by an increasingly rich and diverse cinema. Acknowledgement and positive reception of the films nationally and internationally underscores the progress made by filmmakers and, as Duncan Petrie has argued in his work on the coming of age of New Zealand cinema, there is a much more “sophisticated understanding and appreciation of local cinema as a highly effective way of ‘telling our stories’ or ‘projecting ourselves’”. The notion that the films and the industry has reached maturation is also noted by Petrie and others, and indeed the productions coming out of New Zealand are constant testament to this. Such maturity also brings with it confidence to not only use and enhance established tropes and representations, but also to challenge and rework them to produce new or alternative visions. Released in 2010, Taika Waititi’s Boy responds to this context and is, consequently, a progressive coming of age story. In a discussion with Craig Hubert for Interview, Waititi describes how he rejected the first draft of his own script because it “was too much like other New Zealand films that had been made. It was kind of falling into a traditional New Zealand genre”. The genre, he elaborated was “dark drama”, which he aimed to avoid because it can be “unwatchable” and because he wanted to acknowledge his comedy background. Significantly, Waititi also expressed a desire to move away from the “certain type” of Maori character often seen on screen and instead embrace “the buffoons in our culture. Maori nerds or Maori dorks”. Despite its humour, the film does have a serious story at its core that engages, in particular, with identity and masculinity. This paper will explore Waititi’s approach to these representations in relation to the film’s nostalgia for 1980s popular culture, the use of daydreams and fantasy sequences, and location, in order to establish Boy as an innovative and progressive contribution to New Zealand national cinema.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)153-168
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies
    Issue number2
    Early online date1 Dec 2016
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Dec 2016


    • New Zealan
    • Identity
    • National Cinema
    • Masculinity
    • Maori Identity
    • Film


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