Rugby and New Zealand national identity

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Last updated: April 18, 2019

“The appearance of naturalness is always a construction”.

Naturalness here indicates the appearance that is as close as to the reality. However, the reality itself differs in different people’s point of view, therefore how audiences make reception depends on what texts the producers use.Sports influence the identities of even those who claim no interest in sport and that despite claims of disinterest from these people that it impossible to completely avoid the effect that national sports have on identity as ‘many collectively experienced and consumed popular cultural forms are far from a matter of individual choice, but are bound up with the political dynamics within and between societies.’ (Roche 2000: P178).The above quote correctly demonstrates the theory how rugby affects New Zealand society and being affected by society in reverse. By the 1980s, although women are not well interested in watching and playing rugby, their lives are also negatively influenced by that of men’s, which are mostly dominated by rugby, unfortunately, these effects are mostly negative therefore people argue a lot on it. After being dominated, women and some men began to fight back in order to reframing the rugby culture.The rugby men have been godlike creatures – idols, heroes, become religion of New Zealanders for more than one century.

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It is such a popular sports because rugby really ‘suits’ New Zealand.Firstly, some young boys were exposed to ‘footy’ within the family. With urbanization men went off to work and boys went off to school.

One of the few areas left where fathers could pass on instruction to their sons was football. The sight of fathers rushing along the sidelines of a rugby ground shouting advice and abuse to their sons became in time one of the characteristic rituals of New Zealand society (“A man’s country?” – The hard man, Jock Phillips, P108).Secondly, rugby is an easy-started game. Everyone plays it, no matter how high he is, how heavy he is, to what extent he is educated, can obtain joy in playing the game. Also New Zealand has its special natural environment, which provides perfect grass field for rugby matches, while in many other countries it would cause much more to maintain lawns. Furthermore, one needs not prepare much equipment for playing rugby. A pair of boots and a casual sports ware is all one needs.

As a result, playing rugby was cheap and casual.As an immigrant country, New Zealand does not have a long history, whose cultural and social background is initially influenced by European culture – mainly by British culture. When assarting the desolate island, intensive labor had taken most of men’s life, however, on weekends men preferred to fight on another field violently rather than having a rest at home. By wallowing in mud to the top of their bent, men could easily forget the heavy workloads on building site, hence abreact their depressive feelings. As soon as All Blacks were first established, they had been creating glorious history in overseas and domestic test matches, especially in 1924, they won all matches in overseas tour competitions.All these above have given rugby a golden opportunity becoming one of the core parts of New Zealand national identity. Early till the end of 19th century, everyone in New Zealand played rugby and rugby had become symbol of New Zealanders abroad long before new emigrants became a nation.Rugby has been so successful also because it definitely shows solid male bonding.

It is stated in the documentary by a psychologist explains how male bonding in operation, operating things together rather than just being together. By co-operating, men create firm friendship no matter who their teammates are, whether they are educated, whether they have gaps in generations. As a unique sport, rugby also specifies in making people take care of teammates. In the clip, a few old rugby club members have supported this statement.Additional content:This part is a short article about how some beer brands being identified which I consider interestingly similar to the way rugby was identified in New Zealand men, so I just add it up to the essay, it can be omitted.

Branding is a matter of constructive, and not simply negative stereotyping, creating culture by inventing symbols for group identification. Beer branding in the New Zealand context has not just identified an increasingly diverse range of local men, but actually given men in this place a variety of ways of conceiving themselves (ways of being men). So Lion Red Beer has given us the re-blooded, mate-loving Kiwi; Steinlager, the deck-shoed yuppie; another brand of DB-DB Export – the larrikin scarify; Speights, the laconic Southern man… (Media Studies in New Zealand/Aotearoa – by Stephan Turner, 2003)If the rough rugby stereotype is also established as a brand, it can surely come with: All Blacks, ugly, rough, tough rugby man.However the documentary has finished reporting positive aspects of rugby man in New Zealand since this clip.

..”New Zealanders have built around the concept of the all blacks a stereotype, a standard figure who conforms to everyone’s expectations of what a true New Zealander’s character should be like – he is loyal, strong willed, resilient, usually silent and always modest.”- Chris Laidlaw.

This quote is well expanded in the documentary, therefore we may find some main points from the producer: rugby is a stereotype rather that a tradition, it has much cons to the society to be corrected.Although in rugby teams, there exist remarkable friendships between men, it is considered as a “shallow friendship”. Former rugby club members acknowledge that with the “firm” bonding, there is also a strong competitive atmosphere, as everyone is protective of what is shared, honor, reputation, first team place, even training equipment provided. Every member is aware of those who may take his place.Comparing with other sports, rugby is more dangerous and violent, quoted from a female psychologist, men feel having done something dangerous will cause satisfaction of doing well on it. Despite rugby players themselves don’t like its violence and crucial, in order to winning the game, they have to prepare physical conditions well cause that is essential in this game, in addition, they are forced to play the opponent players instead of the game.The impetuosity and danger of rugby creates much burden consequently. The foremost and notable thing is injury.

Due to fierce physical collision, rugby players are more likely to get injured whilst if they are not substituted in time, they got to keep playing on the field. An extraordinary story is narrated in the documentary by a history professor, which sounds shocking and worth speculate. During a tour match between Canterbury and Springboks in mid 1950s, one of the home team full backs got on one of his shoulders insolated, extraordinarily, he pushed his insolated shoulder back instead of being subbed. And that event happened three times!Local media expressed their respects to the full back, electing him as a representation of brave hero of rugby culture, an inspiritment on society. Nevertheless, people felt uncomfortable after reading this news, especially women. They acknowledge importance of spirit, but point out that stressing the spirit power should not be too ultra. Such image will only result a repulsion of rugby.

It is reckoned as a representation of violence, incivilization and lack of human kindness. Rugby has revealed its rough essence. As an abreaction sport originally, rugby is more and more difficult to be accepted.

Rugby players are expected to be “big, ironed horse”. They have built up great reputation therefore uncompromising pressure was generated. All Blacks were expected to have the ability to fight back in the last few minutes of a match despite they were left behind for most of the game.Being regarded as great cultural hero, rugby players cannot express their pain to public to any extent, all they can do is relax in changing room by massage. They got to pretend to be all right by keeping their emotion down.

Doing so will occur insensitivity of feelings, emotionality and even love. A former All Blacks player concludes aculeate on it, “they (All Blacks – even all New Zealand rugby men) were trying to live up what other people expect instead of coming to what they want”.It is so far from the reality that outsiders can only see an artificial mask of New Zealand rugby players, which is made by rough rugby stereotype, is just visualization.

Audiences are guided wrongly by rugby players in the result of having the same attitude to life: pretending to be glorious, perfect, ironed, depressive motioned and insensitive.As old rugby culture is widely accepted by New Zealand male adult, such influences occur in many New Zealand families, as a result, females’ life is also severely affected by rugby. By quoting interviews of two principles of the organization “Women Against Rugby”, the documentary expresses New Zealand women’s attitude to old rugby stereotype, bored. New Zealand women are really bored of being spectators by sidelines on rugby fields and in need of lovers who have great sensitivity, sense of humor, family responsibility, high quality and love for their wives and children.Using a long chapter, the producer points out several abuse of old rugby stereotype, also tries to make women who watch the program resonate. Due to the producer, women’s point of view has become the main and determinative stream of how rugby should develop in New Zealand.

It is women’s protest and striving against ugly, rough rugby man, as an exterior factor, has taken effect, so that make the stereotype change. Therefore it becomes obviously the documentary’s main target audiences are women who are facing such family problems. Also men are covered, as they are interior factor of changing the actuality.To achieve its objective, the documentary mainly chooses those characters are against the rough rugby stereotype, making sure all they state will support producer’s core point of view.So far, we are able to relate the appearance of this documentary to its aim.

A mature female commentator is selected because women’s point of view is the main stream of the documentary, thus her appearance can represent the producer’s standpoint. She may be married and has a family therefore she is facing such a problem herself, makes audiences resonate with the texts.The documentary’s point is sufficiently stated, however in some details, more fine thinking is missed out. When analyzing the freaky competitive conditions within rugby teams, an important aspect is omitted that competition notably improves professional levels of playing rugby.

Conflict makes improvement, this principle is proved in all areas. The reason why monopolization is forbidden all over the world is it evades from conflicts and competitions in result of lack of making progress thus fails to enhance itself. This makes it obvious the producer is on the criticizing side of old style rugby man.

Another example of the documentary’s lack of deeper thinking is about the history professor’s story of Canterbury’s full back’s injury shoulder. Indeed, the brave full back does push his shoulder back after dislocated during a single match for three times, however, it is the match rule, who regulates that he is not allowed to be substituted, not the coach or even himself. He himself may be pretty grateful to be subbed and the coach may also be willing to cooperate. The texts given out guide audiences to a completely different direction, the full back is willing to stay on pitch despite of injury! It again represents the producer’s point of view, critics of rugby, from a standpoint of women.

At the end part of documentary, the producer makes his prospectus of New Zealand rugby culture, if rugby can be not secreting New Zealand society but be just another game, it will have a bright future ahead of it. Women also expect it grow health if it is not to involved with debating and “cockfighting”, not dealing with way of life. Fortunately, many men have realized this serious problem and admit it is right to share their feelings with other people including women. There are many positive things of being a man rather than being aggressive, violent, having restricted motions, therefore men can nurture children too.During the 18 years since the documentary was issued, New Zealand rugby culture had changed greatly.

Many positive expectations of the producer has become reality, rugby is still one of symbols abroad representing New Zealand while rugby itself never deals with lifestyle and its spirit still motivates us, however, only in reasonable ways.

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