As the world plunges into chaos, you could be forgiven for thinking New Zealand, a bolthole for the super-wealthy operating under the stewardship of the nicest lady in politics, is simply trucking along serenely. Sure, Brazil’s fascist president has just relaxed gun laws despite the country leading the world in homicides, and the U.K. is drifting disastrously toward Brexit while Theresa May’s leadership hangs in the balance. I don’t care to mention Trump.
But we do have problems of our own in this little corner of the South Pacific.
Namely, we are being terrorized by a large, rowdy family of holidaymakers.
For weeks, a terrible family of unruly tourists has wrought a trail of destruction from Auckland all the way to Hamilton. A large man in red shorts and a white tank top, a woman in a unicorn onesie, and a small, angry boy are the unwilling public faces of this terrible family who number about 12, according to multiple witnesses.
It all kicked off on Monday when Kiwi social media was flooded with video footage from an Auckland beach. The video showed a Kiwi woman confronting a tourist about rubbish they’d left strewn along the beach, including beer bottles and baby wipes. (Littering is a fineable offence in New Zealand as well as heavily culturally frowned upon.)
The woman shooting the video, Aucklander Krista Curnow, said she was intimidated by several adults in the group before being threatened by a shirtless boy of about 9 wearing an oversized straw hat. In the video, the boy, having detected his family’s honor is being called into question and marching purposefully into the fracas, shouts, “I’ll knock your brains out!”
Soon other New Zealanders came forward with their own stories of unpleasant encounters with the unrepentant tourists. It turns out this bad family has been wreaking havoc on our quiet country for a month! The family’s alleged crimes are many and varied. Not only did they refuse to pick up their own rubbish, they had the cheek to tell locals to pick it up for them. They have been accused of purposely contaminating meals with both ants and strands of hair to get out of paying the sometimes hundreds of dollars’ worth of food they’d ordered, leaving a shit-filled baby onesie on a plane, and walking through a Burger King drive-thru.
To understand why the story of the bad family has absolutely taken over New Zealand, you must know that our economy absolutely depends on the massive amounts of money tourism brings in, yet we actively despise every single tourist who dares to come and enjoy all the stuff we promised was so great. Furthermore, Kiwis cannot abide arrogance. As a nation, we are crippled by a pervasive tall poppy syndrome, which means all our comedy must be deadpan and every one of our heroes is obligated to be taciturn, lest they accidentally let on they’re proud of themselves.
So the bad family is a perfect storm. Yes, littering is bad, and so is weaseling out of paying your bills. But it’s the total lack of remorse this menacing foreign family appears to feel about their actions which has united the public against them.
Just who do they think they are? Well, that’s not entirely clear; no one’s even certain at this point where they’re actually from. Initially, and somewhat bigotedly, witnesses to their trail of destruction referred to the group as Irish travelers, but one family member later claimed in an exclusive interview with local reporter Belinda Feek that they were from Liverpool.
“John Johnson” (possible relation of BoJack Horseman’s Vincent Adultman?) told Feek in the same interview that his grandfather was “the 10th richest man in England,” which, by his reckoning, therefore proved that claims made about their bad behavior simply could not be true. According to the Telegraph’s 2018 British rich list, the 10th richest man in England is the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, who is 27 years old.
While the group’s heritage may be up for debate, what is clear is that in the absence of any actual news thanks to the summer holiday slump, New Zealand has become obsessed with this horrible family’s misdeeds. Since Monday, every major news website in the country has been covering every minor exploit of this crafty family on its homepage, and Kiwi Twitter has been reveling in each absurd detail. On Day Two, Tuesday, the country’s paper of record, the New Zealand Herald, created a timeline detailing the bad family’s every infraction—a news device usually reserved for covering quickly unfolding national emergencies like earthquakes or tropical storms.
At one point, news alerts were pinging phones hourly: The bad family has been sighted in a Bunnings hardware store and hassled by a member of the public! The bad family tried to turn staff against each other in an Auckland café before running away without paying! The bad family “rudely demanded” to use a random man’s scooter! The bad family was spotted throwing their toast on the floor!
And the stories kept on coming. It is now believed the unruly tourists struck as early as Dec. 7, stealing a Christmas tree from an Auckland petrol station. Is nothing sacred? New Zealand was baying for the blood of the bad family. They had to be punished.
Then, on Tuesday afternoon, an alert: Immigration had served a deportation notice. Apparently, the government can kick someone out of the country on the grounds of bad character, and clearly our officials agreed with the public at large: We were dealing with a bunch of real bad eggs. The bad family didn’t care; they were already cutting their vacation short, John Johnson told the Herald. “We’re here to see the Hobbits,” he said. “I’ve been looking at the Hobbits my whole life, since I’m born, that was originally what our plans was, but it’s all been f–ked up now.”
“I’m no one famous,” he added plaintively. “I’m just a fat kid from England on holiday.”
Then, incredibly, more news. A woman in the group had been nabbed on closed-circuit TV nicking some sunnies, a couple of Red Bulls, and, weirdly, a length of rope from a petrol station. Tina Maria Cash, 26, was subsequently arrested on two shoplifting charges. Cash appeared on Wednesday at Hamilton District Court, pleaded guilty, and was later convicted.
But they wouldn’t be the bad family if they just turned up and quietly entered their plea. “Unruly Tourists: Young British Boy Pulls the Finger as Locals Lash Out,” one headline cried following the Hamilton court appearance. Yes, there he was, the naughty, confident child—inexplicably shirtless once again, despite being at court—FLIPPING THE BIRD at media and assorted local rubberneckers.
Well, the good people of Hamilton weren’t taking that lying down. In accompanying footage of the incident, bystanders can be heard really laying into the nation’s tormentors.
“How’s your holiday?” asked one.
“Are you going to pick up your rubbish?” inquired another.
“When are you going home?” a third person wanted to know.
Pretty tense scenes, yes. But it’s striking that this is what locals chose to yell at the visitors, given the chance. Could it be that underneath our outrage at the bad family lurks something deeper? Might we even, unthinkably, envy them? To give as few fucks as this wild family—would that be what true freedom feels like? After all, New Zealanders are polite. We’re obliging. We’re very concerned with what the world thinks of us. Would that we all could march aggressively through life with the bolshy swagger of an angry, shirtless 9-year-old, unafraid to pull the finger at anyone who got in our way. As one friend confessed to me, watching the bad kid shout at Krista Curnow: “I have never in my life had that sort of confidence.”
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus