Beached Az returns 10 years later – more political and weirder than ever

A decade after the exaggerated Kiwi accents charmed millions on YouTube, the whale and the seagull are back – with a mission

It has been more than 10 years since a plump, crudely drawn and partially coloured-in blue whale, with an exaggerated and perhaps mildly offensive cartoon New Zealand accent, discovered he was in a spot of bother and exclaimed, “Oh no, I’m beached, bro. I’m beached az!”

Time flies when you’re a giant aquatic mammal stuck on the sand, pondering the hopelessness of your circumstances.

Created by Australians Nicholas Boshier (of the Bondi Hipsters), Jarod Green and Anthony MacFarlane, the first episode of the viral series cost just $16 to make and has racked up almost 10m views since it landed on YouTube in 2008.

And now, after two initial series on the ABC and YouTube, Beached Az is back for a third. The gentle mockery of Kiwi vernacular continues – but in 2019, the whale and seagull have gotten more political, and more surreal.

The first episode, which launched on Facebook on Tuesday, offers a glimpse of where it’s going. The two lead characters meet with the god of the sea, Poseidon, who shows them what the future holds in an increasingly desperate attempt to alert them to the ocean’s demise.

But the seagull and whale – perhaps stand-ins for us all – are distracted and delighted by the cool tech instead.

Each of the 10 new weekly episodes will be accompanied by an educational series, Teached Az, which expands on the ideas explored. If the word “educational” makes you want to run for the hills, fear not: directed by Jarod Green, these episodes hold true to the show’s deadpan tone, as the animated, climate change-denying seagull sits down to interview a range of Australian marine experts and conservationists.

In the accompaniment to that first episode, for instance, the seagull asks Greenpeace Australia’s Jack Ballhausen about what the future of the ocean will actually look like. The answer? Less blue. More acidic. Toxic for birds.

“That’s pretty shit,” the seagull says. “What are we talking here? Are we talking like a million years?”

“We’re talking about 11 years.”

“At least it’s still something I don’t have to worry about immediately I guess.”

In another episode, the blue whale takes the form of bleached white coral – and the seagull character is now a seahorse. They interact with each other in the expected way: in furious agreement about the coral’s predicament. “Bro, you’re heaps bleached, ay?” “So bleached! I’m bleached az!”

The seahorse announces his plan to save his friend: he’ll take a photo of the bleached coral and publish it to Facebook. As the coral politely explains that in fact he needs a real solution, the seahorse brags that the picture has racked up “six likes already!” and “a sad face emoji with a little tear on it!”

“That looks like traction, but I actually need you to do something,” insists the dying coral. “What’s the systemic change at the end of it?”

In his book The End of Protest: A Playbook for Revolution, the Occupy co-founder Micah White describes clicktivism (which includes writing social media posts and signing online petitions) as a form of political protest that “propagates a false theory of social change” and “encourages complacency”. The message, in this context, is simple: get away from the keyboard and take direct action.

The episodes are self-contained, with no narrative through-line. Some revolve around the seagull and the whale, while others follow an assortment of fishy characters. It’s clear the budget is bigger than ever, and the creators seem to have been given carte blanche to expand the universe and take crazy detours – the connective tissue generally being a political point about the climate and ecological crisis.

There’s an episode about overfishing that satirises conspiracy theorists; another that follows the seagull as he spreads pro-fossil fuel propaganda and befriends David Koch; and then Dolphins, the weirdest of all, which runs for an epic 10 minutes involving tripped-out dolphins on a psychotropic adventure.

Yep. It’s pretty weird. But beached, bleached or teached, it’s still good az.

• New episodes of Beached Az and Teached Az land on Facebook every Tuesday.


Luke Buckmaster

The GuardianTramp

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