Shortland Street cliff-hanger voted 2017's best quote

2017 Quote of the Year winner: "Please tell me that’s not your penis."

New Zealand’s favourite soap has thrown up many memorable lines over its 25 years, but 2017 is the first time Shortland Street has won Massey University’s Quote of the Year. The now famous, or infamous, line – “Please tell me that’s not your penis” – garnered more than 18 per cent of the 7238 votes cast in this year’s competition. The words were uttered by Chris Warner (played by actor Michael Galvin) after his teenage son Harry was caught sexting his girlfriend.

 Dr Heather Kavan, Quote of the Year organiser and Massey speech writing specialist, says there’s many facets to the line’s appeal.

“The quote is highly entertaining. The suspense is laughably theatrical, rather than anxiety-inducing, and therefore many people enjoy hearing it again,” she says. “And, of course, Chris Warner’s delivery is part of the magic, along with Harry Warner’s uncomfortable facial expression and the closing music.

“The line also gave rise to much online discussion as people suggested plot twists, for example that Harry might answer ‘No Dad, it’s Lily’s.’”

The footage generated international headlines, most famously The Sun’s, “What a cock up” and fans saw the quote’s potential as night-club music and posted a dizzying remix on YouTube. United States celebrities re-enacted the scene with Alec Baldwin playing Chris Warner, and, even then, the star-studded version didn’t surpass the original, Dr Kavan says.

But she says there is a serious message too. “The quote dramatises the risk of storing photos of one’s private parts. That’s immensely topical. Even whistle-blower Edward Snowden and US comedian John Oliver have chatted about the security of so called ‘dick pics’.”

A quote from Rainbow Youth's 'It's not gay' advert was this year's runner-up quote.

'It’s deeply disappointing, but it’s not gay'

A Rainbow Youth promotion was the source of 2017’s runner-up quote, “It’s deeply disappointing, but it’s not gay.” Attracting more than 15 per cent of the vote, the line is delivered by actor Jatinder Singh when his mate Nigel calls a dropped pie “gay”.

“One-liners from gay communities tend to be popular because they’re often responses to prejudice. That’s part of their strength. If a quote isn’t born of discomfort, it’s usually not powerful,” Dr Kavan says. “The line is subtly humorous. There’s something amusing about the typically New Zealand setting of farmers, pies, and a lamb. If Oscar Wilde were living in rural New Zealand today, he’d probably say the same words as the speaker.

“The message was immediately effective, with several online viewers saying they’d change the way they used the word ‘gay’. Others enjoyed the quote even if they’d use different words or expletives if they dropped a pie.”

Dilworth School student Jai Selkirk delivered a powerful line during a poetry slam competition to take out third place.

“I am a different shade of brown”

Third place was taken out by Dilworth School student Jai Selkirk from his winning performance in a poetry slam competition. The quote – “I am a different shade of brown” – is a great example of the power of raw emotion, Dr Kavan says. 

“The footage is mesmerising. His performance is haka-like, evoking goose-bumps and tears, and online viewers said he articulated feelings deep within them.

“Jai’s third place is noteworthy because he had none of the advantages Shortland Street and Rainbow Youth had. He didn’t have a film production team or sex-related subject matter. He was simply a teenager speaking his own truth.”

And then came politics...

Given 2017 was an election year, it is interesting to note that none of the top three quotes were uttered by politicians. However, fourth and fifth places went to quotes related to Winston Peters – writer Ali Ikram’s tweet and Mr Peters’ own spoken word.

“Ali Ikram’s tweet gave us a refreshing glimpse of how our political process might look to outsiders,” Dr Kavan says. “Winston Peters’ ‘toothless sheep’ quote has proven to be one of the most successful New Zealand political insults. Even people who disagree with his political views voted for this quote.”

If politics wasn’t the dominant theme this year, sexual privacy, sexual identity or sexual harassment were. “I think that’s because sex-related topics are so sensitive they invite moments of light relief. Quote of the Year is a pre-Christmas public activity so the quotes are ones people want to celebrate, rather than sobering utterances,” Dr Kavan says.

2017 Quote of the Year finalists, in order of votes garnered:

1. "Please tell me that's not your penis.” – Shortland Street’s Dr Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) confronting his son about a nude photo, in a cliff-hanger ending.

2. "It's deeply disappointing, but it's not gay." – Actor Jatinder Singh after ‘Nigel’ calls a dropped pie “gay” in Rainbow Youth's advertisement.

3. “I am a different shade of brown." – Student Jai Selkirk of the Dilworth School team winning Word – The Front Line Poetry Slam competition.

4. “For overseas observers, in NZ elections, we all vote then take the ballots – chuck them out – and ask a man called Winston Peters who won.” – Writer Ali Ikram tweeting about the 2017 election.

5. "Excuse me for laughing, but it's been a long time since I've been ravaged by a toothless sheep." – Winston Peters on TOP leader Gareth Morgan.

6. "I've not seen the data about the risk factor of death by falling fatty; I'd imagine it's similar to the risk factor of death by Sharknado." – Fat activist and Massey University scholar Dr Cat Pause when asked if fat people are a hazard because they could fall on you.

7. “First ladyman? Who knows… Aiming for Michelle Obama, probably gonna be a little bit closer to Prince Philip.” – Clarke Gayford on his role as Jacinda Ardern’s partner.

8. “This is my generation's nuclear free moment.” – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on climate change.

9. “If humour is common sense dancing, John Clarke was Nureyev.” – Musician Don McGlashan on the death of comedian John Clarke.

10. “I’m embracing my new feather duster status.” – Paula Bennett, ending her tenure as Deputy Prime Minister.

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