Cleverman is an Australian-New Zealand-American television drama series based on an original concept by Ryan Griffen. The six-part drama series reimagines several stories of the Aboriginal Dreamtime in a modern, superheroic context, and reflects on racism, asylum seekers and border protection.
The Cleverman is an important figure in many Australian Aboriginal cultures. Series creator Ryan Griffen describes the Cleverman as “like the Pope of the Dreamtime … the conduit between the present and the Dreaming”. The version in the television series combines many Cleverman traditions from different Aboriginal clans to create a superheroic version, with powers relating to the Dreaming’s connection to past, present and future.
In the world of Cleverman, we meet the Hairies, these are hairy people who are stronger and hardier than humans, covered in thick facial and body hair, and have tough, sharp fingernails. They also have much longer lifespans. They share some things with Aboriginal Australians, including a knowledge of land, culture and the Dreaming.
The DNA of Hairies differs enough from humans to be considered a different species and soon they come to the notice of modern human society six months prior to the beginning of the series, in an event known as “Emergence Day”. Those who choose to live their lives as they always have – covered in a coat of hair and speaking their traditional languages – are confined to “The Zone” by a fearful government.
To escape, some Hairies become “shavers”, learning to speak English and removing their body hair in order to blend in with human society.
The Hairies in Cleverman are inspired by Australian Aboriginal mythology of hairymen drawn from multiple Aboriginal peoples, including the Gamilaraay and Bundjalung people of northern New South Wales. In the series, they speak Kumbainggar, another language from northern New South Wales.
The series was renewed for a second season on 2nd June 2016.