I remember first being introduced to Chris Lilley via his show Summer Heights High on HBO. I loved it and thought it was funny. So when his new show, Angry Boys, was announced I was ecstatic.
Finally, a show that was funny and different. But all that changed when I saw this 30-something year old white Australian man not only in blackface, but yellowface.
Even though I knew what black and yellowface were and that they had long racist pasts, none of that clicked in my mind while I watched Angry Boys. My mind didn’t put two and two together—that a white man in brown make up donning an Afro wig and appropriating AAVE playing as a wannabe rapper and that same white man in a black wig speaking tight, broken English playing as a Japanese woman who was trying to make money off her son by saying he was gay (he wasn’t)—meant that he was a disgusting human being.
For whatever reason I never saw him as racist. I felt very uncomfortable whenever these two characters showed up on screen, but I couldn’t place where these feelings were coming from. That uneasiness, that discomfort.
One could say it was because of my age. I think I was barely in high school at the time these shows were on but that still doesn’t make any sense. For one, I’m black. I think I should know what’s racist and what isn’t. Yet oddly enough I couldn’t. For some strange reason I could not.
It’s not until now that I’m 17 that I can see racism (and sexism, for I am a girl) from a 10 mile radius. I can now see all the blatant racist, homophobia, and sexism in Lilley’s shows that was staring back at me 3 years ago as if from now open eyes.
So when I discovered that Jonah from Tonga was a new show where Lilley was going to star as another character from his previous series Summer Heights High via Wikipedia with the description of
"The mockumentary series follows Jonah Takalua, a rebellious 14-year-old Australian boy of Tongan descent (played by 39 year old Caucasian Chris Lilley in brownface make-up and a curly wig) who was previously seen in Lilley’s series Summer Heights High.
[…]The series was called “racist”,
I realized how deeply ingrained his racism was in his so-called “comedy.” It pulled back S.mouse and Jen Okazaki from Angry Boys and Jonah Takalua and those racist moments with Ja’mie from Summer Heights High.
I now know that I cannot watch another one of his shows. I cannot support a man—a white man—in any way that is making money off of being a complete and utter racist when there are so many other ways to be even slightly “funny.”