Summer Heights High: articles


Foul-mouthed Jonah no kiddie role model

JONAH Takalua, TV's most famous foul-mouthed delinquent and character in Summer Heights High, has become the latest Aussie schoolyard hero.

Many children are repeating rude and racist phrases uttered by the unruly teenager in ABC's hit TV comedy Summer Heights High, according to parents and teachers.

The ABC "mockumentary" is set in a fictional high school where redheads are described by Jonah as "rangas" -- from orang-utans. The troubled Pacific Islander boy argues it's all right to tell his teachers to "puck off" because "it starts with P, so it's not rude".

He calls his classmates "homos" and has a "Dick-tation" graffiti tag. Students are also imitating writer and performer Chris Lilley's two other characters -- stuck-up private schoolgirl Ja'mie and delusional drama teacher Mr G.

Plain-speaking Ja'mie ends each put-down with: "No offence, but it's true", and Mr G's drama class holds a risque role-play called "slap the butcher".

Its subject matter and post-The Chaser's War on Everything timeslot is striking a chord with young viewers.

Summer Heights High last week held on to most of its record-setting audience with 1.37 million viewers.

A week earlier, 1.6 million tuned to the premiere, making it the highest-rated new comedy for the ABC since Mother and Son debuted in 1992.

Victorian Principals Association president Fred Ackerman criticised the show for promoting poor standards of behaviour.

"Kids do copy the sorts of role models portrayed on TV and absorb their behaviour like sponges," he said.

"The role models we see on TV must be appropriate ones. It's as simple as that."

Mr Ackerman said racially charged humour was unacceptable on TV, especially when aimed at school students.

"Broadcasters need to be careful about the sorts of behaviour they are portraying and, when pushing the boundaries, should do so with a sense of community responsibility."

Mr Ackerman said it was not a case of finding the right balance, but taking a "zero tolerance" approach to racial humour.

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said that, though the show was "brilliant" and "a fabulous Australian comedy", it could be seen to be "mocking effeminate men and homosexuals as well as reinforcing racial stereotypes, through characters such as Jonah.

"It is really important to understand that kids under eight can't distinguish between fact and fantasy. There is potential kids won't see the show as a satire," he said.

"There is also the danger of people over eight not being able to recognise this as satire either."

Education Union branch president Mary Bluett said the show was "clearly tongue-in-cheek".

"It takes the mickey out of a range of stereotypes and people can't really take offence. It is directed at secondary school students in an appropriate timeslot," she said.

September 16, 2007
The Courier-Mail