Sophie (alias_sqbr) wrote in debunkingwhite,

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Summer Heights High

So, since there was some support for posts about Australia, I shall get the ball rolling with a relatively trivial topic which has been bugging me for a while.

Was I the only person who found "Summer Heights High" racist? For those who haven't seen it (at least 95% of you if my poll is any indication :)) it's a mockumentary set in a highshool, where the three subjects (a drama teacher, a private school girl on exchange, and a delinquent boy from Tonga) are all played by the same white male actor (who is quite good at that sort of thing) It was very popular when it was shown on the ABC(*) last year, especially with highschool students. Here are some clips.

It's all very satirical, and some of it was quite funny, but apart from the inherent dodginess of a white person dressing as a non-white one I felt the Tongan character was a fairly straightforward stereotype, played effectively and wittily but without any real attempt at subverting people's expectations. I also felt that was true of the other two characters(**), but this one bothered me the most, especially since the other pacific Islander characters (played by real pacific islander boys) had no real voice of their own to act as contrast. I kept feeling sorry for those poor young actors, forced to play second fiddle to a caricature of themselves.

Afaict the main complaint people have is that kids "didn't get the satire" and so copied the racist/sexist etc statements made by the characters meant as satire, and I agree that that's just the fault of kids watching stuff aimed at adults. But I think even when you look at the real message it's still pretty dodgy, and I would have expected better from the ABC.

Some stuff I found on google:
Wikipedia page on controversy about the show
Article about how awesome it is for being brave enough to expose racism etc (I found a couple of these)
Discussion about various things on the ABC board, usual messageboard "Just don't watch it" crap

And for my next post, the portrayal of muslims in The Librarians.

...or maybe not :)

(*) The Oz equivalent of the BBC, somewhat like PBS (I say having had only brief exposure to either).
(**)Googling to see if anyone agreed with me I saw some complaints about the drama teacher as gay stereotype, which I can also see.
Tags: australia
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