The head of La Trobe University’s department of sociology and anthropology, Professor Helen Lee, has labelled Chris Lilley’s new ABC TV show Jonah from Tonga “self indulgent” and “dreadful” to Pacific Islanders.
Professor Lee told the ABC’s radio program Pacific Beat that the comedian’s show, which documents the life of 14-year-old Tongan schoolboy Jonah, horrified her.
“A 40-year-old white man dressing up as a 14-year-old Tongan boy in brown face is just inherently creepy.”
“I just think it’s dreadful. It’s just awful. It’s creating a terrible stereotype that’s just deeply offensive to Tongans,” Professor Lee told the ABC.
“The comments to his supposed sister, calling her fatty, talking about sexual matters, swearing in front of her is absolutely taboo in Tongan culture.
“It’s just horrible to see that being acted out on the screen there and for people to think that’s what Tongan kids do.”
The report said Professor Lee is an expert in Tongan society and said that the show does not represent the culture.
Lilley plays Jonah in the six episode series and wears brown make-up to transform himself into an Tongan.
He has attracted both praise and condemnation for his new show, as he has with every series and character he has ever created, but Professor Lee said wearing dark-make-up was unacceptable.
“It’s not permissible. I think it’s appalling and I don’t think he should be allowed to do it,” she said.
The New Daily’s TV critic Giles Hardie disagrees with Lilley being labelled a racist.
In an article published today, Hardie argues the case for Lilley, instead, to be seen as a genius.
“He is a comedian a very rare form of satirist and amateur sociologist, and an auteur whose crew readily admit effectively writes, directs and stars in all of his work, albeit with the assistance of a highly skilled team.”