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.”
Kutcher isn’t just the company’s “president of pop,” as he’s listed on the company’s site–as Brandchannel’s Shirley Brady reported–he also owns a minority stock in Popchips, which also trumpets endorsements by the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Hope Solo and Jillian Michaels. And for most of the day Wednesday, the company was equally as bold in trumpeting Kutcher’s kooky quartet; they had been shown in the cover photo for Popchips’ Facebook page.
Rappers Das Racist came at Kutcher full-force on Twitter not long after the video gained traction, while entrepeneur Anil Dash had some pointed questions for the rest of the team behind the campaign…
In a rather kind gesture, Dash also penned a column offering Popchips and Kutcher advice on how to more forward after this debacle. One of his tips was that they not pull the campaign.
"I think this company doesn’t want its culture to be racist, and they can best demonstrate that by showing how they learn from examples where it happens despite their best efforts,” Dash wrote. “It’s like if rat droppings were found in a bag of Popchips: You wouldn’t solve it by saying ‘We threw away that bag of chips!’ You’d solve it by saying ‘Here’s what we’re doing to clean up things at the factory.’”
While Dash’s advice for Popchips was certainly magnanimous, it should also be said: you can’t clean up the rat droppings without throwing away the first bag in which you found them. So maybe it’s best for the public and “Raj” to break up: it’s really not us in this case. It’s him.