Netflix removes Chris Lilley comedies

Netflix is removing four Chris Lilley comedies from its platform in Australia and New Zealand.

Angry Boys, Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes, and Jonah From Tonga, have been removed according to Deadline. They include characters Jonah Takalua and rapper S.mouse, for which Lilley wore brown makeup, or Chinese physics student Ricky Wong.

But Ja’mie Private School Girl and Netflix original Lunatics, will remain.

Producer Laura Waters of Princess Pictures has previously described Lunatics‘ South African character Jana as “not portraying a woman of colour.”

We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High are arguably Lilley’s most lauded work, including the former winning him the Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding New Talent at the Logie Awards and a prestigious Rose D’Or as Best Male Comedy Performance.

But in 2011 rapper S.mouse was criticised for being offensive with its blackface. By 2014 there were petitions to drop Jonah from Tonga from HBO.

The move follows the removal of Little Britain and Come Fly With Me from Netflix and Stan. The League Of Gentlemen was also removed from Stan.

While Netflix has kept its home pages for the removed Lilley comedies, Variety reports they will not return with disclaimers.

In the US HBO Max removed Gone with the Wind but will return it with a disclaimer.

Yesterday many subscribers took to social media to criticise moves as being too politically correct.

Netflix declined to comment.

Should old comedy titles be removed if they offend?

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52 Comments:

  1. This just seems ridiculous the more I think about it. Netflix removes a bunch of his shows, yet it was because of those shows they then backed him for Lunatics which seems to be exclusive to them.

    Also shows like We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High won industry awards. Chris even performed at the Logies as Ricky Wong (from We Can Be Heroes) pretending to be an aboriginal alongside Cathy Freeman. If no one remembers this just search for ‘Ricky Wong Logies’ on YouTube.

    I wonder where we will see Chris next. If it’s another thing for Netflix or somewhere else.

  2. I wish Joan Rivers was still here, even though she would be run out of the entertainment business in current times.
    Her material ruthlessly had a go at everyone – fat people, thin people, Asians, Latino, people of colour, Jews, Germans, British, Catholics, gays, women, men, politicians, the Royal family, celebrities, sweatshops, corporates, etc. etc. etc.
    And each and every time she was criticised about her material, she defended herself claiming it is a comedian’s role to comment on society, to use satire to highlight discrimination and inequality and to highlight issues that some are uncomfortable with and use comedy as a way to start discussions that need to be had. I wonder what she would have made of this current debate.

  3. I don’t think the removal of shows is what the answer is. I don’t think we should be hiding away from these issues. For me, it was the Hey Hey Its Saturday skit which opened my eyes up to blackface and what it ment for the wider communities. Although I never viewed it as hateful, it made me truly aware of the line in the sand. When Chris Lilley’s smouse blackface character came out, I was more focused on the uncomfortable feeling rather than the character. I really think placing a warning content at the start of these shows is the most obvious choice. TV shows are like a time capsule. You wouldn’t through it away if you dug one up and weren’t happy with what was in there – you have to understand the time it was placed and look at how times has changed since.

  4. I remember watching the documentary Stop Laughing…this is serious and they had a writer from the show Black Comedy discussing the controversy over the character Brooke Satchwell played who was a white women thinking she was Aboriginal. The writer said something that really stuck with me. The reason her charcter wasn’t offensive was that it was an Aboriginal who wrote the character not another white person making their observations on Aboriginals. The problem is there are too many Chris Lilleys, white people writing about their observations on black people. If the media was more balanced and we had more black writers able to put their observations out there then things like Jonah wouldn’t be as offensive, but as long as the majority of the narrative is from a white person’s point of view then Jonah is another reminder to black people that their voice and opinions don’t matter.

  5. White Chicks and Tropic Thunder both airing on Foxtel.. time for people to get a grip, understand all the issues that created this but I’m more offended by Chris Lilley having no comedic talent than his subject matter

  6. As we come closer to a balanced and more connected global society, language behaviour and racism changes. Jokes and terms of phrase that were once not deemed racist are now racist, we move on and stop saying them, this is them same. We stop broadcasting them for the same reasons. This is no different… we’ve just jumped up a few rungs of the ladder quicker, by truely becoming aware of global institutionalised racism. You wouldn’t want your kids telling the same jokes grandpa did as a child, so why would you want to give them the opportunity to laugh at the same jokes.

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