Jonah from Tonga TV Poster Image

Jonah from Tonga

(i)

 

Edgy comedy's title character makes a terrible role model.
  • Network: HBO
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2014

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show uses satire to comment on race relations, socio-economic issues, and intolerance but in the process mines racial stereotypes for comedy. Teens might not always get the joke.

Positive role models

Jonah bullies others, is disrespectful of authority, and is a generally terrible role model. His mother died when he was young, but that hardly makes up for his bad behavior. Although Jonah and his friends meet with a youth counselor, their behavior rarely gets them into serious trouble. 

Violence

Jonah and his friends are bullies and regularly victimize others by pushing them and shoving them into lockers. Some teachers also use physical violence in the classroom, throwing chairs and physically harming students who are out of line.

Sex

Sexual content is mainly in the form of strong language and innuendo, as in, "Eat my s--t, dick." Jonah also flirts heavily with female teachers and authority figures in a way that borders on sexual harassment.

Language

Strong language is unbleeped and used frequently. Audible words include "motherf--ker," "s--t," "p---y," and "dickhead," among other combinations.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters (including teachers) make references to drinking alcohol and smoking, but there's not much shown on-screen.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Jonah from Tonga has stirred controversy -- and spawned charges of racism -- for creator Chris Lilley's choice to portray the main character in "brownface." (Lilley is white.) Strong language is frequent and unbleeped, from "p---y" to "motherf--ker," and Jonah and his friends are bullies who target both students and teachers alike. There's also brief nudity (buttocks), sexual innuendo (including harassment), and characters who drink and smoke cigarettes.

What's the story?

After being expelled from Summer Heights High and sent to live with relatives in Tonga, 14-year-old Jonah Takalua (series creator Chris Lilley) returns to Australia with his father to get his life back on track. But it doesn't take long for JONAH FROM TONGA to make trouble wherever he goes, bringing Jonah face to face with Kool Kris (Uli Latukefu), a youth worker who tries to set him straight.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Although Jonah from Tonga has drawn criticism for its overblown take on Tongan culture, it's not the first time show creator Chris Lilley has courted controversy -- and it likely won't be the last. Lilley (who is white) previously portrayed the brown-skinned Jonah on his cultish comedy Summer Heights High, and he's even donned "blackface" to play African-American rapper S. Mouse on Angry Boys. But if you can look past the critical backlash, you'll see that Lilley's projects also include sharp satire designed to get viewers thinking.

As for Jonah itself, the Summer Heights spin-off isn't Lilley's most hilarious effort and has a lot less heart than the aforementioned Angry Boys. But it does take a stab at social commentary, particularly in the realm of race and the way "problem kids" are handled in the Aussie school system. That doesn't mean young viewers are mature enough to see past the show's crude surface, but there's food for thought there if they look hard enough.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the controversy surrounding Jonah from Tonga and whether or not charges of racism are warranted. Where's the line between funny and offensive? At what point does pushing comedic boundaries backfire?

  • Jonah is an obviously terrible role model, but is his character rooted in reality -- or stereotypes? Would critics of Jonah from Tonga be as outraged if the title character were played by a person of Tongan descent?

  • How does high school culture in Jonah from Tonga compare to that in the United States? Does the show make race, class, and gender out to be more divisive than they actually are?

TV details

Premiere date:August 8, 2014
Cast:Chris Lilley, Doug Bowles, Uli Latukefu
Network:HBO
Genre:Comedy
Topics:High school
TV rating:TV-MA
Available on:Streaming

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Kid, 11 years old October 9, 2014
it has heaps of swearing, its rude and it thinks its funny but it isn't at all!!!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent of a 8 and 10 year old Written byscaissie August 21, 2014

Total Garbage

There is nothing funny about this show. It is painfully bad. Jonah uses bad language and acts like a violent, mentally disabled teenager. That's the show!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written byVonni August 24, 2016

Very messed up yet funny !

This Australian tv series is about a boy named Jonah and his gang. Jonah is a horrible influence on younger veiwers due to his profane actions and vulgar launguage. This show is meant as a joke and for fun but still contains many swears and fairly inappropriate themes. Besides all that I recommend this series to anyone mature enough to not be influenced by this.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing