Jonah from Tonga

Common Sense Media says

Edgy comedy's title character makes a terrible role model.

Age(i)

2
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8
9
10
11
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17

Quality(i)

 

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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

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

This review of Jonah from Tonga was written by

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About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 11 years old October 9, 2014
AGE
16
QUALITY
 
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
AGE
16
QUALITY
 

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

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