A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Strong language is unbleeped and used frequently. Audible words include "motherf--ker," "s--t," "p---y," and "dickhead," among other combinations.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters (including teachers) make references to drinking alcohol and smoking, but there's not much shown on-screen.
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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.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.