Satire is a literary tool used to draw attention to social ideas and issues with the purpose of pointing out the flaws of human nature and behaviour. Summer Heights high is a contemporary satirical TV show which uses several forms of humour to draw attention to the negative aspects of the Australian public school system and society in general. In the form of satire, producer and actor Daniel Lilley, portrays aspects of modern society through the characters of Jonah, a playground bully, and Ja’mie, a self-obsessed private school girl. Through literary techniques such as contemporary satire, humour and exaggeration, Lilley uses deviation and outrageousness to grab the audiences attention and highlight societal flaws.
One of the main characters, Jonah Tokalua, is a Year 8 student of Tongan descent who is constantly causing disturbances and misbehaving. Jonah’s character is a stereotypical top of the food chain ‘big bully’ who physically and verbally assaults his peers to the point where they are too afraid to stand up against him. He is extremely problematic, disruptive and is always stirring up trouble. His mother died when he was young and his family environment is unsupportive and uncaring which greatly impacts his behaviour at school. Jonah continually releases his pent up anger and frustration on teachers and peers. He often tries to justify his behaviour by making light of his actions, claiming that he was just joking or having fun and placing the blame on other people. Jonah’s character embodies several negative aspects of modern society including, bullying, profanity, racism, homophobia, and violence. He can also be compared to modern politics and specifically, Donald Trump.
Another main character, Ja’mie, is a private school girl who has stepped out of her comfort zone and come on a ten week exchange program to Summer Height High. She has a very high opinion of herself and believes that ‘her way is the only way’. Daniel Lilley uses exaggeration and mockery to highlight the flaws in modern generations and specifically the shallow, inconsiderate nature of some people. Ja’mie’s character is pretentious, snobbish and self important. She is portrayed as an attention seeker who only cares about appearance, popularity and boys and continually enforces the importance of her priorities on the people around her. Through Ja’mie, the audience is exposed to the destructive impacts of social expectations and the effect of wealth on individuals.
There has been widespread backlash from the media against Summer heights high, claiming that the stereotypes portrayed by Jonah and Ja’mie are uncomfortable, confronting and even downright false. However, the unfortunate truth is that there are real life prodigies of Jonah and Ja’mie. Situations that are made to seem so outrageous in Summer Heights High are in fact a harsh reality and the issues of bullying, peer pressure, violence and negativity are not as far from truth as we may think. Summer heights High employs comedic devices draw attention to and encourage people to reflect on these destructive aspects of modern society. The show portrays hilarious, real life situations which not only aim to amuse the audience but also portray outrageous aspects of society in the hopes that people will recognise flaws and attempt to amend them.