TheVine story: ‘Exclusive – Oz hip-hop industry reacts to Chris Lilley’s ‘Angry Boys”, July 2011

The second of a two part story for TheVine looking into Australian comedian Chris Lilley’s ‘Angry Boys’, and in particular his Los Angeles-based rapper character, S.mouse. This time I asked Australian hip-hop industry figures what they thought of the show. Check out an excerpt below. For an American perspective on S.mouse, take a look here.

Last week TheVine quizzed a handful of American hip-hop artists and journalists on their thoughts about Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys. In particular, we were interested to gauge theresponse to Lilley’s Los Angeles-based rapper character, S.mouse.

To say the overwhelming response to the article took us by surprise would be a massive understatement—not only did the article highlight the cultural gap in understanding the portrayal of blackface (and maybe also pin-point the sense of unease in seeing Lilley use “the n word” onscreen beside his black co-stars), but it drew the ire of a musical community that itself has moved far beyond what Lilley seemed to be roasting. But maybe more than anything, it seemed give voice to the secondary issue the public is having with S.mouse—blackface aside, people just don’t seem to think the character is funny.

But Australian humour doesn’t always make sense to an international audience, and perhaps intentions are muddled in translation. So how then does the Australian hip-hop community view the S.mouse character? As Angry Boys approaches the end of its season, we unearth a slew of our brightest members for their own take on the S.mouse debate.

Hau Latukefu, MC – Koolism, Presenter for Triple J’s The Hip-Hop Show (Sydney)
In this instance, I can only talk as a “coloured” folk whose roots lie in Tonga but was born in Australia. I didn’t find it offensive to either a person of “colour” or to the hip-hop culture. But that’s me. Obviously someone of African-American background may have a different perspective and I can’t talk for them. What I can say, is that I wasn’t offended when Chris Lilley portrayed a troubled Tongan kid in Summer Heights High. How come no one said anything about that?

Lilley is allowed to have a go. That’s his job, right? Whether it succeeds or fails, is a different story. The character itself is weak, though. The accent is all wrong and the jokes aren’t funny. It’s a very 1990s type of humour.

I do think generally Australians are oblivious to what is offensive. However, in this case Chris Lilley seems to be well educated and really observant of the world around him. I feel he has knowledge and intelligence behind his characters, which differentiates his work from utter stupidity and ignorance—like what we saw on Hey Hey It’s Saturday. As for there being a break-down [in cross cultural communication]: yeah, I feel there could be more understanding on both sides. Australians need to be more sensitive towards other races and cultures and Americans need to understand our humour.

Angry Boys is a comedy. For me, the only offensive thing is that the S.mouse character is not funny. If Angry Boys was a drama and Chris Lilley really tried to portray what was happening out in the world, then I could pick a part his character to bits. But it’s not, so I just take it for what it is.

For the full story, visit TheVine.

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