Friday, September 21, 2007

Mr G goes too far?

I’m a long-time fan of Chris Lilley’s “Mr G” character, currently being seen on ABC TV’s “Summer Heights High”. From his troubled birth, during which Lilley, as Mr G, visibly “died” on stage during the 2000 “Raw Comedy” national final, Mr G has blossomed into what I’d call the quintessential gay (male) Xer. He has talents (actual or otherwise) way in excess of his narrow job requirements, but lacks an after-hours outlet for these. He therefore throws everything into his job.

In my view, this is a defensible decision, given the demographics of real-world public schools, as accurately reproduced in the “Summer Heights High” staff-room. A boomer-dominated teaching force would by instinct do the very opposite of Mr G when it came to school drama departments; i.e. throw nothing into their jobs, and instead devote as much as possible of their remaining working lives to poisoning the lives of younger generations, by staying in tenured jobs way after they had lost their “spark” (a very effective double-poison, working on both their students and their Xer (= largely untenured) “colleagues”).

In the last three eps of “Summer Heights High”, however, Mr G has got power, of boomer proportions. I’m not saying this never happens to Xers in the real-world; just that such a plot development requires a major re-think of the Mr G character. It’s one thing to be a bitter and frustrated second banana, another to be a simple megalomaniac. The latter lacks boundaries, not to mention real-world credibility.

Watching Wednesday’s (19/9) ep, I thought that Mr G was improbably cruel, per the “Annabel Dickson” character, aka the “slut” Year 11 schoolgirl who had died of an ecstasy overdose. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of bad-taste, and Mr G’s seeing the death as a chance for some me-me-me publicity was just the right stretch. “Slut” was off, though. Having Mr G instead choreograph his students in some dubious and overblown interpretation of the teen party lifestyle as a B-A-D thing would have been much more appropriate, in two senses. There’s funny “wrong” and there’s just wrong wrong. Ditto for believable characters.

What I thought was most off about the “Annabel Dickson” character was not the s-word, but her similarities to Anna Wood, a Sydney schoolgirl who famously died of an ecstasy overdose in 1995. Picking up today’s MX (a free Melbourne newspaper) with a headline saying “Cruel School – ABC comedy mirrors drug death”, I thought, here we go.

But the controversy is much more bizarre than I had assumed. It’s not Anna Wood’s family who’s taken (primary) offence, but that of Annabel Catt, a Sydney schoolgirl who died of an ecstasy overdose on 18 February 2007, and who looked very much like “Annabel Dickson”.

“Summer Heights High” finished filming on 7 February 2007, so there’s no doubt that it is, as the ABC have described it, a “[very] unfortunate coincidence”. But there’s a lesson to be learned here, I think. Too-nasty characters generally make a M-E-S-S. Mr G would himself see any mess as simply a severe choreography deficit that only he can fix. So let’s all let Mr G fix himself now, please.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?