The Australian channel ABC1 premiered last month the mockumentary “Angry Boys” considered by many the local answer to UK’s Little Britain… a weekly 9 o’clock sensitivity challenger for those who like corrosive humor.
The author, screenwriter and actor playing all the troubled characters could only be Chris Lilley, someone with enough mockumentary experience (“Big Bite” in 2003-4, “We can be heroes” in 2005, or his previous Summer Heights) to put Australia back in the irony map & allow us once again to deeply understand his genuine characters.
Starting for example with those 5 “Australians of the year” from “We can be heroes”…
Pat Mullins, that Perth mother who pioneered the sport of rolling on her side, from Perth to Uluru, the Aboriginal sacred mountain (a 1656km distance). Then we had Ja’mie King Sydney’s “Miss narcissistic and rude” schoolgirl, Phil Olivetti a former Queensland policeman in search of his hero vocation or Ricky Wong, a Chinese student portrayed as the immigrant archetype. And finally we find those two twins… Daniel & Nathan, the ones who live on a farm near the town of Dunt in South Australia.
All of these conform the spearhead of the current Angry Boys.
If we think of “We can be heroes” as an absurd and ridiculous description of the Australian social structure, Angry Boys focuses on the contemporary teenage “male” condition. Mocked and maligned for ages, teens should see their own culture or subculture brought to light once again…
Feel free to judge. Chris Lilley offers a selected list of gruesome characters for you to choose from: the infernal twins are back, teenier than ever before. Nathan (whose communication is limited to his middle finger) is about to leave the farm for a deaf school in Adelaide. Daniel on the other hand can’t cope with his brother’s leave while busy trying to demonstrate his mother’s new boyfriend rejection.
The first new introduced character will be their grandma… Gran, who works as an officer in a young offender’s prison. She’s worked there for 25 years and prides herself on being not a mere officer but a mother figure for these young adults. Using “gotcha” sensitive jokes or 23 guinea pigs as part of her important socialization tools.
S. Mouse who describes himself as “a legend in hip hop, the king of hip hop, and the voice of my generation” became a hit with his genious song “Slap your elbow”, but he’s willing to gain music independence with more appealing titles such as “Grandmother fucker” or “Big black balls”.
Blake Oakfield joined the character gallery in the 4th episode as a former surfing champion now living in the fictional Narmucca Bay town in New South Wales. A member of the Bra Boys gang who still fight with their archenemies Frennel Hell men gang for the village control.
And we finally meet Jen Okazaki originator of the soon-to-ubiquitous catchphrase “Skateboarding – gay style!” and willing to make a successful marketing product out of his son.
A character gallery (some more topical than others) willing to portrait the current adolescent condition while diving into their consumerist behavior, social functioning and personal ambitions. Lilley has also brilliantly managed to reflect the internal conflicts adolescents suffer from, not only from their point of view but also from their parents’ side.. the ones they’re trying to get away from, and the ones who won’t hesitate to exploit their kid’s success for selfish interests. His questioning may try to go beyond such “simplistic” dilemmas… what do we do when you’re a 2011 teenager? how do you adapt?
Each character appears in its absurdity, described with big bold strokes, but deep down you’ll also find their personal sensitivities, which makes them so human regardless of the caricature. Gran who seems to be full of good will, ingenuous and utterly disconnected from her reality despite the rough conditions (and some conservative moral values), can only generate tenderness, especially when giving some comfort to troubled teenagers. Similarly we really get to personally hate Jen Okazaki, that manipulative, cruel and materialistic mother willing to convince everyone (and herself to start with) about his son’s homosexuality.
As for the twins…. one full of distorted beliefs about himself, his brother and his life trying to establish a tight control over his house, while the other behaving as an autistic sex maniac… an explosive violence that reaches its climax when Nathan has to leave for a deaf school… the only way these teenagers can express their excessive pain.
We may easily find Blake’s sketches less original than others; acidly playing with the Australian surf culture and their “lack of intelligence” stereotype, or the excessive sexually-related jokes but Lilley is right on target when portraying egocentric and sexual impulses… aren’t these adolescent’s most basic concerns after all?
Capable of embodying all his characters, Chris Lilley manages to give each of them a very realistic psychological dimension, a credible & sensitive story despite the caricature. One of those DIY geniuses (writer, director and also behind the credit’s music) who happens to have written as well those profound S. Mouse lyrics…
Disturbing but hilarious, Angry Boys has perfectly managed to caricature the modern adolescent males obsessed with money, rejection, sex (in particular) and many other codes they don’t even understand themselves. A bold and maybe extreme caricature with a bit of a revenge & vulgar side but which makes such hormone-busted world accessible to everyone.
Angry Boys can be streamed on-line from Australia via ABC.au or BBC iPlayer in the UK, HBO stopped streaming it via GO or On-demand so for those of you who missed it… you can always use a nice proxy right?