Vandalism vs. brandalism: Jonah from Tonga leaves his ‘dick-tation’ calling card

While tagging is often seen as an activity worthy of punishment, brands often seem to get away with it. BNZ and Unitec have done it in recent years. And  Comedy Central got in on the stencil action recently to promote the new series of Chris Lilley’s Jonah from Tonga, which plays on Mondays at 9.25pm. But as a Sideswipe reader asked, why the hypocrisy and is it appropriate to have a big brand-sanctioned schlong on the streets?

Here at StopPress, we’re big fans of genital-inspired artistry and, as the Airbnb rebrand showed, making your logo look like rude bits seems to be a good strategy to raise awareness. But The Herald didn’t think a spray-painted cockinballs was appropriate for its site and censored the image. 

Jonah was a character on one of Lilley’s previous shows, Summer Heights High, and one of his calling cards was his ‘dick-tation’ tag, so Comedy Central decided to run a competition asking punters to find the stencil on the streets of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, take a photo and upload it to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #JonahFromTonga. The winner got a suitably crass t-shirt from Mr Vintage. 

It’s not clear who was behind the stencil, but it wasn’t Brandspank, which recently launched a series of entertaining new Kiwiana-inspired idents for the channel. 

Lilley is one of Australia’s—and the world’s—best satirists, but this show has earned the ire of a few, with a piece in the Huffington Post asking HBO to dump the series because it’s racist, plenty of Facebook commentary and Professor Helen Lee, head of La Trobe University’s department of sociology and anthropology saying: “I think it’s dreadful. It’s just awful. It’s creating a terrible stereotype that’s just deeply offensive to Tongans.” 

The ABC has defended the show and said it did not encourage or condone prejudice.

“Chris Lilley’s portrayals mock and satirise the narrow-minded attitudes expressed by some of its characters, including his own,” said Rick Kalowski, ABC TV’s head of comedy. 

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