Queen Bitch: Chris Lilley’s obnoxious ‘Private School Girl’ is a TV treat!


 
Chris Lilley, the creator of the brilliant Australian comedy Summer Heights High, is back on US TV screens right now with Ja’mie: Private School Girl on HBO, a mockumentary comedy following three months in the life of Summer Heights High and We Could Be Heroes star, queen-ultra-mega-bitch Ja’mie King.

Having watched the whole series, which wrapped up in Lilley’s native Australia last week, I can attest that while it starts off slowly, it gets better and better, building up to a cracker of a final episode. Private School Girl has already come in for a lot of slack from some US critics, (in particular this bizarrely scathing review from the AV Club, which lobs in a wholly unwarranted and unqualified “transphobic” slur against Lilley, the kind of casual misuse of language that makes the author seem idiotic) but to these eyes and ears it’s nothing short of brilliant, a pinpoint accurate piss-take of teenage bitchery and the shallowness of youth.

By her very nature, Ja’mie King is a polarizing character, lacking any shred of warmth or sympathy, so it’s understandable how she can divide audiences and critics alike. But liking Ja’mie is not really the point, is it? For me, one of the biggest, and most disappointing, flaws of modern satirical comedy is the gradual humanizing of central anti-hero characters. Malcolm Tucker (played by Peter Capaldi) in The Thick Of It is a good example. A British political spin doctor, Tucker is literally the embodiment of all that is wrong with politics and the current democratic process in the UK, yet over the course of four series and one feature film, the audience was gradually asked to drop the “hate” part from “the character you love to hate” and to root for Tucker, even as he, and the system he represents, makes our lives demonstrably worse.

There’s no such problem with Ja’mie. She starts despicable, and she ends despicable, as befits a character who is so self-absorbed. See for yourself”. Here is the first episode of Private School Girl, in full, via YouTube (US only):
 

 
Even beyond the social satire inherent in making a mockumentary about modern teenage girls, to me Ja’mie King stands out as a feat of incredible female impersonation. I can’t think of another drag character on TV that is just so on point, from the language and vocal intonations to her subtle (an not-so-subtle) mannerisms and constant hair-fiddling. It’s simply uncanny, and the cognative dissonance of that face playing that part (as well as the abandonment of drag clich├ęs like too much make-up) simply adds to the comedy. Lilley must know a lot of teenage girls to have that physical language so down.

Fans of camp and subtle observational humor will find a lot to like here. And let’s face it, Ja’mie appeals to the spoilt teenage brat and screaming diva in all of us, traits which have already made the character a budding gay icon (even though it will come as a surprise to many that Chris Lilley himself is not gay.) With that in mind, I would like to present my own Private School Girl tribute track, in a typical CVNT TR4XXX vogue-house style, featuring some of the best disses and bitchy quips from the show: 
 

 
Lilley is also prepping a new Summer Heights High spin off series centered around beloved bad boy character Jonah Takalua which promises to be more empathetic than cold-hearted Ja’mie, and hence better or worse, depending on which way your taste lies. We can judge that one when it comes out, but for now, let’s revel in the epic bitchery of Private School Girl.

To get you in the mood, and for readers outside the US, here’s a jaw-dropping DVD extra from Summer Heights High, a four minute scene of Ja’mie trying to convince her mother, via mobile phone, to come and pick her up from school. Presumably this is all improvised, and just goes to show what an incredible character actor Lilley is:
 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Feeling CVNTY: a new home for voguing online


 
As you may know, voguing is one of my major obsessions. I put together this hefty piece of writing on the modern vogue/ballroom scene for Boing Boing back in March: Welcome to the Ballroom, where Voguing is always in style

Inspired by interviews I gathered in my research for that piece, and my general love of watching videos clips of the dancing, sharing audio of the best music, and generally just watching geeky interviews, I have started a new blog dedicated to vogue and ballroom culture in its many forms. It’s called CVNTY and you can find it here: http://c-v-n-t-y.tumblr.com/

While Paris Is Burning is one of my favourite movies ever, for many, it seems to have frozen vogue culture in a late 80s/early 90s time warp, something that is easier to digest as a retro scene. Of course, the era depicted in that film WAS a golden age, but voguing is a hugely vibrant culture right now, and I aim to show both the past AND the present, and maybe even a little bit of the future, if I’m lucky. There are already exclusive interviews up on CVNTY with kingpins of the modern ballroom sound MikeQ and Vjuan Allure, along with many others I interviewed for Boing Boing but whose contributions didn’t get used, as well as cross posts to pieces I have written for other sites such as Red Bull Music Academy and Dalston Superstore. I will keep the remit of this blog to dance music artists whose work touches on issues of queerness/race/class/otherness, although there will always be room for posting music, people and things that just fucking fabulous. Needless to say, my own production and dj work as CVNT will pop up from time to time.

To lure you in, dear DM reader, here’s a rare voguing clip I’ve just posted on CVNTY, and am sharing here too, as it deserves much more than the paltry 24,000 views it currently has.

It’s called Voguing: The Message, and it is from 1989, which means it pre-dates both Paris Is Burning and Madonna’s vogue daliance. It takes a look at the emerging vogue ball scene and the pier children who attended these events, and features interview and performance footage of the legendary Willi Ninja (above.) Founder of the House of Ninja, Willi was unarguably one of the greatest voguers of all time, and hugely responsible for voguing travelling beyond the clubs and being taken seriously as a n art form. This film possibly even pre-dates Ninja’s own starring role in the video for Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep In Vogue”, one of my favourite pieces of dancing ever caught on film. More info:

Voguing: The Message traces the roots of this gay, Black and Latino dance form, which appropriates and plays with poses and images from mainstream fashion. Voguing competitions parody fashion shows and rate the contestants on the basis of movement, appearance and costume. This tape is a pre-Madonna primer that raises questions about race, sex and subcultural style.

Dir. Jack Walworth, David Bronstein & Dorothy Low 1989 13 min. USA

Founded in 1977, Frameline is the nation’s only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to the funding, exhibition, distribution and promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media arts. Frameline Voices is a new digital initiative that showcases diverse LGBT stories and expands access to films by and about people of color, transgender people, youth, and elders.

Voguing: The Message is that rare thing, an important historical document that gives insight into a time, a place, and a set of people. In other words it’s that thing we call GOLD DUST. 

You can find more like this (and subscribe!) over on CVNTY, but for now GET INTO IT:
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:

Notes from the Niallist: That’s so CVNT, a ‘future-house’ voguing mix
Notes from the Niallist: A celebration of ‘Paris Is Burning’ with Latrice Royale and Peaches Christ
Dream Queens: ‘Voguing and the House Ballroom scene of NYC 1989-1992

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Notes From The Niallist #12: ‘Work It’ with Egyptian Lover & friends


 
It’s the first Notes column of the new year, and it’s time for a little bit of self-promotion!

When I first joined the DM crew I remember talking to Richard Metzger (he;‘s not just bigger than Jesus, you know, he’s bigger than God!) about self-promotion on the site. I explained that the British people are actually pretty shit at promoting themselves, and he agreed. Not that I’m British, mind you. But it’s just one of those things that Americans do so much better than Europeans: selling yourselves, without coming across like utter cocks. Most of the time, anyway.

One of the points of starting this NFTN column was to have a little corner of the site all to myself, where I could talk about the more niche stuff I am interested in, but also to show off some of the stuff I do beyond blogging for Dangerous Minds. And I do a lot. Film-making, event organising, writing, djing, and, first and foremost, making music. 

So anyway, enough beating around the bush.

I’ve just released my latest single, remixes of a hip-house cover of Missy Elliot’s “Work It”, which is available to buy now, exclusively, from Juno Download.

The release contains six remixes, with the lead-off track being a rework by the legendary founder of electro music on the West Coast, Egyptian Lover. I gotta admit, I was pretty stoked when he said he liked my track enough to remix it, but that was nothing compared to how I felt when I heard it. It’s classic Egypt, a straight-up electro-funk bomb, and I am honored to release it. In fact, it made my year.

That’s not to knock any of the other artists who provided remixes, oh no siree. This release is really strong from start to finish. Additional mixes are supplied by upcoming legend Hard Ton, who turn in an Italian piano-house version that would have rocked the original acid raves at Shoom, Berlin based Electrosexual, who comes on strong with a percussive industrial mix, and rising star Ynfynyt Scroll, who turns in a mix half-way between southern hip-hop and Jersey club banger.

There’s also a remix by the mysterious new act Cunt Traxxx, in a “vogue house” style, but you’ll be hearing more about them right here in the very near future. For now, here are the tracks for your earholes:
 

 
If you want to purchase any of the “Work It” remixes, hop over here.

The original version of “Work It” is available on my mixtape AKA, which came out last year. You can hear it, and download the whole tape for free, at my Bandcamp page.

And here’s a video I put together for the track, featuring footage from our annual Vogue Brawl party, where only the most fabulous and fierce survive, and everybody is made to werrrk it…

THE NIALLIST “Work It” (AKA album version)
 

 
You can follow The Niallist on Twitter:

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion