What is the story about?
The show is about three twenty-somethings who hang out together in Melbourne: uber-woke Mia, who always tries to be politically correct; Penny, a white girl who tries to match up to Mia's "wokeness" step for step; and Austin, a homosexual who also moonlights as a drag queen.
What happens when a bisexual girl of South Asian descent, a white straight girl who stands for LGBTQ rights, and a gay man who moonlights as a drag queen hang out together in Melbourne in 2021? Why Are You Like This attempts to answer this question with an irreverent, NSFW, downright offensive season that is also hilarious. Mia, Penny and Austin are card-carrying members of Gen Z, who attempt to navigate their way through the choppy waters of "woke" popular culture in the age of social media. Being woke is a lifestyle for them, and "cancelling" or taking down others for politically incorrect thoughts is their favourite pastime. They are flaky, rebellious and don't care about the opinions or feelings of others, if it does not suit them. Once they are done with their takedowns and demonstrations of wokeness, they move on to the next cause or ideology that suits their fancy.
Yet, the reason Why Are You Like This defies description is because this show is as much about the perpetrators of "cancel culture" as it is about their victims. Mia cannot hold down a job, is arrogant and rude to others who try their best to be helpful and hates being called out on her flakiness. Penny tries her best to fit in with everyone, and get people to like her while also being woke. Public validation matters to Austin a lot, and his aspirations of being a drag queen are a cover for the fact that he is depressed and broke. The confusion of these three characters makes Why Are You Like This a fascinating character study, even as it becomes a sharp, raucous satire on the displays of "wokeness" and solidarity in the age of social media. This is a world where Mia, Penny and Austin try their best to keep up with their times, but their wokeness is defined by what others think on social media, instead of self-reflection. There is no empathy for others who may not be slaves to popular culture.
Naomi Higgins, who plays Penny, created the show along with Humyara Mahbub and Mark Samual Bonanno. When you consider that the opening episode was shot and telecast on Australian TV in 2018, it really hits you hard how the pressures of cleaving to the zeitgeist of "cancel culture" has survived for over three years now. If you can look past its offensive humour, this show is a testament to how contemporary satire should be written.
The three central characters are a riot. Olivia Junkeer's Mia keeps running so many circles around herself while trying to be politically correct all the time, that she starts being manipulative and disrespectful to everyone around her, even while being hilariously inept. Her dialogue delivery is spot-on. Higgins is terrific as Penny, and plays her with a mix of confusion, righteousness and wokeness. I found it hard to empathise with Wil King's Austin initially, but there are moments when Austin's depression powerfully comes to the fore, and you begin to understand his flakiness might only be a cover for his insecurities as a homosexual.
Music & Other Departments
The choice of soundtrack is often hilarious in this show, but it works to its advantage. In one episode, Princess Vitarah's Do You Eat Ass actually plays in an office carpool scene involving Penny, and it just brings the house down. Erin McKimm's background score is functional. Shelly Farthing-Dawe's cinematography captures the state of flux of Gen Z.
The dialogues are hilarious. In one episode, Mia gets tired of dating white men, and promptly declares "I'm decolonizing my p**sy". There's another sequence where Mia and Penny are running through a list of things that are considered offensive, until Mia brings up the fact that her family in Bangladesh employed children as servants in their family. When she tries to get away by rationalizing the practice, Penny asks her, "Am I talking to the rich girl from Bangladesh, or the poor girl from Melbourne?"
This is a show whose narrative swims in NSFW jokes and dark, politically incorrect humour. This means that the show will not be for anyone who gets easily offended.
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?
If you have a high tolerance for offensive humour and sharp satire, do give this show a watch.