There’s a new show on the ABC that is must (repeat: must) watch viewing for anyone who’s ever used the term ‘micro-aggression’ incorrectly. It’s called Why Are You Like This, and is a complete and total send-up of over-woke Gen Z kids and younger millennials. Identity politics, meet thy maker.
Set in Melbourne, Why Are You Like This follows best friends Penny (Naomi Higgins, who also co-created the series), Mia (Olivia Junkeer) and Austin (Wil King). They’re young, idealistic, and never stop trying to make the world a more egalitarian place – even when they fuck it up, which they do every five minutes. It’s screamingly funny and painfully accurate, right down to the parody of controversial Melbourne graffiti artist Lushsux.
“It is disgusting,” Austin says, looking at a piece of street art by ‘Ranx’.
“His line work is very good though,” Mia says a few seconds later, to mutual agreement.
The series was created by Higgins, Humyara Mahbub and Aunty Donna‘s Mark Bonanno, in conjunction with the ABC and Screen Australia. It’s also coming soon to a Netflix screen near you. Not bloody bad at all.
I interviewed Higgins and Mahbub with the intention of turning it into a smart-sounding article, but their answers were so funny it feels better to let you just read the full thing. Welcome to the chaos that is Hum and Naomi.
PEDESTRIAN.TV: Why Are You Like This is somehow both an accurate portrayal of the terminally online, and a funhouse mirror of ‘progressive’ nonsense we’ve all spouted at some point. What – or more specifically, who – inspired it?
Hum: The inspiration was definitely our own friendship, and our own silly little psychoses. And, if I can say this, all of our online friends, including you, Alex! [Editor’s note: that’s me! I’m Alex.] Why do we all know so much about Bean Dad? Why don’t we log off and look at a tree! You’re right that we’ve all spouted nonsense. I once accused a colleague of slut shaming Beyonce. Did it matter? No. Did I cause a scene? Yes. Was I right? Yes! Should I have done it? Who knows!!!
Naomi: I did really do the thing in episode one and accuse a colleague of being homophobic (it turned out he had a boyfriend). That stuff is very funny to us. Luckily one of us is brave enough to still have a Twitter account to keep up to date with The Discourse.
PTV: Mia, Penny and Austin are all deeply flawed characters. They’re trying their best, but they fuck it up by charging headlong into situations they don’t know much about. Penny in particular seems to be trying to do her best (Pride week! Unionisation!) but inevitably makes things worse. How did you approach creating these characters?
Hum: Many of the characters were drawn directly from our own lives. Penny and Mia are based on me and Naomi, and Austin is based on one of Naomi’s very close friends. I think we approached it like we were gleefully using the Facetune reshape tool on a real face – embiggen an eye, arch an eyebrow almost impossibly high.
Naomi: It was very important to us that these characters don’t grow much – if at all. I think when characters on tv don’t learn anything people look at them as sort of caricatures, but I’d argue that that is actually much closer to reality than a lot of shows with ‘heart’.
Hum: That’s true, we all keep making the same mistakes. As much as we’ve “done the work” and “grown” – we all suck all the time.
PTV: The ‘most oppressed person in the room’ chart was a particular highlight, as was the perfect apology after being cancelled. Were there real life events that inspired these?
Hum: Alex, thank you so much for this question. Naomi is a STEM brain with an anxiety disorder and ADHD, so I will allow her to answer this question.
Naomi: Well the “whom can talk over whom” chart came up when two women of colour accidentally spoke over each other in our writers room and we simply HAD to figure out who was being ~problematic~. I’m pretty sure most young people (except narcissists like Hum) have thought about what they’d do if/when they were cancelled and how to apologise properly. I’m always learning what NOT to do from everyone who does it wrong! I think the only person who’s done it right is Jenna Marbles so it seems the only real solution is to just disappear completely from public life. I can’t wait!
PTV: Why Are You Like This feels like the first time identity politics has been mined for comedy from people who are part of it – not some edge lord comedian making pronoun jokes for cheap laughs, but an examination of what it means to be politically correct by those who are trying really hard not to fuck up. Why did you choose to explore this?
Hum: I guess because we live in it, and as much as it ruins our mental health, we are the people who pay a certain loving attention to this stuff. I’m the one who has read the replies on the threads that drove me mad about the milkshake ducking of mentally ill writers published in erotic online zines. I’m the one who should be able to make fun of it! Any edgy loser who thinks they can make fun of these people should have to go through me – a Bully of Colour.
PTV: People might not know Aunty Donna’s Mark Bonanno was a writer/creator on the show. I loved this post so so much:
Is there any truth to it?
Naomi: Absolutely. Mark doesn’t let his cunty side show outwardly that much but I think dating me (yeah we are in a long-term romantic relationship get over it!) has brought out his brutal side which is beautiful to see. He also puts his jokes about ‘hot button issues’ in the show – I don’t think jokes about treating depression would work in Christmas Pud.
PTV: Are there any jokes you had to say goodbye to? And could these be inspo for season two?!
Hum: So much! We had a threesome storyline that we ditched, there was a canned clams bit that we all fought about and it got cut (my heart is still in the clams), and now I have promised a friend that if we get a season two I’m putting in a horrific date she had with a foot fetish guy last year. So here’s hoping we get to talk about these vital issues.
Naomi: If I have to hear about the fucking clams one more time I swear to god.
Go watch Why Are You Like This now – like, right now – over on ABC iView, or later on Netflix (!!!!).