Ja’mie Bares All… or Nothing: My Final Say About Ja’mie: Private School Girl

After weeks of speculating about Ja’mie’s fate – will she get her comeuppance? Will she see the error of her ways? Will her mother finally crack? What will happen between her and Kwami? Will she, in fact, learn nothing at all? – Chris Lilley served up a smorgasboard of outcomes for the private school girl we love to loathe. The multiple endings presented by Lilley in the final episode of Ja’mie: Private School Girl threw up many contradictions and that’s perhaps why it’s taken me so long to gather my thoughts and write this article. My head is still spinning, to be honest.

But here I go.

Photo credit: ABC1

Photo credit: ABC1

Lilley’s final episode simultaneously strove to please everyone by covering all bases, yet still, in many ways, pleased no one due to its lack of real change in Ja’mie – and perhaps that was the point. Madeleine Ryan’s article in The Age rightly pointed out that the series presented a parody of the unrealistic expectations society placed on young women to succeed so, subsequently, they became monsters. In Ja’mie’s words, she had to be “quiche”, “demonstrate Christian values and be good at everything”, not be a “full slut”, have a “box gap”, and “work at stopping child slavery and healing people and stuff like that”. The series, like its title character, couldn’t please everyone. That seemed to be one of the points it, and she, was trying to make in this interesting final episode.

Ja’mie, in failing to receive the coveted Hillford medal due to a leaked video of a Skype conversation between her and Kwami, in which she revealed her breasts while Kwami fondled himself, caused her father to concede that Ja’mie, by having her mother Jhyll’s genes as well as his own, wasn’t going to be a consistently high achiever after all. Jhyll’s silence as she sat next to her husband spoke volumes.

Ja’mie, however, responded to criticism and failure by making herself seen and heard. She states to her mother before her graduation ceremony, “No one fucks with me and gets away with it”. She means it. She hi-jacks the ceremony by playing the controversial Skype video while telling the audience, “I chose to expose my breasts on Skype in front of the boy I love. Because I chose to have an interracial relationship, the leaders of this school have decided to silence me”.

Photo credit: ABC1

Photo credit: ABC1

She then leads her pack of friends in a choreographed strip tease to the graduation song ‘Learning to Be Me’, where she takes off her bra after telling the audience, “Get your tits out girls, unite, no matter how big your tits are, get them out”.

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Ja’mie: Private School Girl – The Harsh Lesson of Episode Four

Ja’mie: Private School Girl, episode four, definitely taught Ja’mie a thing or two and, as such, it certainly didn’t disappoint me as a Chris Lilley fan with high hopes for the series. As I had anticipated, the audience finally saw Ja’mie vulnerable. Yes, she was still monstrous, but vulnerable nonetheless. However, Lilley also threw in something I didn’t see coming and, in doing so, this episode really exceeded my expectations.

jamieep42

Image credit ABC1

It wasn’t a boarder who pushed Ja’mie over the edge, after all. It was, in fact, someone much closer to home – her BFF Madison, who hooked up with her boyfriend Mitchell behind her back and, when confronted about it, told Ja’mie she wasn’t even that quiche. Cue a physical cat fight and Ja’mie’s subsequent bout of depression. Briefly, she refused to return to school out of fear that she would be taunted for being fat and not having a boyfriend.

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Ja’mie: Private School Girl – What’s the Score so Far?

Three episodes in and, whenever I watch Ja’mie: Private School Girl, I can’t get the Marina and the Diamonds song ‘Primadonna’ out of my head, particularly the lyric, “The primadonna life, the rise and fall”. Not that I want the series to fail, mind you. Quite the opposite, in fact. In order for this show to succeed, I feel that Ja’mie has to, finally, experience a downfall. I keep anticipating it with every episode.

jamie1

Photo credit: ABC1

Chris Lilley needs to make us feel something different towards Ja’mie other than outrage or incredulity. He needs to either give her a hint of sympathy or a lot of comeuppance in order for the series to be worth it. One of the reasons that Summer Heights High worked so well was that, while it had the shock and humour factor provided by all three main characters – Ja’mie, Jonah and Mr G – Lilley gave Jonah and Mr G something deeper.

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No Offence, But… A Look at Chris Lilley’s Summer Heights High

This article has been modified after its original publication on GaydarRadio.com on 21 July 2008.

The announcement that Chris Lilley’s Ja’mie: Private School Girl is set to hit Aussie, UK and US TV screens in October has caused many to dust off their DVDs of his 2007 series Summer Heights High, which featured his popular character Ja’mie King, a wealthy, snobby Australian school girl who, for one term, transfers to the government funded Summer Heights High to see how the other half lives.

 

As we wait to see what Chris Lilley’s new series will expose about Australia’s privileged using his particular brand of dark, outrageous humour and who it will offend this time ‘round, it is worth revisiting Chris Lilley’s earlier satire. The series offers an insightful, albeit exaggerated, exploration of the human condition and life in the Australian government system, an environment in which people from varying social backgrounds are forced to interact with each other on a daily basis and, as such, is affected by very real issues including bullying, social cliques, racism and homophobia. Lilley is not afraid to point out that the issues of class, race and sexuality still very much matter today. The series also humanises, at the same time as it caricatures, those people who fall through the cracks of this environment – this is no mean feat, proving just how much of a genius Lilley is as both a character actor and a social commentator.

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