Written by Malin Evita
Created and written by Australians Naomi Higgins (who also portrays one of the leads, Penny), Mark Samual Bonanno, Humyara Mahbub, and directed by Jessie Oldfield and Adam Murfet, Why Are You Like This is an irreverent six-episode show now on Netflix. It follows the lives of three twenty-something-year-olds living in Melbourne, fumbling their way through life’s obstacles with a nice shield of hyperbolic wokeness to let them scoff with righteousness at people who don’t like them and make themselves feel holier-than-thou. The show, bathed in irony, self-awareness, and outrage, is an unabashedly modern take on “edgy” humour and a vigorous, fresh breath of air to the sitcom scene — sure to make those who don’t take themselves too seriously piss their pants (in a good way).
This show is chaotic. But it’s pulled together so well, you’re going to want to watch it all in one go. The accents are charming, the clothing shines with the characters’ personalities, and although entrancing cinematography is commonly reserved for dramas, WAYLT is not afraid to look good while making you laugh. Beyond that, the storylines are brilliant and constantly keeps you engaged and invested. If you told me this was written by a team where only one member (Bonanno) had any previous screenwriting experience, I wouldn’t believe you. But looking back it, it might be just that which makes this show so invigorating and different from anything else on air.
Our main characters — Penny, Mia, and Austin — have the perfect qualities for a trio lead recipe.
Penny (Higgins), a White straight feminist working at a male-dominated tech company, is perhaps the epitome of someone who sincerely wants to help but is so determined to be right all the time that she lacks the ability of nuance, patience, and some might say common sense. She is fast-paced, extreme, and has no time to stop and think for just one second — unless it is to consult her “who gets to speak over who” Oppression Olympics chart. In the first episode, “I Love Gay”, she becomes convinced that her co-worker Daniel (Lawrence Leung) is a homophobe after he didn’t seem too enthusiastic about a Queer Visibility Party being thrown at the office. It would, of course, in the end, turn out to not be the case and create a horrific cringe-worthy disaster.
Time after time, Penny devotes herself to change the world, whether or not the people she seeks to help want it or not. And time after time, it blows up in her face. She is the adult still stuck in the phase that many now matured feminists go through as they just start to discover activism. Her jump-the-gun yet well-meaning attitude reminded me of myself between ages twelve and fourteen after being introduced to feminism through Emma Watson’s UN speech. I was full of hope and anger and had no room to spare for different perspectives or the approach of education rather than eradication. Having now grown out of that, Penny’s feminist mishaps hit even closer to home and served for some good retrospective second-hand embarrassment.
Then we have Mia (Olivia Junkeer), a bisexual South-East Asian woman with a fabulous sense of fashion and the inability to keep a job. At times, she seems to have the most mature takes on cancel culture, yet she also unapologetically weaponises her identity as long as it makes her look like she’s in the right. Mia’s character has mastered the art of not giving a single fuck, and somehow manages to be both unbelievably unlikeable and admirable at the same time, creating an impeccable concoction of outrageous comedy that will make you shriek in laughter and bite your tongue.
And as the cherry on top, we have Penny’s roommate Austin (Wil King): A White gay man and struggling drag queen with weak knees for expensive skincare and Swarovski crystals. While Penny is obsessed with not offending anyone and Mia wants to offend everyone, Austin glues it all together. For him, his needs come before anyone else and “the big picture.” But again, they are all multifaceted. So while Austin can occasionally appear shallow, we also have a very authentic storyline where he is struggling with depression — something the writers skilfully manage to make light of, but not fun of.
I would sincerely recommend this show to anyone who has the guts to watch it. I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it; you might find it hits too close to home or misconstrue it as glorifying this type of behaviour. But in the end, it’s comedy. Fiery comedy at that, but comedy nonetheless. It is supposed to press your buttons a little; give you some perspective. So if you are able to not take yourself too seriously, to not be personally offended, and just sit back and relax some friendly fire, you’ll probably enjoy this quite a lot.
We need more people making self-aware, satiric comedy — and this is precisely that. It is fresh and modern with a diverse range of representation in characters and conversations. They aren’t constantly positive, but nuanced and original. You can tell that the writers know what they are talking about too. They don’t talk about TikTok like a forty-year-old father who still thinks puppy filters are it, as many shows tragically do. Why Are You Like This is a time capsule of the current state of internet culture. It’s up to date, roaringly relevant, and perfect for the nihilistic and self-loathing generation we have become. And most importantly, it’s one fucking fun trip. So strap in for a show filled with queerness, decolonisation of genitals, moon cups, exploitation of incels, and cancel culture laser tag games. Available now on Netflix (WW) and ABC iView (AUS).
Written by Malin Evita
Evita is the host and producer of the podcast, Instagram curator, and a writer focused on script, cultural commentary, and film analysis. She is a Vocal grand prize winner and currently studies Professional Writing at college. Through storytelling, she aims to amplify empathy and human connectivity.