By Sofia Weddle & Anna Lawson
In this day and age, it should be normal to turn on the TV to a diverse array of actors who actually represent American society. The modeling industry seems to be keeping up through its inclusion of all body sizes and races. But why does the film world have such trouble with depicting real humans and the raw reality of life outside of suburbs scattered with matching white houses? Now more than ever, as students across the nation and the world struggle with gun violence, poverty, harassment, immigration, love, and gang dominance, it is time to showcase reality.
On My Block, a recently released Netflix TV show, may be just the solution. The show is set in the gang-ridden streets of Los Angeles as a group of four best friends-- Monse, Ruby, Jamal, and Cesar-- try to navigate their freshman year of high school. However, unlike in the majority of high school shows, the main characters face life-threatening roadblocks common to many. According to The Guardian journalist, Bim Adewunmi, “It’s a Los Angeles-set coming-of-age story about kids of colour, and I am completely invested in its mix of grim realism (deportation, gang violence, hidden teen romance) and Technicolor charm.” With its frontlining cast being made up solely of Latino and black teenagers, On My Block is a breath of fresh air for the television industry.
The show begins with a seemingly overused storyline set to a spectacular soundtrack: the group of best friends heads into high school, only for a conflict to tear them apart. Cesar is pushed into his brother’s gang, which not only threatens his safety, but his secret relationship with Monse. Most of the first season deals with these problems of romance and gangs, as well as tests of friendship, Ruby’s insecurities, Monse’s search for her birth mom, and even Jamal’s obsession with RollerWorld’s buried treasure. The reason behind On My Block’s genius is the seamless way it disguises heavy topics under a veil of teenage humour; however, “...moments on the show run an emotional gamut so intense that you’re never really sure what you’re in for” according to Liz Shannon Miller from IndieWire. Too commonly, serious issues become overly dramatized and extremated in soap opera-esque shows, to the point that relatability is slim. On My Block marks a new age for film-- one that is realistic, bluntly raw, and proud of all types of communities. Glenelg Junior Taylor Currie says that, “On My Block showed me life in a different social class among an ethnic group that I don’t often see in my area. The portrayal did not show the usual glamour of TV; it dealt with real topics like crime, gangs, and death.” Netflix is the first to truly use its following to transform opinions and showcase the gritty parts of life. Only time will tell if On My Block’s message will stick among production companies and in the hearts of viewers, but reality has never looked so good.
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