Given the progressively dismal state of affairs in the nation currently, I have relied heavily on binge watching shows on Netflix. One of my coping strategies I started using in graduate school was having tv shows or movies playing in the background. More often then not, it was something I had already watched or something I was not truly invested in so it would become a form of white noise while I did work. During this pandemic, I have found not only have I continued using Netflix as my white noise, it has also become a source of coping, self-care mechanism. From watching the ridiculous “Tiger King” docuseries, re-watching the “Great British Bake Off”, and the hilarious movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.”
This month I want to talk about three shows that stand-out: The Old Guard, Julie and the Phantoms and reboot of Unsolved Mysteries.
The Old Guard, a movie based on a 2017 graphic novel. In the first four weeks of being released, Netflix reported over 78 million accounts streamed the movie. The premise being a group of semi-immortals throughout the centuries trying to save humanity from itself. The film, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood stars Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Chiwetel Ejiofer, and Van Veronica Ngo. What is amazing about this film not only is the seamless acting and storytelling but that a highly action driven movie has two females as its lead which includes a gay couple who transcends cultures and religion. Joe and Nicky are introduced which subtly introduces their relationship as a matter of a fact, no big deal. They are unapologetic when being mocked and provide one of the most awe-inspiring dialogues seen here.
The Old Guard’s two leading females, the first openly LGBTQ superheroes, and philosophical conversations on what it means to be human and how our actions can influence generations. Representation matters here. The writer of The Old Guard, Greg Rucka had written in his contract that the scenes between Joe and Nicky must be included. And for that, we are all the better for it.
The next show is an updated, reboot of a television series, Unsolved Mysteries. Unsolved Mysteries debuted in 1987. The show which tackled everything from suspicious murders, disappearances to alien encounters and ghost stories. Netflix commissioned a 12-part reboot which was broken up into 2 6-episode seasons.
Let me tell you these two seasons are a wild ride. The first season comes out swinging with the suspicious death of Rey Rivera and how the circumstances of defy gravity and logic. The next episode surrounds the disappearance of a woman in Georgia in the span of 13 minutes. This episode takes you on a roller coaster as they interview both the son and husband. The husband is equal parts suspicious and weird when it is revealed that he sleeps with the urn of his dead wife. Each episode has its own merits and fascination in the human condition. The season build upon mystery, suspicion, grief, and wonderment. The episode’s ending involves an ending credit scene asking for information and help with solving the case. One of the primary goals of Unsolved Mysteries when paired with entertainment value, is the ability to present the case and ask for help.
Throughout the run of Unsolved Mysteries, there has been new information shared and cases being able to be solved. Since July, the Unsolved database has received over 4,000 tips. Police Departments have started to reopen cases to the Rey Rivera, Alonzo Brooks, and Patrice Endres cases.
There have been recent studies to understand the fascination with True Crime, Mysteries, and Conspiracy Theories. True Crime presents a world of black and white where a common value system is implied. We tune in to True Crime stories for two different outcomes. One where there is a satisfying and validating end. Justice was served and the good win. And the other is that Justice has been stalled or denied validating your own personal understandings of right and wrong, justice, and even unfair circumstances. A Feminist Critique of True Crime is that women flock to watching Murder Mysteries and True Crime to bear witness to the violence done to their fellow sisters and for the chance to experience justice by proxy. Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix provides a space for the True Crime fans, the Conspiracy Theorists, and everyone in between.
The last show I want to talk about is much more lighthearted and fun, Julie and the Phantoms. The Netflix’s 2020 show is based on a 2012 Brazilian television show which centers on a young girl who is introduced to 3 ghosts who share her love of music.
What makes this show outstanding is the diverse course, the effortless character development that tackles grief, loss, friendship, and sexualities. The main character Julie Molina is a high school student struggling to find joy in singing after suffering the lost of her mother. Her father and younger brother are also still figuring out how to rebuild their lives without their wife and mother, respectively.
And like The Old Guard, Julie and the Phantoms is unapologetic and extremely intentional in the diversity presented in characters. Julie is Hispanic, her best friend is Black, and they are a force to be reckoned with. One of the ghosts, Alex, is casually mentioned at being gay not as a marker of the ‘token gay character’ but in the matter of fact reality that gay people exists and have stories to share.
Julie and the Phantoms episodes are only half an hour long which makes it easy to binge watch the entire season. The music is super catchy and are available for purchase. Julie and the Phantoms, while is targeted to a younger crowd, is still a great way to pass the hours with. Especially if, like me, you are a fan of the 1980s/1990s rom coms/high school coming of age movies and musicals.
Anjeanette LeBoeuf is hunkering down during this pandemic and hopes all that reads this are safe and well. She is the Queer Advocate for the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She is focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them.
Categories: Popular Culture