By Mollie Campbell
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Coming-of-age, Crime
Starring: Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco
Released in March 2018, On My Block is a coming of age comedy set in Los Angeles. The plot centres around four children who have grown up in a poor and crime-ridden neighbourhood, and the struggles they face whilst growing up in these surroundings. Monse, the only girl within the friendship group, is a strong-willed and opinionated girl whose Father is often away working, and whose Mother left her when she was a child. Then there is Rueben ‘Ruby’, a confident math whizz. Jamal, the ‘nerd’ of the group, and Cesar, whose brother has just been released from prison, thrusting him into gang life despite his strong ambition to do something better with his life. Having just released a second season, Netflix is really onto something with this show, it is a very important depiction of poorer neighbourhoods, gang life, and the ‘normal’ trials and tribulations of friendships and navigating your way through high school.
The storylines are often simple yet important and the bigger aspects of the plots are truthful, accurate and incredibly impactful. It is also very educational and informative and prompts people to break through the misconceptions of stereotypes. The acting is natural and very honest; we truly start to believe in these characters, we really feel for them and the type of world that they have been forced to live in. There may be a bit of a grey overcast on their lives, they are always looking over their shoulders or trying to protect Cesar, but there are some truly heart-warming and hilarious moments too, portraying normal teenage life and interactions, and the freedom they have to really find out who they are. Whilst the comedy is the main focal point, this isn’t your usual ‘comedy’; the jokes never deter us or distract us from the issue at hand in each episode, or the arc of the season. And the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the characters and the severity of the situations they find themselves in are never diminished or tarnished by some other contradicting narrative.
The writers clearly understand the importance of the position they are in and they don’t take this responsibility lightly. We are given an insight into this world that most of us have never been a part of, therefore we don’t truly know the ins and outs of this kind of neighbourhood. Honestly, I think there are so many misconceptions about the people who live in these suburbs, just because a gang decided to stay put in their town, doesn’t mean that they are affiliated with it in any way. This show really highlights that, without stepping too far out of the coming-of-age narrative confinements. But that’s just the thing, there are no confinements or limits with this show, the writers haven’t painted themselves into a corner, instead they have pushed the boundaries in terms of genre and storyline. They have included so many varied storyline and situations, and they have all been set up and delivered in a different context, e.g. comedy, drama, action, crime etc.
In terms of dialogue, there are so many important scenes that the writers have clearly worked hard on in order to make it as truthful and impactful as possible. But it never feels forced, the important issues are at the core of the scenes but it is never false, it feels natural, as if the characters are people we are watching from across the street. At times it can be a bit predictable but at other times it is completely unpredictable, almost volatile, the writers catch us off guard and add so many plot devices, and never for affect, simply because it is important and needs to be told. There are also times in which they could have extended the scenes into something more action packed in order to create more of a surge in ratings, or to widen their demographic, instead they keep them short and simple, never taking advantage of the positions they are in, a position in which they have the power to inform young people and create something that actually feels real, and incredibly important.
Lastly, I love the creation of these four characters, they are all so different from each other and they go through a lot together but it only brings them closer. Each character has their own quirks and traits which we as an audience have grown to love so quickly, I should also mention their classmate and almost-friend Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia), who is without a doubt the funniest character in the show. The writers have done a brilliant job with these characters, the diversity between them only ignites a stronger sense of unity within the group, which is really important.
On My Block is a brilliant show, the storylines are very important and covers some very serious issues, but it never gets too heavy, it never steps away from its light-hearted core. This is one of the best shows I have seen in a long time, and I can’t wait until season 3!