Netflix’s Newest Release: Grand Army

Image Courtesy of Netflix Original Grand Army

By Isa Pardino

On Oct. 16, Netflix released the groundbreaking first season of their most recent show, “Grand Army.” This show depicts a group of high schoolers that endure situations that can be controversial, difficult, and most importantly, relatable. This series closely follows the lives of five high school students as they deal with sexual violence, racial injustices, and economic hardships, as well as familial politics in their plight to become authentically themselves. This show is loosely based on Cappiello’s “Slut: The Play.”  Specifically, the character Joey DelMarco, played by Odessa A’zion has a storyline that is a direct reference to Cappiello’s“Slut: The Play.”

The five main characters who comprise the show’s storyline are Joey, who is a dancer and an activist who at times fails to see her own shortcomings, all while struggling with her parents’ divorce and her own sexual assault. Dom (Odley Jean) is a junior basketball player who is faced with the difficult decision of choosing between looking out for herself and doing whatever it takes to help her family. She is hard-working but weighed down by her family’s financial struggles. Sid (Amir Bageria) is a senior on the swim team who struggles with his sexuality and identity, especially after a terrorist attack in his neighborhood prompts his fear of being racially profiled by his classmates. Jayson (Maliq Johnson) is a sophomore who plays the saxophone and partakes in some innocent fun until those games result in serious consequences for himself and those around him. Finally, there’s Leila (Amalia Yoo), the Chinese-born daughter of white, adoptive Jewish parents, who struggles with her identity and place in the world. 

“Grand Army” depicts a very real, raw version of the experience that many high school students live out daily. In just one season, with nine, one-hour-long episodes, this show brings to light a multitude of problems, struggles, and harsh realities that weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of many young people. This series begins to normalize practices that have for a long time been stigmatized. For example, at one point in the show, Joey goes to therapy to deal with the stress of her parents’ divorce and the assault that she suffered in previous episodes. “Grand Army” also uses the mannerisms, language, and thoughts of the characters to give insight into Gen-Z and the teenage psyche. The way in which the writers include the aspect of social media such as Instagram and Snapchat, as well as the impact that they can have on the mental health of adolescents, is truly unmatched. 

The actors portray their characters so clearly, that it makes the viewer feel as though they are a part of the story. The viewer can feel the empathy, joy, and anger that is so vividly depicted in many of the scenes of each episode. This season also deals with social issues that are relevant to today’s world. The setting is Brooklyn, N.Y. in early 2020, meaning that the writers included nuances of the George Floyd tragedy, and nodded to the presidential election, even briefly mentioning the Coronavirus pandemic, that in the show, has not yet plagued the United States. “Grand Army” does a good job of capturing the essence of Gen-Z’s determination to change the world, while still illuminating the situations that people in the real world deal with every day. The series shows the fire that burns in the hearts and minds of young people to stand up and question authority. 

“Grand Army” focuses on the lives of these teenagers and all of the baggage that they carry with them every day. Between balancing grades, friends, sports, and college applications, and on top of this, the expectations that society holds for them, these teens are spread thin. The reliability of this show is augmented by the characters and their seemingly authentic experiences. The idea that everyone around you is fighting some internal battle that you know nothing about is incredibly apparent and really speaks to the common experience that so many people carry with them daily. 

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