BY GABRIEL GUZMAN
Let’s be honest. We live in scary times. Not just in this country, but in the world. We watch injustice grow each day, and we don’t always take action. People of color are systematically oppressed and targeted; people are denied access to healthcare based on gender and class; a large number of women around the globe are prisoners within their own country, and pleading for freedom. But this is not new, the cameras are. We’ve always lived in dark times, but through technological advancement we’ve taken real life issues and broadcasted them. Some may think this has only worsened situations, but I believe it’s created a society where people want to get involved, making us more conscious beings.
Netflix was founded in 1997 as a way to rent movies on DVD, according to CNN. Around 2012 Netflix made a move that would change the industry; they created Netflix original series. A rising star itself, Hulu, was founded in 2007, and like it’s rival, began producing series exclusively for the streaming company. All my life I’ve been obsessed with scripted series; I guess you can think of me as a TV junkie. Dramas, comedies, shows with strong-female leads—they all empowered me. As I got older I started to realize that these shows served a higher purpose: to enlighten and awaken. Writers and producers work tirelessly to send the viewers a message.
Considering the current political climate, it’s no surprise that original series are flourishing; there’s so much content to write and produce. After spending hours in front of the television (trust me I’m not complaining) I’ve chosen three of the most transformative original series brought to you by Hulu and Netflix.
House of Cards
Season 5 of House of Cards was basically sub-tweeting the current president. So much, that Kevin Spacey’s diabolical character, Frank Underwood, channels his inner 45th president with the following quote:
“Yes, here we go again. Secretary of State, that's all I wanted. That's all I wanted. That's what I was promised. And now, here I am, President of these United States. You made this bed, America. You voted for me. Are you confused? Are you afraid? Because what you thought you wanted is now here. And there you are, staring back, slack-jawed, bewildered, wondering if this is what you actually asked for. This democracy, your democracy, elected me. And if you think it was hard getting here, you're beginning to understand what I'm willing to do to stay. I look across at this crowd gathered today and I know these are not my supporters. I'm looking at people who are waiting, with a smile on their face, for their turn. And the most vicious among them are the ones smiling and clapping the hardest. Power is a lot like real estate. Remember?”
My first thought when I heard Frank Underwood say that was “You’ve got to be kidding me”. He clearly made the connection to the 45th president. He wants Americans to know that they made this bed, and now it’s time to lie in it. And of course you have the obvious context clue: “Power is a lot like real estate,” because we all know that the current president is a real estate mogul (and nothing else). Art never ceases to amaze me. Only House of Cards, a show that gives us a (fictional) glimpse into the life of DC’s most powerful, and despicable, could make a speech sound so beautiful about a topic so terrifying. The show definitely swings left, but they use the power of art to show us how far some are willing to go to feed their egos.
13 Reasons Why
With Selena Gomez as an executive producer, 13 Reasons Why tells the story of high school student Hannah Baker and the road map she left behind before committing suicide.
Here’s 13 reasons why the Netflix original series changed the way we view television.
1. Mental Health-- Is as important, if not more, than physical health. It should never be taken for granted.
2. Suicide-- The show received plenty of support for putting mental health at the forefront of television, but at the same time critics argue that the show sensationalized suicide, and blamed the creators for creating a domino effect.
3. Dialogue-- Wherever you stand with the show, ultimately it created dialogue about a subject that can often be difficult to discuss.
4. Bullies-- They come in all shapes and sizes, and they can even be your friends.
5. Outrage-- Art is supposed to create conversation, but this show took it to a new level. There was heavy criticism coming from parents, and school administrators.
6. Unity-- It created a sense of unity amongst friends and strangers. There was a moment while watching the series that you realize, we’re stronger together than apart.
7. Friendship--This show proved that friendships will be tested, and they are not always permanent.
8. Signs-- There won’t always be signs that someone is struggling, but if you do notice even the slightest clue, act appropriately.
9. Faculty-- They are not always as helpful as you think. In this show we see that even some teachers fail to acknowledge signs of uncertainty.
10. Parents-- Don’t always know. Hopefully the series has opened the floor for discussion amongst families.
11. Sexual Harrassment-- Is real.
12. Rape--Is real. Even when society tries to minimize it.
13. Love--Is also real, and we should express it often.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Television is at its highest peak in terms of entertainment. There has truly never been a greater time to watch television—given the current political climate. One of the most heart-rending series is a Hulu original--The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the novel by Margaret Atwood. The story takes place in a dystopian society where women can no longer hold a job or own property. They are divided into two categories, those who are fruitful, and those who are barren. The women considered to be fruitful are the handmaids, and they are dispersed and placed with those families whose wife are barren. The handmaid’s only job is to produce a child for the family.
Besides being fiction and making good television, this story might have some unsettling truth to it. Jenae Holloway writes in Teen Vogue “For me, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is more than fiction—It’s a dark reminder of slavery.” She continues by saying “It’s basically a modern-day portrayal of white women experiencing a watered-down form of slavery.”
This is why art is important. Yes, it does create an escape for many people, but even better it serves as a reminder that our work is never done. It continues to show us what many want to us to forget. The Handmaid’s Tale is a riveting account of what once was acceptable toward a group of people, or even worse, what has yet to come.