Netflix’s ‘Grand Army’ brings light to important issues in teenage culture
November 12, 2020
Released on Oct. 16 2020, Netflix’s new original series Grand Army is a must-watch. Grand Army is a high school drama set in Brooklyn, New York. A bombing takes place in the first episode, setting off a chain of events paving the way for the plot of the season. The first episode segues into the discussion of racism, sexual harassment, identity, sexuality, and familial ties from the perspective of teenagers.
Normally, I do not watch high school dramas expecting them to be relatable, but Grand Army is an excellent depiction of the life of a current American teenager. Unlike Riverdale or Euphoria, Grand Army is not a subject of overproduction and the cast looks like they are sixteen years old rather than twenty-six. The actors who play the show’s main characters are ages eighteen to twenty-four, giving them a closer connection to teens and their own years as teenagers.
Each of the five main characters experiences a unique challenge as well as character development teaching them sympathy and consideration for their peers.
Joey is a girl who is body shamed by her peers and educators- she claims to be focused on social justice but gets hate for only discussing the Free the Nips “movement.” After being sexually assaulted, Joey loses the confidence that she normally carries herself with. Joey becomes more considerate of her peers and the issues discussed involving racism in the show as the season moves on.
Jayson and his best friend, Owen, are musical prodigies who are harshly punished for messing around during the bombing in the first episode. Owen is suspended and sent to a public school lacking educational resources where he faces physical violence and loses his opportunity to perform in the All-State music competition. The Black Student Union at Grand Army gathers and begins looking for ways to demand reform in the school and justice for Owen.
Dom is a hardworking AP student who is forced to make some tough decisions when her sister sustains a back injury and can no longer work to provide for their family. With a six-person household, the responsibility to find a solution for the economic hardship fell to Dom, the oldest child in the house after her sister. Dom is faced with the choice of making up the money herself or marrying someone from her mother’s home country to give him citizenship. Dom’s character shows the struggle of first-generation students in the US and she illustrates cultural differences in American society.
The character Sid shows the struggle of accepting one’s identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. With immigrant parents who are homophobic, it is difficult for Sid to accept himself for who he is. After writing a college essay about his sexuality, Sid finally accepts himself as a gay man. Sid continues to hide his identity from his peers because his membership on the swim team puts him in a prime position for discrimination from fellow jocks.
Leila is new to Grand Army and seeks opportunities to fit in and be recognized. I consider Leila a narcissist because of her actions in the show and the lack of empathy and compassion she shows for people other than herself. Leila starts her career at Grand Army with her best friend, and after being put on the swim team’s Instagram account where they objectify women, Leila reevaluates her perception of high school. Being an Asian girl adopted by white Jewish parents, Leila believes she is not enough of one thing or another to determine her belonging in a certain group.
Grand Army evaluates real issues teenagers face from all types of backgrounds and the characters react realistically. This show is authentic and relatable to me and other teens I have spoken to. The actors and actresses capture the true emotions of high schoolers and do an awesome job at showing the variety of concerns- trivial and serious- teens deal with daily. Not only does the show do a phenomenal job depicting teens, but it also represents relationships between teens and the rest of society well. I consider Grand Army to be the best high school drama out right now and I look forward to the coming seasons.