By Danielle Rice || Arts & Leisure Editor
Netflix released the show Ginny & Georgia a little over a month ago, and it immediately received a lot of buzz. While I have to admit that I binged all 10 episodes in about a week, its popularity didn’t speak to the high-caliber quality of the show. Don’t get me wrong, it is entertaining if you need a quick distraction from your schoolwork, but it is not without its flaws.
The story centers around the relationship between a young, white, single mom, Georgia, and her 15-year-old biracial daughter, Ginny. Georgia, who I can best describe as a southern belle with a dark past, moves Ginny and Ginny’s younger brother, Austin, to Willsbury, Massachusetts after her husband unexpectedly dies. The series follows Ginny’s new friend group and relationship(s), along with Georgia’s new job (and romance) with the mayor during his re-election campaign. At the beginning of the season, (spoiler alert?) we find out that Georgia is responsible for her late husband’s death, so there is also an ongoing investigation led by a detective who never seemed as threatening as I think the show intended. We also follow young Georgia as she escapes an abusive home and lives on the streets, eventually meeting several men who take her in. In other words, there are many, many different plotlines we are following. It also contains many different genres — comedy, teen drama, mystery — but we’ll talk about that later on.
One criticism I have with Ginny & Georgia is that it relies heavily on tropes, and never really seems to move past or subvert them in any way. There’s the new girl who falls into the wrong crowd at school, the bad boy neighbor who she somehow can’t stop running into, the sweet, somewhat mysterious man who works at the coffee shop and starts to realize his feelings for the single mom despite her being newly engaged (okay, this one is specifically Gilmore Girls) — these are tropes we’ve seen before. And the series is not commenting on them or exploring a new topic with them; rather, it is simply employing them. Not to say every aspect of this show has been seen before. It definitely treads new territory with its multifaceted plot line and some of its unique characters and situations. But in general, a lot of times, it felt like an amalgamation of clichés.
The series creators tout its diversity and representation; however, to me, this often felt contrived. While the characters are not completely limited to stereotypes, per se, there is something forced about their representation of marginalized groups. For example, Ginny’s friend Max’s father is deaf, but his perspective or experience was never explored. In many of the scenes he was in, he (and his wife, played by Jennifer Robertson) was the comic relief, which left a bad taste in my mouth. In some ways, I felt like the series was just checking boxes for representation, but did not really care to delve into any of these characters’ experiences with these identities. I don’t want to completely bash its efforts at representation, though. Having deaf, LGBTQ+, and racially diverse characters portrayed on screen is very important. I just wished they had been handled a little differently.
Even the discussions of racism and sexism felt forced at times. In the first episode, Ginny tells off her English teacher in the middle of class for the kinds of authors he includes on the syllabus (almost all white men). It seemed as though the show wanted us to cheer for Ginny and subsequently the show for being “woke,” instead of delving deep into these issues. I got this kind of feeling many times throughout the short season. It did have some highlights, such as the focus on Ginny’s experience as a biracial girl and a particularly difficult scene where Ginny’s English teacher (yep, the same one) calls her out as the only black student in reference to a racist word in the book they are reading. I wished they had included more scenes like this because the emotions Ginny feels in this scene were raw and authentic, and it felt much more genuine than the aforementioned one. There’s a lot more I could get into here, but to keep it brief — not enough care was put into this series when it came to dealing with the representation of marginalized identities.
This brings me to my next point, which is that the series often felt like it was trying to cater to its teen audience, like a parent trying to act “cool” for their child. It often used slang like “mood” and “hundo,” but often not in the right contexts, in a way that you just knew that middle-aged adults who did not understand the terms were writing it. The main friend group calls themselves by their initials, “MANG” (I have never known anyone to do this in real life), and have some rather cringey inside jokes. I’m not really sure what the goal was with this — there are plenty of popular teen shows that do not cater to their audience in this way. It really just made some moments laughably awkward, and it took away from my perception of the show as trying to be serious.
I do give Ginny & Georgia credit for trying to tackle some deeper issues, such as self-harm, parental divorce, sexual abuse, and body image issues. It mainly handles these well, emphasizing therapy and the importance of social support like friendships; however, I found myself questioning the writers’ motives for including these themes. The body image theme is brought up in one episode, where Ginny’s friend Abby is shown duct taping her thighs to make them appear thinner. Aside from her almost getting caught when she was dared to take her clothes off, this is never brought up again. It left me wondering, why include this at all? Unlike a show like 13 Reasons Why, which, despite whether or not it effectively does this, centers its entire focus around bringing light to these kinds of stigmatized issues, Ginny & Georgia seems to be using these themes for mere plot points or to give its characters “depth.”
One last criticism, and then I’ll get to what I liked. I promise. As I mentioned previously, the series often flashes back to Georgia’s childhood to show her dark past and how that has shaped her actions and who she has become in the present day. However, these scenes are often very jarring because they stand in stark contrast to the otherwise light-hearted, comedic tone of the rest of the series. There is also not enough effort put in to make these full story arcs of their own with conflict and resolution, so instead, they are short, typically out-of-context flashbacks. I know that the writers included these to give context to Georgia’s character and what she has done and been through, but I can’t help but think this could have been accomplished some other way.
Now, for some praise. The relationship between Ginny and Georgia was complex and interesting, and I enjoyed the playful Desperate Housewives meets Gilmore Girls vibe of the series. In fact, I thought this was one of its biggest strengths. I think the most work went into developing Georgia’s character, so she quickly became one of my favorites. She has a charming, yet tell-it-like-it-is attitude, and I love how the series explored her experience and struggles as a single mom. The actress, Brianne Howey, really brought Georgia to life, and I liked what she did with the character. Overall, I thought the acting was very good. I enjoyed Antonia Gentry’s portrayal of Ginny as well, and her coming-of-age storyline, though it had its issues at times, was quite interesting and was one of the rare times this series seemed to show us something that had not been done before. In short, Ginny & Georgia is a quick, 10-episode series, which, if you look past some of its flaws, is rather enjoyable.
Junior Danielle Rice is the Arts & Leisure Editor. Her email is email@example.com.