Last watched: August 2016
It’s summer, 1970s, and the Bronx are burning, literally and metaphorically. People are paying any number of the gangs in the area to burn down their buildings for insurance money. Drugs are prevalent, work is scarce, graffiti is everywhere and Disco is on the radio.
On-again-off couple Mylene and Zeke both have a dream to get out of the city. Mylene is going to get there by singing. Zeke — he’s not so sure, yet, but he’s got a talent with words and he’s smart as hell.
A twist of fate brings Zeke into the path of Shaolin Fantastic, mythical graffiti artist and up-and-coming DJ. Now Zeke must find his way, figure out what he wants and grow up, fast.
I am not the biggest Baz Luhrman fan due to the fact I feel luke-warmly about musicals and pretty negatively about over-the-top sentimentality. So with that in mind, it is incredibly high praise for me to say that I liked the Get Down, a LOT.
I thought there was just enough Luhrman in the pot to make it interesting visually and just enough musical for it to pay homage to both disco and the burgeoning of hip hop with panache. Mixed in with a dash of kung fu magical realism and you have one hell of a show.
I LOVED the fact that there was only one white guy who was literally a side note love interest (and a queer). Finally studios… well, Netflix… are starting to listen to viewers when they say they want to see diverse stories played by actually diverse actors. Eventually we will get diverse creators getting the reign (and see Matt Damon shush his mouth).
The only criticism I have – and, look, it’s not big because I really do love the show a lot – is that the queer kiss is not a kiss. It’s a very nearly almost kiss, the suggestion of a kiss overlaid with a drug montage that could be a kiss or could not. I liked that though because it felt like a tribute to queerness, an elaboration of non-labels, of the fluidity of gender and sex and sexuality and not just a kiss between two dudes. That being said, it also felt like a cop out. They could have had that AND had the two of them kissing.
Pros: Fucking epic-ly racially diverse cast, fully fleshed out women of colour with their own dreams and plotlines, two quintessentially queer characters (both of them sort of defy labels), excellent hip hop, compelling stories, beautifully acted.
Cons: while I’m almost positive that this will shoot all of these actors’ career into the stratosphere somewhere, my friend Nayuka aptly put it “Meh created by two white men profiting off black stories. I’m sure it’s done well but that bothers me”.
While Baz Luhrman is certainly white, Stephen Guirgis is half Irish-American, half Egyptian, but the sentiment is still pretty valid. A lot of the money isn’t going to get back to the people who lived these stories and that’s a bit fucked.
Genre: drama, musical, musical drama, historical drama, coming of age
Light/heavy rating: 6 (mostly because of the way it’s shot, there are some heavy themes)
Approach carefully if: you struggle with gang-related violence, family violence (particularly father-daughter), infidelity, predatory behaviour of an older man with a minor (the legal age in the states is 18, right?), the semi-glamourisation of a woman raping a man, an orphaned kid, drug use and selling, frequent homophobic slurs.
Can be found: Netflix
Accessibility: Subtitled 😀
If you liked, I recommend: Jane the Virgin, Glee?