Review: On My Block
Because I am so committed to contributing to all the categories I’ve created on Things, I recently elected to dedicate my time and energy to binge-watching all two seasons of On My Block.
Yes. I did it. For you. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, people.
Ok, so, On My Block is a show on Netflix that I knew absolutely nothing about until the moment Netflix recommended it to me. Had other people heard of it? Yes. When I tried to talk to said “other people” about this great new show I found, those other people smiled kindly and assured me that, mhm, they were very aware that this show was a thing. Now, it’s not a surprise to anyone that I would be at least one season late on a show, but the point is that they smiled kindly when I bounced over happily, thinking I was about to be the enlightenment.
Kindness ❤ It’s a beautiful thing.
Ok, SO. On My Block. It’s a 30-min-an-episode, Netflix original about four black and brown friends (and their black and brown tangential friends) who live in a fictional town called Freeridge, which is located in California, riddled with gun violence, and pretty much governed by two rival gangs: the Santos and the Prophets.
Honestly, I thought this show was INCREDIBLE. Not in the traditional way that I usually mean incredible (which is my favorite way to describe masterpieces like the Housewives or Star), but actually incredible. Netflix officially has a very specific tone when it comes to the teenage characters they feature – re: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Sierra Burgess is a Loser – and I’m so into it. They’re heartfelt and relatable enough to trigger your own childhood memories, but just advanced enough to make them more interesting than you ever were. They’re good people with redeemable qualities, even though they aren’t saints.
I like them.
So, avoiding spoilers, there are four main characters in On My Block – Ruby, Jamal, Monse, and Cesar – and one friendish/frenemy/magical being who deserves an honorable mention named Jasmine (more on her in a sec). Ruby, Jamal, Monse, and Cesar have grown up in Freeridge as a slightly dysfunctional but extremely adorable crew of best friends, and have become pretty accustomed to what it is to live in a world where the Santos and the Prophets decide what’s what.
The show starts the summer before their freshman year of high school, which is a pivotal summer for them for a couple of reasons. 1.) Monse and Cesar realize they like each other like that, and 2.) Cesar is tapped to officially join his family’s gang, the Santos.
I know I can’t speak from the experience of ever having grown up in this type of environment (and I know that makes me really, really fortunate), but I think this show does such a good job of normalizing a conversation about what it is to be lower class, growing up in a community that isn’t safe, where people – your friends – can be caught in the crossfire at any moment, and you may never see them again. These kids are smart, endearing, and hilarious, and you’ll recognize yourself (and the people you love) in them and their families in a way that reminds you that we aren’t all that different from them. We aren’t all that different at all. And by the pure randomness of which zip code you were born into, you are you and they are them.
SO. Who are these kids???
Pronounced MAHN-SAY, she is such a perfectly blunt yet emotional teenage girl. Growing up with three boys as best friends, she’s been one of the guys forever, until she comes back from writing camp the summer before ninth grade with boobs. Her mom abandoned her and her dad when Monse was just three years old, so she really hasn’t ever had a female influence. SO. She’s figuring it out. This whole “becoming a woman” thing. She actually reminds me a lot of one of my friends growing up, and I think that also tugged on my heartstrings a little bit while I was watching Monse make all her passion-filled, and somewhat questionable, decisions.
This is Cesar. He and Monse *like* each other (!!!). He is also for sure the one that all the preteen girls who watch this show are crushing on. Sigh. What to say about Cesar? He’s immature at times but what teenage boy (HA, or man) isn’t? He’s a Santos by blood – his older brother basically runs the gang now – so he will be a part of the gang whether he’s ready for it or not. Slight spoiler alert: He’s not.
This is Jamal. Hey Jamal! Man, you have to love Jamal. He helps cut through a lot of the tension this show generates, given the sheer environment in which it takes place. He often feels forgotten (because his friends often forget him), but he’s busy on a hunt for a TON of cash that’s hidden somewhere in Freeridge, according to the Rollerworld legend. Yes, that sounds random af. Trust me, it works.
Guysssss. Ruby is my favorite. My favorite favorite FAVORITE. All those preteen girls who are currently crushing on Cesar are going to realize in their late-20s it should have been Ruby all along (sorry, Cesar). He’s so little (5’1, aka my height, shout out to my fun-sized people), and he’s so eccentric, but he is so passionate and so full of life. He’s the crew’s certified debater, who they call in to negotiate any and all tough situations with outsiders, and he loves with his entire heart. Ruby feels things. And he’s so funny. And charming. And endearing. RUBY FOR THE WIN.
Honorable mention: Jasmine.
And so THAT is what I have to say about On My Block. And I’m so glad I watched it so I could tell you all about it, but I’m also so sad I binged it because now I’m done until season three. But you know what they say whenever you binge watch a show too fast: Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.