Do the films and shows we watch have a responsibility to be realistic? As a former superfan of The Hills, I’m well aware that keeping it real isn’t a prerequisite — remember the original 2010 series finale? As I watched the camera pan out to Brody Jenner standing on a soundstage, I was rocked to my core. I didn’t think that the MTV classic was a Big Brother-style live feed of Lauren Conrad’s L.A. apartment, but even with contrived plots here and there, I still expected producers would try to make the show as real as possible. After all, it is a reality show. The unabashedly staged ending proved that wasn’t the case.
I have a similar gripe with the new on-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In The Heights. Since it came out last week, it’s attracted an onslaught of criticism for the lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latinx characters with speaking roles. By leaving out Washington Heights’ often-overlooked dark skinned demographic in favour of white-passing actors, many believed the movie perpetuated the deep-seated colourism in Latinx communities.
Once the uproar made its way to Twitter, Lin-Manuel Miranda apologized. Granted, this is a musical with ensemble numbers taking place on the streets of NYC so I’m well aware that there’s an element of fantasy. But like Lauren Conrad and co., it’s hard to buy the story knowing the glaring departure from reality. In the Heights was supposed to be a beacon for Latinx representation in Washington Heights but it fell short. I wouldn’t say that artists have a responsibility to be ultra-realistic or even relatable, but at the very least we should expect honesty. It’s not lost on me that The Hills finale was a very smart commentary on reality TV as we know it, but like In the Heights, it did the audience a disservice by misrepresenting what it was claiming to be.
This week’s latest drops on Netflix Canada range from fantastical, like Spider-Man: Far From Home, to supernatural, like Manifest, to swoon-worthy, like The Sun Is Also a Star, but even as they veer away from reality (TBH a meet cute with Charles Melton has to be pure fiction) they don’t lose their grips on honesty. Read on for what to watch this weekend.