In this era of Netflix, stories that wouldn’t have had much of a chance on TV 15 years ago now get their own spotlight and can spawn fandoms overnight. We’ve seen this with Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Sense8, and Stranger Things. My question is: where’s the love for The Get Down?
The Get Down takes place in the late ’70s during one of the worst periods for those living in the Bronx. Featuring a cast that is almost entirely black and/or latinx, The Get Down tells the story of the birth of hip-hop and rap in the age of disco despite the depraved conditions of neglected neighborhoods and the unsavory business people get into just to make enough money to pay for rent and food. It has a cheesy love story, a fantastic soundtrack, and hints of upturning the homophobia it has to portray given the time period.
Fans of Hamilton should find plenty to like in this series. Revolution and hip-hop and possibly bisexual characters? You’ve got that here. Supporters of diversity in fiction will find representation that is varied and dynamic. The show touches on racism, on finding a way out of poverty while still trying to maintain a sense of your roots, and on the blossoming of new art despite all the surrounding destruction. In their own respective ways, two of the main characters, Mylene and Zeke, turn to music to make something of themselves. For Mylene, it’s disco and she’s often chastised for all that “white singing.” For Zeke, it’s the emerging underground hip-hop scene, which conflicts with opportunities he receives to succeed in the white world.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the series for me is how Mylene ends up adding a disco flair to a worship song and that single goes from the sanctuary of a church to the sanctuary of a gay club, becoming an anthem for the gay community and solidifying Mylene’s single as a hit. And yes, gay clubs were and still are sanctuaries for many people. They had to be, especially when the church did not allow gay people in their own sanctuaries. Rare was the gay person who heard a message of liberation and freedom for them in a church sanctuary in the 1970s, yet The Get Down has that message reach them anyway. Although gayness only starts to come to the forefront near the end of the first season, I see and hope that the series will explore it more in depth. 1977 is not even ten years after Stonewall. If Dizzee and Thor get a story line that’s just as campy as Zeke and Mylene’s, while also confronting the realities of trying to exist as queer people in the 1970s, then that’ll be yet another untold story brought to life.
I also hope, but won’t necessarily hold my breath, that religion will get a more dynamic portrayal. Yes, the ultra-fundamentalist Christian pastor father narrative creates a lot of drama and tension, but I’m quite tired of that being the only type of Christianity I ever see in media (which is why I use progressive Christianity in my own writing). The show’s creators have some alternative religious narratives to choose from, such as the United Church of Christ’s growing acceptance of and compassion toward LGBT people in the 70s. Of course, as I’ve expressed several times in the past, the comfortable narrative to go with is the conservative one.
Even so, The Get Down is just a fantastic story. It’s a bit over-the-top at times, which is fine by me as an anime fan, but it totally deserves just as much love and fandom as so many other series have right now. Part of it is that the show was only released a month ago, but I do hope the love picks up some steam.