Why On My Block is the Best Netflix Original You’ve Never Heard Of
Written by Jenn Noga on April 11, 2018
Netflix, oh Netflix. I love you, you know that I do, but why do you not promote some of your best content? You know, shows that inevitably get threatened with cancelation or canceled like The Get Down, Sense8, One Day at a Time, Between, Godless (okay this is a limited series run but if 13 Reasons Why can get a second season based on nothing why can’t Godless), need I go on? But today I’m here to inform you of a show in hopes that it will save it from the same fate. Today, ladies and gentlemen I’m here to inform you about On My Block (spoiler-free).
The quick summary of On My Block is a coming of age show that follows four teens as they start high school while growing up in the inner city of South Central Los Angeles. It has ten episodes (at max each episode is 30 minutes which makes it super bingeable), and has a cast entirely comprised of people of color, with this show being their first major role. You follow the core four, Monse Finne (played by Sierra Capri), Ruby Martinez (played by Jason Genao), Jamal Turner (played by Brett Gray) and Cesar Diaz (played by Diego Tinoco) during their transition into high school.
On My Block has everything I look for in a show. You have star-crossed lovers in Monse and Cesar, slow-burn love between Ruby and Olivia (played by Ronni Hawk), wild conspiracy and treasure hunts with Jamal, a boatload of comedy, and hits on real issues while still maintaining an excellent storyline.
On My Block shows strong and healthy female relationships between Olivia and Monse. Shows are SO quick to pit girls against each other (especially over a boy) and while there was natural (and to be expected) jealousy they put their friendship first each and every time. Olivia is quick to assure Monse that she is, in fact, a girl’s girl, following a conversation about how Monse never really had friends who were girls because her mom left. Monse gave up Cesar because she new Olivia liked him or Olivia letting Cesar go because he was still into Monse, it was always because they loved and cared about each other.
A big part of Cesar’s storyline is that he’s in a gang because that’s just what his family does, but this show doesn’t vilify anyone in the Santos, not even Oscar (Cesar’s older brother played by Julio Macias). They make Oscar a three-dimensional character and not just boxing him into the thug trope. Sure Oscar is in a gang and he’s been to prison, but he’s the type of person who would move heaven and Earth for Cesar. It hits on the fact that these characters and the choices they’ve made are products of their environments and how they were raised.
On My Block handles the sexualization of young teenage girls exceptionally well. Monse goes to a writing camp at the beginning of the summer and comes back as a developing woman. Her friends are protective of Monse, but never in the “you’re female and thus weaker” way, because she would lay anyone flat on their ass (and probably will if given the opportunity), it comes from the reality that they know that she’s growing up in a world where men have become more predatory.
They never suggest that she should change how she dresses, they put the rightful blame on the men that unwantedly seek her attention. It also touches on how American teens live with gun violence AND how teens of color deal with racism and what they take from it. Even with all of the heavy subject matter, it still manages to be funny and compelling and also tugs on my heartstrings.
On My Block is one of the best shows I’ve watched in a long time. The comedy is well delivered and genuinely funny. The soundtrack is A+ and adds that extra element that really pulls the whole show together. I’m asking you to please give this show a chance so it gets renewed for a second season because On My Block is truly something special.
On My Block is available to stream on Netflix everywhere.