When I heard that Netflix’s The Get Down was canceled after its first season, I felt my stomach plummet. I know that it’s common for television shows to get canceled for various reasons; lack of funding, main characters dropping out or there’s a scheduling conflict etc. But regardless, I found myself feeling really emotional with this cancellation. For those who don’t know, The Get Down was a period piece that blended magical realism with the backdrop of political drama. The plot retold the birth of Hip Hop through the cast’s perspective and featured an ensemble of mostly black and brown youth who lived in the 1970s borough of Bronx.
When I discovered The Get Down last summer I was conflicted as I have a complicated relationship with mainstream hip hop. I feel like it has forgotten its roots in the South Bronx and has become more regressive each year with few standout acts. I also felt like America likes staples of our culture but suffers from cultural amnesia and the things we pioneer are often bastardized. So I was sceptical about The Get Down. Would it honor its forefathers and mothers? I somehow managed to bypass my initial feelings and pushed on when I read the complete synopsis and saw that the ensemble were leads of color. My mind was also put at ease when i heard Hip Hop Legends Nas and Grandmaster Flash would aid the production of the show.
The musical selection, attention to detail and delivery of the young cast caught me by surprise and I ran through the first part of series within in a night. This is coming from someone who hates binge watching stuff.
However with The Get Down I found so much of myself in these characters compared to some of the current shows that have white leads and supporting characters of color. These kids long to make the right decisions and even with the hardships, they still capitalize on joy which, I hate admitting this as a 24 year old, I haven’t witnessed on a series of a long time. Unfiltered black and brown joy is imperative in a world where violence against our bodies is normalized. I know that I’ve written a review of the first part of The Get Down, but I feel strongly about this show. They brought several necessary moments to our screens showing us a side of sensitivity that’s not allotted to young people of color in many shows. The moment Zeke’s teacher saw his talent for poetry and pushed him was affirming as in real life, our education systems fails urban youth of color. Or when Dizzee discovered his queer identity in the first part of the series was so important especially as queer youth of color are underrepresented in mainstream media.
This isn’t to say that the series was the most brilliant show on air as it did some issues such as myopic character development, colorist tropes and weird pacing issues. While many of us are mourning the cancellation of the series I do think low viewing numbers in comparison to other shows were down to the fact not enough promotion went into The Get Down. Especially in comparison to the YA Novel turned series, 13 Reasons Why and Stranger Things as these two shows in particular were heavily promoted months prior.
The Get Down kids were creative and used the hard moments in their lives to become better at MCs, dancers and taggers. Black kids are rarely seen as innocent so there were a lot of first in this show. Several first kisses,”first times” and getting first jobs. The actors delivered their scenes with such a passion that we rarely see from casts so young. Although I’ll admit, After watching part two of Season One a few weeks ago, I found myself disappointed I do feel the recently added episodes solidified a connection between viewers and the cast members.
I can see parallels in The Get Down who like ourselves seek to be validated by our friends in a world that seek to diminish what we create. The characters forged friendships through the content they created and they cheered on each other. It was beautiful to see youth of color centered in a narrative like this.
The Get Down highlighted something that we had never seen on screen before; Black Americans, Latino Americans, and Afro-Caribbeans coexisting in New York City. Often times shows that take place in New York City do not adequately highlight the multiculturalism in some of the boroughs.
Another bonus of the show was that it blended comic aesthetics, to references to kung fu movies, and Star Wars. There were even cameos from Hip Hop legends: DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash.
It gave us samples of all that the late 70s had to offer. We saw the early breakbeats of hip hop, disco, funk and many different genres that were dominant back in the day. The cast delivered several tracks with a star-studded soundtrack with musical numbers but also songs that were played during that era. The Get Down offered several things: LGBTQ representation, strong-headed girls and sensitive boys of color. Each episode we reveled in the joys and sorrows of our young cast members.
It begs me to ask why is it a problem when there are kids of color being centered being happy? Several fans chop it up to it being expensive show and granted I understand that but shows cost thousands to a couple millions of dollars to run so what makes The Get Down any different? Arguably it was definitely one of the most visually and sonically developed shows that I have seen in the past few years riddled with authenticity.
I’m still slighted at the cancellation of The Get Down, and several folks have been have began protests for its renewal via twitter/other social media hubs.
IF Netflix did decide to bring it back into production, I think they should find Black and Brown writers. My big hang up were some of the voyeuristic moments that Baz created and some of the gimmicks that came from having white writers try to pen black and brown people as subjects. I am pro-people of color getting more roles in the production room as I am with people who look like me on screen.
Overall, there are several loose ends from the second part of the season that left many viewers anxious about the outcome. For the time being, we can only speculate, rewatch episodes and pen fanfictions. I, as well as many other fans of color, will dearly miss The Get Down.
Author: Brittney Maddox
Editor: Precious Mayowa Agbabiaka