If you happen to find yourself binging Netflix’s new show Everything Sucks! in your spare time, you’re probably falling in love with its nostalgic 90’s soundtrack, campy high school setting, and endearing character dynamics. Everything seems to suck to Boring’s town population (yes, Boring), but the show follows a few geeky underclassmen of the A/V club as they unite with the avant-garde drama club to make a home movie. The journey is sweet, filled with emotional highs and lows as the teenagers bond.
From just watching the episodes alone, it may seem as, for the most part, a perfectly harmless coming of age series. Except, it’s not.
Everything Sucks! has done one thing different than most teen television shows, and that’s cast actual teenagers or teenage-passing actors and actresses. Although it is an interesting breath of fresh air, it is not so in regards to one of the show’s main relationships – Emaline Addario and Kate Messner. Emaline is played by Sydney Sweeney, a twenty year-old actress. Kate is played by Peyton Kennedy, who is fourteen. Although they both pass as high schoolers, the six year age difference between their actresses and their ages themselves has alarmed many.
i don’t really wanna watch everything sucks after learning the main actress is 14 and her love interest on the show 20 in rl that’s bad
— char 💐 (@prentisjareau) February 18, 2018
Although there are fans who argue that it’s no big deal, the general consensus of social media seems to be that it is, at the very least, inappropriate. Some call it absolutely disgusting. The age difference seems to be very Emison-esque, in reference to Sasha Pieterse and Shay Mitchell of Pretty Little Liars who filmed their first kiss with a nine year age difference while Sasha was twelve – an age difference that wasn’t taken too harshly because they are both women. Most fans of Emaline and Kate seem to either sweep it under the rug or attempt to refute the controversy with reasoning that simply would not fly if the age difference was between a male and a female in their positions today.
The problem is not Everything Sucks! ‘s actresses simply having a six year age difference, but the age difference in relation to their current ages. This taints the image of the characters themselves and makes it seem predatory to the informed audience, regardless of whether or not the actresses or crew considered it an issue.
If this isn’t enough evidence for you that the show has overstepped, episode one unnecessarily features a high school sophomore girl about to masturbate. She’s also the same girl played by a fourteen year old. The scene is reminiscent of Netflix’s other original show Big Mouth which shows animated children performing sexual acts under the shield of the comedy label. It is another example of Netflix attempting to capture pubescence as accurately as possible but ending up closer to child pornography.
Everything Sucks! is a great concept which was executed well in terms of characters, plot-lines, and representation. Having a black boy and lesbian as protagonists, a lovable interracial single parents’ romance, and a high school setting without a jock in sight was a win for diversity. But the show will never have the clean reputation it was going for with its poor mistakes involving the minors in its cast.