On My Block is a Netflix original that follows four friends -Monse, Ruby, Jamal, and Cesar- as they start their high school experience. The show only has ten episodes with its episode airing on March 16, 2018, but it has quickly amassed millions of viewers. It has a 93% on the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes and Essence Magazine said: “If you’re not watching ‘On My Block’, then what are you doing?”
With numerous positive reviews such as Rotten Tomatoes stating “…On My Block is the respite from stylized teen dramas you didn’t know you needed”, it’s no wonder that this coming-of-age comedy has been one of the most talked about shows last month. The show seems to have it all; fun, friendship, drama, comedy, romance, violence, and a dose of reality. An article on Vice called it the “poc-centric Degrassi we need”.
Despite critics calling it a show with “well executed racial representation” On My Block’s most recent episode has some insensitive lines that have caught outrage on Twitter. “On My Block was good until that burka comment kmt” user @Ruqzzz commented.
In an interview, Eddie Gonzalez, one of the creators of the show, explained how they made sure to carefully portray South Central without judgment because “every character and story is complex“.
Yet they failed to do the same when they created an islamophobic analogy comparing Burkas to oppression and “flaunting boobs” to freedom. Using a religious garment as a tool to convey how Olivia and Monse felt repressed by the guys at their schools objectifying them is insensitive and only serves to promote the fallacious point of view Western media seems to push about oppression in Islam.
Numerous countries such as Germany fine women that choose to exercise their right to practice their religion by wearing veils. With burkas being such a controversial topic along with the fact that there are many impressionable teens watching the show, the writers for On My Block need to convey all the topics that they talk about as “complex, authentic, and non-judgemental” as possible. If the writers can appropriately talk about themes such as gang violence and the objectification of women then they can talk about burkas and their longstanding wrong representation as clothing that signifies oppression appropriately as well without further perpetuating incorrect information. There are thousands of other analogies that could have been used in this situation. Let’s hope that in the future, Netflix will be more diligent on screening what it is putting out.
There is always to room for improvement and I am hoping that the writers for On My Block will see this mishap as their push for better representation for all.
Cover Image Courtesy of John O Flexor/Netflix