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DEMAREST: Mixed-race kids need more shows like 'Ginny and Georgia'

"Ginny and Georgia" showcases the struggles of mixed-race kids when it comes to fitting in and finding a community. – Photo by Sara Waisglass / Twitter

Underrepresented racial identities have been the premise of many popular TV shows for the past few years. For anyone who has been keeping up with mainstream television shows, this has been quite apparent, judging by titles such as "black-ish" and "Never Have I Ever."

I enjoy finally seeing many of these stories being told. As a kid, I remember so badly wanting to see stories that reflected myself and the people around me. Lots of books, shows and movies told a story that was simply not an accurate reflection of reality, neither my reality nor the reality which many of those around me or like me experienced.

Mixed kids have a unique experience. We exist somewhere between the neat racial lines that those around us want to group us into so badly. Seeing shows like "Ginny and Georgia" has made my childhood wish come true.

I finally feel like I am seeing genuine stories of the underdog, who does not fit in perfectly, not the caricature of a fake hero. Ginny understands that those neat racial lines were not made for people like her, and she navigates her way through the world understanding that and trying to embrace who she truly is. 

Bigger than a white story or a Black story, this show tells an American story. Ginny is a teenage girl navigating the typical high school struggles of friendships, relationships and all of the fun and heartbreak that comes with that. For any American audience, this setting is all too familiar, both on-screen and from our real-life experiences.

In fact, I would not even describe this as a "mixed-race" story. It is a story about a lost girl and her even-more-lost mother, with elements of race mixed in. For many, this is much closer to reality than one might expect out of a Netflix drama. In fact, it reflects the mixed-race experience in a much more subtle way. It is the story of lost and wandering people, trying to find their place in a world not designed for them. 

Georgia is a woman on the run who has had to cope with missing and abusive parents, nearly losing custody of her daughter and being taken advantage of by men just to survive. She has had to change her name multiple times and has even had to run from the law, running an illegal gambling ring just to support her daughter. To top it all off, her husband is gone.

At the beginning of the show, she finds herself forced to raise two kids, who have different fathers, as a single mother. She moves to the upper-middle-class, mostly white suburb of Wellsbury, Massachusetts. 

Ginny is Georgia's daughter, a half-Black and half-white girl, who has spent most of her life moving and on the run. At the beginning of the show, as she moves into Wellsbury with her family, she finds herself entering high school and having to make new friends once again.

She makes friends with three girls, Maxine, Abby and Norah, who form a group and call themselves "MANG." Additionally, she finds a boyfriend named Hunter, who himself is half-white and half-Taiwanese. 

Both of our show's titular characters are quite different in their backgrounds. In fact, their differences serve as the catalyst for their big conflict. Ginny becomes highly suspicious of her mother when she realizes that Georgia is hiding large parts of her past from her, which leads to shocking moments.

Ginny and Georgia end up accidentally pointing guns at each other in a fervent race to get ahold of Georgia's secrets. Georgia finally cracks and tells her daughter everything: the name changes, the loss of custody and the men who took advantage of her. Still, this does not do much to assuage Ginny's fears and mistrust of her mother.

From the viewer's end, it is easy to sympathize with both of them. Ginny wants to understand who her mother truly is and see why she does what she does, and Georgia wants to give her kids a better life than she ever had. But more important than siding with either of them is understanding the truly tragic aspect of their fight from behind the fourth wall.

Georgia does not understand Ginny nor does Ginny understand Georgia. When kids and parents have completely different upbringings, they will never view the world through the same lens. Aside from the typical differences which separate parents from children — generational, geographical and gender differences (depending on the parent) — mixed families have to contend with racial differences.

Anyone who has ever dated a person of different cultural background than oneself understands how difficult it can be when you both see the world through different lenses.

A white person will never understand what it is like to be Black nor will the Black person understand what it is like to be white. If they were to have a child together, neither parent would understand being half-Black and half-white and how that affects their worldview and behavior.

While the racial disparities between Ginny and Georgia are not explored very deeply, the other disparities are central to the plot and serve as the perfect metaphor for the experience of many mixed families. 

Georgia finally embraces family life, getting engaged to a man and being fully prepared to make him officially a father figure for her children. Nonetheless, her actual children run away from home. Ginny takes a backpack with her belongings and her little brother Austin, and they leave on the back of a motorcycle. 

This is the culmination of all of the maladaptive behavior that Ginny and Austin had both been engaging in. Austin, frustrated with a kid who is bullying him, stabs the kid with a pencil. Ginny has a falling out with her friends and a devastating breakup with her boyfriend after cheating on him with her friend's brother.

The irony here is quite apparent. The woman who spent her entire life moving around is finally settling down and embracing a normal life. Yet the kids, who also spent their whole lives so far on the go, simply cannot handle settling down in one place. To state it plainly, Ginny has a very hard time feeling at home, something mixed-race people often experience.

We have friends, but not being a part of a neatly defined racial group makes your place very unclear. We often somewhat fit into different social groups, but many of us never truly find "our people." Our cultural knowledge with one group might be spotty, or even nonexistent, if we were not exposed to it fully. 

Ginny is lost, and so is Georgia. Georgia has been lost her whole life, and she found a place that feels like paradise. Still, she cannot run away from who she was, and her daughter has kept her on her toes for some time. Ginny, on the other hand, has been lost due to her hectic childhood.

She has stated that she never truly had friends until she came to Wellsbury. Yet Wellsbury was not necessarily what she needed. She needed her dad, and she needed her mom to be who she truly was. She needed a house and a community that truly felt like home to her.

The happiest moments we ever witness from Ginny are when she is with her friends and when her father comes to visit. Yet even for mixed people who have all of that and more, it is sometimes easy to still feel lost. 

The lives of Ginny and Georgia are both very dramatized and not typical of any real-life mixed person. Most of us have never been through what they have. Nonetheless, everything they go through is just a small representation of the mixed experience. Still, the racial perspective of the story is handled in such a subtle way that it is easy to forget about it entirely.

I find that to be perfect. The message is still very much there — it is just not presented in a way that feels like a lecture. Surprisingly enough, people tune in to Netflix for entertaining, compelling stories. But I once heard that the best teachers can teach you a lesson without you realizing it until the end, and I believe that the writers, actors and directors of this show deserve that honor. 

Kenji Demarest is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in history and political science and minoring in South Asian studies. His column, "Kickin' it Back with Kenji," runs on alternate Tuesdays.


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