Dear Netflix, now that you have caught on to what teenagers like, do you know what they look like?

Nina Geoghegan

As computers are cracked open and students turn on their academic brains, it is clear that school is back in session. Nonetheless, in this first month or two, the scent of summer still hangs in the air. To make the most of this transitional time, here are some of the adolescent-aimed Netflix summer releases to squeeze in — or desperately avoid.

New to the scene is “Young Royals,” first released in July. The show follows 16-year-old Prince Wilhelm of Sweden (Edvin Ryding) through a journey of self-discovery. The prince’s everlasting rebellious streak doesn’t bode well for the royal family’s status in the public eye and he soon finds himself at a high-profile boarding school called Hillerska. It is in this prestigious and mind-blowingly affluent setting that viewers watch Wilhelm struggle to keep a budding LGBTQ+ romance with classmate Simon Eriksson (Omar Rudberg) under wraps. Although the only season out so far is just six episodes long, the series delivers lots of raw emotion through its portrayal of the two’s slightly naive, yet beautiful love. Not to mention, each minute of the show leaves viewers gasping at the sheer drama that arises when royal duties, unwanted media attention, money and betrayal all clash at once. While an English dub of the Swedish show is offered, the original version still does a solid job of including the aspects of teen life that transcend the language barrier, including text lingo and parties. 

“Young Royals” has two alternate posters, cleverly portraying Prince Wilhelm’s options between love or the crown

While almost everything about this show is well done, there is one glaring flaw: its depiction of minors in sexual situations. The series displayed intimate sex scenes between two different underaged couples, making it a repeat offender of this fault. Minors should never be shown this way even in fictional circumstances where they are played by adult actors because the actors still depict underage characters. With the demographic audience being teenagers, scenes like these provide too much of a potential risk for minors to mimic the behaviors. To make matters worse, the main characters Simon and Wilhelm are both 16 years old, but the show has a rating of TV-MA, meaning that it is not suitable for viewers under the age of 17 years old. This seems to be a common issue with “teen” shows. The solution, however, is simple: sexual scenes could be rescripted to take place with characters 18 years old and up. Despite this, “Young Royals” is a must see for its skilled acting, LGBTQ+ representation and refreshingly unique royal family drama.

The alternate image displaying the young LGBTQ+ couple (Image courtesy of IMDb)

Another worthwhile watch on Netflix is season two of “Never Have I Ever,” released in mid-July. The new season follows main character Devi Vishwakumar’s (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) frustrating and crazy antics: from getting suspended to committing serious offenses such as trespassing. Despite the extensive damage done to her friends, family and mostly to herself, it is impossible to dislike Devi. Most of her dilemmas seem to stem from the same place they did in season one: Devi’s problematic methods of healing from the loss of her dad. While her coping mechanisms are largely questionable and often comedic, none of the seriousness is lost. In fact, Netflix’s portrayal of Devi’s healing process makes her a very relatable character. Not only this, but the show’s use of current popular culture allows viewers to think about the heavier topics brought up in the series.

Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) plays a rather convincing 16-year-old, as the actress herself is only 19, whereas her costar Darren Barnett is 30 in real life (Image courtesy of IMDb)

Unfortunately, the same level of depth and quality cannot be found in season two of “Outer Banks.” While it does deliver in the action and suspense department, it lacks everything else. The continued use of slang terms like “Pogue” and “Kook” seem to play poorly off of the “Greaser” and “Soc” concept of S. E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders,” making the show even cornier. Equally unnecessary and possibly more uncomfortable to see was the poor cast choice carried over from the first season. The experience of seeing many near 30-year-olds running around on screen, masquerading as high schoolers can only be described as unsettling. The season strays even further from the realness shown in “Never Have I Ever” by throwing in an international storyline. With supposed high schoolers stowing away to the Bahamas and a forced emphasis on alcohol and drug use, the second season was a disappointment filled with bad computer graphics and overly dramatic relationships.

All the excitement depicted in the Outer Banks season two poster is true to the events, but still fails to better the storyline (Image courtesy of IMDb)

Also on the list of new releases to avoid is “The Kissing Booth 3.” As the third and final installment of a franchise no one asked for, the movie was doomed from the start. It carries the same theme of unengaging main characters seen in season two of “Outer Banks” as both University of California Berkeley and Harvard fight over enrolling protagonist Elle Evans (Joey King). Aside from setting up unrealistic academic struggles, the movie also displayed slightly toxic familial and romantic relationships as healthy. To tie it all together, Evans cries out of sadness for the majority of the film, driving viewers’ cursors closer to the exit button.

Elle Evans’ (Joey King) and Noah Flynn’s (Jacob Elordi) 13-inch height difference meant one of the two actors’ heads was never completely in frame (Image courtesy of IMDb)

Recently removed classics like “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Blair Witch Project” are irreplaceable, especially in the face of cinematic disasters like the “The Kissing Booth” trilogy and “Outer Banks.” However, some credit is due to the platform for also producing a couple of acceptable choices for teens like “Young Royals” and “Never Have I Ever.” Although these two options only cover the comedy and drama categories of the teen genre, overall, they have a lot to offer to viewers.