This was originally going to be a post giving my thoughts on the latest Netflix show I watched over the past few days, pictured above. (spoiler: I love it). But since I’ve already done that before with another fantastic show, I decided to make this a little bit more personal to me. Specifically, why my tastes are the way that they are, and why I’m absolutely fine with staying in my media “comfort zone” and not branching out.
I still want to talk about the show I watched though, because it’s really good and will most likely go under the radar for people not into family-friendly teen sitcoms. Alexa & Katie is an incredibly sweet, wholesome, heartwarming show about a girl with cancer(Alexa), navigating high school with her best friend, Katie. That’s pretty much it. They go through some problems related to having cancer and normal high school stuff like dating and school dances, but everything manages to work out in the end because Alexa and Katie have each other, and there’s very little that the power of girl friendship cannot solve, including cancer.
During the first few episodes, I was wondering if the series would take a little bit more of a dramatic tone, focusing mainly on Alexa’s medical issues and the impact on her friends and family. But the further I watched, I realized that that’s not what the show’s about. This show is about living your best life in spite of whatever illnesses or conditions you may have, and showing off probably the most adorable friendship in modern television.
It’s not surprising in the slightest why I’d gravitate towards a show like this. I like stuff set in high school, I like the theme of friendship in stories, especially female friendship, and I like interesting spins on slice-of-life stories that are grounded in reality and well-written, all of which fit Alexa & Katie to a tee. But I kept thinking about what makes this show stand out from other things with a similar premise that I don’t enjoy as much. Mainly, well…Oh boy. It’s time to do some dunking.
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but make the connection. Let me be clear: I’ve only watched the movie of The Fault In Our Stars, and haven’t read the book. But I don’t think I need to read it to say that Alexa & Katie schools John Green’s writing in it’s portrayal of super-cool, relateable cancer teens so freaking hard, and I’m living for it. I know, they’re two different genres with different themes and whatever, but there’s no way you can tell me that Alexa isn’t an amazing icon compared to the snoozefest that is Hazel Grace. I would put a virgin vs. chad meme here, but I think I’ve already proven my point.
The interesting thing here is that on the surface, the books John Green writes should be right up my alley. Normal teen stories that make me think about the deeper complexities of life and existence? Sign me up! The problem is the importance he puts into each and every sentence, like he just wants you to know that he isn’t only writing YA, but an in-depth thesis on humanity using teenagers as his subjects. In short, I don’t feel like John Green is genuinely writing to young adults; He’s writing to young adults who’re wise beyond their years and want to pretend like they’re too sophisticated to enjoy a simple high school romance story. And if there’s one thing Alexa & Katie has over The Fault In Our Stars, it’s genuineness.
This problem can extend to the opposite end of the spectrum as well. An author whom I haven’t discussed previously is Kasie West, who writes extremely light, fluffy teen rom-coms that have very low stakes and are designed to be fun reads. I read one of her books, Love, Life, And The List, about a year ago and, to put it mildly, there isn’t much to the story, or anything at all really. It was the most “eh” book I ever read. If you like her books, that’s cool, but I just can’t enjoy something with as little substance as what she writes. And if there’s anything you can’t say about Alexa & Katie, it’s that it’s another ordinary high school show with no substance.
I guess what I’ve been trying to say for the past few paragraphs is that I have a very specific taste for media, especially pieces of media involving teens, and that not everything will automatically appeal to me based on a few characteristics. And that’s perfectly fine. One of the best things about the past few years for me is consuming all different types of media, and figuring out what I like and don’t like from there. I don’t want to feel guilty for not being into high fantasy stories other than The Last Airbender, or sci-fi stories other than The Twilight Zone and Invader Zim. I know what I like, and I will continue to seek out stuff that interests me. If that ends up being only girly YA books and family sitcoms with cool twists, then I’m fine with it. I’m sure I’ll try to challenge myself once in a while, but I’m not going out on a limb for things I know I probably won’t be into. I hope that any of you reading this do the same. Embrace your tastes, no matter how narrow or trashy or controversial they may be. And please, give this show a chance, even if it isn’t your cup of tea. Alexa & Katie is the light we need in these dark, dark times. I mean, they literally had a dance party in a hospital, and filmed it. If that’s not the ultimate dunk on The Fault In Our Stars, then I don’t know what is.