Paper Girls lets its teenagers really confront – and live with – death

Amazon adapts to comic book Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chianglike the source material, is a show about death. Paper girl‘time travel story It’s certainly about many other things: tension between who we want to be and who we are, generational divides and trauma, plus a time war. What struck me, however, was its equally brilliant cast of characters, who learned of their own end long before it came, putting them head-to-head with a which none of us can escape: death. It was a painful, difficult feeling for anyone to decompress. Except most of these characters had to do it at the age of 12.

[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for the first season of Paper Girls.]

You can see that most clearly in the story of Mac Coyle, perfectly played by Sofia Rosinsky, who has to shoulder some of the show’s darkest themes. She was the sassy, ​​loud, swearing kid of the group who did a really bad job of her. Her upbringing was turbulent, with absent and violent parents, making her the most cynical of the four typical paper girls. You quickly learn how bad her problem is and it makes her feel fragile, hiding a lot of hurt that she’s not old enough to begin to deal with. Damn, she can’t even really admit it. This is all she knows and she must survive first. So as their journey into the bright, flashy future of 2019, the result is her learning not in an unexpected adulthood like the other girls, but a horrible death at the age of 16 because cancer, it hits you like a freight train. It’s cruel and unfair. And the show doesn’t pretend otherwise.

One big change the show introduced was the presence of a Mac’s older brother, Dylan, who greeted her in 2019 as if he’d seen a ghost (which I guess he has). After the initial shock, he quickly falls into the role of guardian, eager to not only protect Mac but also make up for their terrible childhood.

His instincts make him a bit of a substitute for mature audiences looking to protect the Mac. He plans to catch cancer early, pretend she’s his niece, and bring her into his now affluent life and family. In his own words, “gives you the life you deserve.” Watching him shed tears over this second chance with his dead sister, you get the feeling of not only the urge to save her but the resurgence of the pain that has shaped his whole life. Losing her made him a doctor, a job that helped him escape poverty and have a family of his own. Perhaps there was some guilt, the feeling of having to pay a debt, for the life he had to live that she didn’t do.

Mac argues with his brother in Paper Girls

Photo: Anjali Pinto / Prime Video

Mac struggles to open up to him and the other girls about her struggles, which she mostly tries to keep to herself. She’s not the only one trying to make it on her own. But while its other characters face death – including poor Larry, who bit the dust twice – the kids are still the focus.

Erin is the first to face future death, the death of her mother, one that haunts her existing fears, caring for parents who don’t speak much English, and struggling in town Small Stony Stream. Riley Lai Nelet makes it very clear that isolation is not just a “teenage girl” but a person alienated from their community and their grief because of their race and responsibilities. It’s the loneliness that makes her hard to approach, whether it’s her future self’s reluctance to connect with her sister or her past struggle to open up to other paper girls. – especially after she had to watch her elders die to save the future, potentially locking her fate. Unaware of Mac’s fate, it makes her feel separated from the group once again.

Tiff, too, feels an obligation to fend for herself even if it’s not her own death. As she grapples with the potential danger her friends are in, in a scene from episode four so poignantly portrayed by Camryn Jones, she’s trying to keep herself among the adults, desperate to grow up and take control of his life while also getting over hers. shortage experience.

While Tiff and Erin feel isolated by their fears, it is KJ who helps the group begin to depend on each other as they face their grim future. Fina Strazza’s performance allowed her quiet demeanor to masterfully fade away her power. She’s the first person Mac opens up to (their blossoming love for each other, a whirlwind of two girls’ confusion from the ’80s), and her immediate reaction isn’t to try. shield or protect her but share her pain with a tender embrace of understanding. In the end, she helps Mac share the news with the others, an act that ultimately strengthens the group’s bond and allows them to confront their dark fate together.

Photo: Anjali Pinto / Prime Video

Not that Paper girl alone in putting children in grave danger. Even in the past few years, programs like Strange things and Wild has put teenagers unequivocally in harm’s way. Those kinds of dangers, however, are different from the fates Mac and the others face – in that, characters are killed, but in ways that are often purely heroic or tragic. Those are the big moments, built with fanfare (and perhaps a bit too much) in return for the characters’ sacrifices or a tearful moment for their loss. There is catharsis in tragedies that these current shows are not in Paper girl. I think that’s why Mac’s story has stuck with me ever since I read the comics. It doesn’t deal with the problem of death or breakdown but instead Mac’s own inner struggle with a fate of no great significance, but just terrible unhappiness. There’s no way around it, just admitting that it’s brutally unfair.

You can argue about whether Paper girl is for children or not. But I’d say it certainly has appeal for both adults and children, but with its central cast, teenagers are sure to be remembered. That is a precious thing. I know I wasn’t exposed to any kind of novels like this as a child. Even as adults, it’s a reminder that children have rich inner lives. They deserve autonomy and enough room to really deal with the harsh realities that are crushing them.

Paper girl It felt like one of the only stories that had that feeling to a child. Give voice to an experience that is all too common but is almost never discussed. Like Mac’s brother, our instinct, understandably, is to protect children from these harsh realities. It’s a fantasy, though; whether we like it or not, kids have to deal with all kinds of problems that we wish we had for adulthood. Paper girl It could be a great time travel show, but it doesn’t evoke any warm nostalgia. It offers teenagers a piece of cold reality.

Paper girl season 1 is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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