A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Positive messages are loud and clear, with interviewees championing things like the value of living an authentic life, the role of confidence in one's own abilities, the importance of having a supportive network of friends and family, the need to be sensitive to the feelings of others, etc.
Positive Role Models
All participants are thoughtful and intelligent, honest about what they've been through and what it taught them. We learn intimate details about their lives and empathize with what they've survived. Their success stories are powerful and relatable.
Many of the young people featured are people of color: Black, Asian, Southeast Asian, Latino. They speak frankly about their experiences with racism and colorism, how it has informed their lives. One woman, Emily, uses a wheelchair and is painfully honest about how her body's limitations have affected her life. Yet another participant, Sage, is a trans woman who opens up about her journey to a life that feels comfortable to her.
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Violence & Scariness
Some talk about bullying, and thoughts of self-harm in brief scenes.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There's talk of crushes and boyfriends and girlfriends. A brief scene shows teens kissing.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Growing Up is a sensitive series featuring real young people age 18–22, each of whom talk about a difficult experience they had as a younger person. The positive messages are relatable and clear: Participants show significant courage and candor in relating their tales, are supportive of each other, and are honest and perceptive about what they gained and lost in going through each experience. Many of the interviewees are people of color who talk about how their race and/or ethnic background has affected their lives. One woman uses a wheelchair and is very frank about how her body's differences have played out in her life experiences. Another woman is trans, and she relates the story of discovering her true identity. There's some cursing ("damn," "hell") and some talk of boyfriends, girlfriends, and crushes. We see teens kissing in a brief scene.
Is It Any Good?
This lovely and evocative docuseries uses a mixture of narration, dramatization, and imagery borrowed from other stories to tell sensitive stories about the life challenges of real teens. Growing Up begins simply, with director/creator Brie Larson gathering together her group of young participants in a room, and then encouraging them to talk about a difficult time in their past. Each narrates their own story (or sometimes they tell their tales together, as we see in the episode focused on best friends Clare and Isabel), and each participant gets their own episode to wrap up something that was hard, what they learned, and where they are now.
It sounds trite. It isn't. Some of the experiences these teens have had are intense (homelessness, bullying, severe depression) while others seem less so on the surface (two episodes center around young women learning to take pride in their unconventional individual beauty), but as in life, the problems only seem small to others judging from the outside. Given life and color by the young people who survived their travails and learned something from them, the stories are deeply relatable and moving. There are tears, hugs, and earnest declarations ... maybe some of them from the people watching, too.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.