A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jailbirds is a documentary-style reality show about a group of female prisoners in the Sacramento County Main Jail. The show mostly keeps depictions of violence, sex, and drug use offscreen, but they are all talked about explicitly throughout the show, and inmates often threaten one another with violence. Profanity is constant throughout, and there is sexually explicit talk as well. The show blurs the line between reality TV and documentary, most notably in the way it turns violent offenders into protagonists. For example, one plotline depicts a romance between a female inmate and a male prisoner who is doing time for "causing corporal harm" to his wife. His history of abuse is played for dramatic effect and not taken as seriously as it could be.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
JAILBIRDS shows the day-to-day life of a group of female inmates at the Sacramento County jail. It focuses on prison rules and procedures, as well as how people cope with being in jail. Viewers get to know several of the inmates: what they did to get put in jail, the friendships they've made, and what their lives were like on the outside.
Is it any good?
It's interesting that it's taken so long for Netflix to develop a show that depicts a sort of real-life version of Orange Is the New Black. Jailbirds is entertaining enough, and many of the inmates' coping mechanisms -- their unique system of communicating through toilet pipes, aka "toilet talk," will likely be a popular part of the show. However, like many reality shows, it's difficult to tell what is real and what the directors are manipulating for dramatic purposes. Other prison shows have a clear point of view and purpose: OITNB, for example, is about how the prison industrial complex can degrade and abuse prisoners. Without that clarity of purpose, Jailbirds is entertaining, no doubt, but can sometimes feel exploitative.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the inmates profiled on Jailbirds. What characters do you find yourself rooting for and why? How do you reconcile the crimes they have committed with how they present themselves on the show?
Are all criminals bad people? Who on the show seems like a good person that may have done bad things? Who comes off like a good person on the show that might not be as good as they seem? How can you tell which is which?
How are the inmates treated by the guards? How does being in prison seem to affect each inmate's behavior?
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