A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Though this series demonstrates how its athletes must show extensive courage and perseverance to succeed, these messages are undercut with examples of how damaging the focus on training and competition can be, and how it harms those who participate in the sport, both physically (with many visuals of bloody feet and gory injuries) and mentally (with athletes who self-harm and suffer from anxiety, compulsions, eating disorders, and other issues).
Positive Role Models
Kat is in many ways strong and determined as well as compassionate: she cares for her mother and sister to the best of her ability, and trains hard to reach her athletic goals. But it's clear how much her efforts take from her, and how traumatized she is by her upbringing and participation in a competitive sport. Carol is a complex character, by turns solicitous of her daughters and abusive to them to the point where one ends up physically injured due to Carol's pressure. Serena is another complicated character: she cares about her family but is willing to hurt them to get what she wants. Body shame and toxic competition are endemic in the rink, with characters criticized sharply for their body types (a girl is called "fat" mockingly) and their abilities.
Violence & Scariness
A character engages in self-harm, biting herself until she bleeds as "punishment" when she doesn't perform as she hopes on the ice. Other characters note her self-harm but don't do anything to help her. We see many visuals of bodies damaged by skating: bloody toes and heels, bruises, a skater's blade accidentally penetrates her foot as she screams and blood pours out. Sexual abuse is hinted at when a coach touches a skater inappropriately, and a woman remembers being abused by her own coach as a young skater. A teen is forced to do pushups until her wrist is injured. A mother slaps her daughter in the face during an argument.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Young adult characters have sex with rhythmic thrusts and moaning; we see their nude bodies from the side, but no private parts. One skater says another is "banging" his partner and she wishes he'd "wise up and f--k me." Sexual abuse between coaches and athletes is a subplot; see "Violence" section for more. Romantic triangles are a significant part of this series' drama.
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Language and cursing includes "f--k," "goddamn," "ass," and "s--t." Characters are called insulting gendered names, with women called a "bitch" repeatedly and one woman referred to as a "c--t." A character says something "sucks."
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Products & Purchases
One character's wealth is referred to a lot; we see him inviting friends to drink free at his father's lodge: "It's on my dad," he tells them. Other characters have fewer resources and we're made aware of the sacrifices they must make to participate in an expensive sport, and how that affects their lives. A character orders bottle service at a club; another uses Lyft to get a ride and the service's logo is shown prominently.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink at a club, gulping down liquor; "I could use a drink," says one. One character offers another an unnamed tablet, which she takes, smiling conspiratorially.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Spinning Out is a series about figure skaters struggling to reach the Olympics, and the heavy physical, mental, and emotional price they must pay to keep competing. Abuse figures largely into the drama: One character self-harms, biting herself until she bleeds when she decides she needs to be punished. A parent pressures her children to the point where they are deeply stressed, one winds up in an emergency room with an injury while another fights bitterly with her mother. Sexual abuse from coaches working with young athletes is also a part of this series (though we don't see children abused). Sporting injuries are frequent and gory: a bloody head injury, wounds on toes and heels, a skate blade impales a skater's foot. Athletes also show signs of eating disorders, binging and restricting. Competitors insult each other's abilities and bodies; one skater is called "fat," a character is repeatedly called a "bitch," and another a "c--t." Young adult characters have sex with noises and movements; we see their nude bodies from the side but see no private parts. Adults drink and take unnamed capsules on a night out, but no one acts drunk or high. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," and "ass." Strong female roles form the backbone of Spinning Out and many characters are people of color; mental illness is taken seriously, and characters are encouraged to take prescribed medications. Athletes show considerable perseverance and courage in their sport, but they're so damaged by competing that it's questionable whether these character strengths are positive enough to recommend, or whether the athletes make good role models.
Is It Any Good?
When this involving drama focuses on a troubled family and the heavy price of Olympic-level ambitions it triple-axel soars, but it can also spend too much time bogged down in soapy cliches. Talented figure skater Kat has a mental illness, trauma from a sustained-on-the-ice head injury, a little sister whose talent seems to be eclipsing her own, and a disturbed bipolar mom who bitterly regrets not realizing her own skating ambitions. That's plenty -- Spinning Out didn't have to throw in love triangles and competition from a new skater in town to amp up the drama too.
Flaws aside, this engrossing series is at its best when it's most intimate, particularly when we follow the Bakers home. January Jones, so great at playing buttoned-down and frustrated in Mad Men, has another meaty role in Carol, whose decision to have Kat as a teen derailed her own Olympic ascent and put her on a skate-mom path. Seething in the toxic group of mothers who accompany their talented daughters to the rink every day, she's notably nasty to those she considers a rival, and supportive and abusive in turns with her daughters. And as viewers might expect, said daughters have been affected deeply by both the volatile parenting and the poisonous pressures of a sport that demands inhuman ability and effort to present a picture of ethereal perfection. The plot may not stick every landing, but with characters this sensitively drawn and compelling, viewers will want to put in the rink time to get to know them.
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.