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 The Get Down is a series about the beginnings of hip-hop in the South Bronx in the 1970s. High school-aged characters drink, smoke marijuana, brandish and sometimes shoot guns, and sneak out of their houses and into discos but are inspired by music. Characters smoke cigarettes, refer to prostitution, steal, idolize criminals and thugs, and view graffiti tags as a means of self-expression. Cursing includes "ass," "hell," "damn," "s--t," "f--k," "motherf---er," and "p---y." Racial and hate language includes the "N" word nd "f--got." Parents are generally present and responsible, and characters are realistic and often tender toward each other.
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What's the story?
Among the crime, drugs, poverty, and burning buildings of the simmering South Bronx of the 1970s, legends, art, and even love flourish in THE GET DOWN. Conflicted Ezekiel (Justice Smith) writes tender poetry to Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola), who views him as a friend only. Nothing can get in the way of her attempts to launch her music career. That's right -- the minister’s daughter wants to become a disco star. Ezekiel's sights are set slightly lower; he'll settle for a little romance from Mylene or maybe getting a look at legendary local graffiti and kung fu master Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore). Meanwhile, in the corridors of city power, corrupt politician Francisco "Papa Fuerte" Cruz (Jimmy Smits) and Holy Roller preacher Pastor Ramon Cruz (Giancarlo Esposito) scheme to keep the keys to their borough while keeping an eye on drug boss Fat Annie (Lillias White).
Is it any good?
Series creator Baz Luhrmann isn't exactly known for restraint, so the fact that this series is a surreal whirl of music and romance isn't a surprise -- but its sweetness and humor might be. It's awash in clichés -- Mylene and Ezekial are nothing more or less than a pair of star-crossed lovers straight out of West Side Story, Fat Annie would fit comfortably in with the dancing flappers of Chicago, and Smits rumbles and schemes like so many other corrupt politicos have in so many movies. Yet there's real magic in the way Ezekiel's liquid eyes watch Mylene every time she's on-screen or in the way Zeke and his friends describe how they'll know ghetto kung fu master and legendary criminal Shaolin Fantastic when they see him: "His pumas are always pristine -- his hands are samurai swords!" Like poetry, this is a story told in impressions and emotion, and it's messy and nonlinear. For example, an adult Ezekiel appears at the very beginning of the series to frame the plot that then unfolds, as if to point this out.
But it's mesmerizing and beautiful, too, and hard to stop watching. It may be a bit rough for hip-hop-crazed teens -- parents may want to watch first to check it out -- but it's a powerfully told story, with characters that make you want to keep watching.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Get Down's violence. Does it seem believable? Scary? Do different types of movie violence have different effects on kids?
Why do you think drinking, smoking, and drugs are so prevalent in this series? Are they glamorized? How much of a role do substances play in the music industry?
Are audiences meant to like and relate to main characters Ezekiel and Mylene? How can you tell? What's the difference between a protagonist and a hero? Which words better describe these two characters?