By Angelica Guarino,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Italian superhero tale tackles poverty, gentrification.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
While youth activism is certainly an ideal to aspire to, Omar, Shariff, and their friends do not use legal routes of community organizing. Instead, they choose to defend the Barrio by using tactics like vandalizing the real estate company's billboard and scamming a casino out of large sums of money. While they do these things to take a stand against injustice and repair broken infrastructure in their neighborhood, many may not agree with their methods.
Positive Role Models
Omar believes that it’s his responsibility to make a life for himself, but as he changes over the course of the season, he learns to make selfless choices. However, he does take the side of Sharif and his friends, who are not purely positive role models. In Zero, no one is purely good, and no one's purely evil.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of violence, including guns, an offscreen murder, an onscreen stabbing, and physical fighting.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Protagonist Omar engages in a romantic relationship with Anna, a girl he meets while delivering pizzas to the richer neighborhoods in Milan. They do share a sex scene, but there's no visible nudity.
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Language is frequent in Zero. Expect words like "f--k," "d--n," and "a--hole" often.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Most of the characters drink alcohol. Though it is unclear exactly what the ages of the main characters are, there is no legal drinking age in Italy, meaning that no one is consuming alcohol illegally. Most of the characters also smoke cigarettes, and cocaine use is present in a party scene.
Characters drink but in italy theres no legal drinking so its kosher lmao. Guy assumes Omar is a coke dealer instead of a party guest when he shows up for Anna;s party. Smoking happens a lot.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Zero is an Italian drama with superhero elements. It tackles issues of poverty and gentrification, focusing on their effects on young people in a poor neighborhood in Milan, Italy. While a cursory glance at this show may make it seem a lot like the superhero stories that have become so popular, Zero uses the powers of the main character as a plot device, not the main attraction. It's also notable that this is the first Italian drama to feature a majority Black cast. There's lots of violence, including guns, an offscreen murder, an onscreen stabbing, and physical fighting. Language is frequent, including words like "f--k," "d--n," and "a--hole," and most of the main cast drinks alcohol and smokes cigarettes onscreen.
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What's the Story?
ZERO, better known by his real name -- Omar, is a young artist who wishes to pursue the dream of illustrating manga. At the beginning of the show, Omar explains that he is metaphorically invisible as the result of racism, and we soon learn that his neighborhood, referred to as the Barrio, is in trouble. Rents are rising quicker than the long-time residents can keep up, and the entire neighborhood is at risk of being bought out by a powerful real estate company. Omar's reaction to this is a desire to escape. In fact, he plans to move to Belgium to pursue his art and is delivering pizzas as a means of trying to save up money to do so. One night, he meets Anna, an aspiring architecture student who is working on a grand, hyper-accurate scale model of the city. Omar and Anna are instantly smitten with each other.
Later that night, Omar is accused of setting a motorbike on fire and is chased down by Sharif, another young adult living in the neighborhood. Sharif chases Omar with a gun, and just before he and Sharif collide, Omar is able to turn himself invisible. Stunned, Sharif sees an opportunity to recruit Omar to join him in the task of defending the neighborhood from the outsiders looking to take it over. Omar agrees and begins to recognize a greater purpose beyond simply making a life for himself - saving the Barrio.
Is It Any Good?
At first glance, ZERO seems like a story we've seen before, but that idea is very quickly turned on its head. Omar does have a superpower, but he doesn't wear a spandex suit or swing between buildings. Instead, Omar's journey to hero is more subtle. This feels realistic, and it adds an element of unpredictability. Though the basic character arc of going from self-centered adolescent to community-minded young adult holds true here, Omar's character feels unique.
Omar's performance is supplemented with strong performances from the rest of the cast as well, but while the acting is notable, the real highlight of Zero is the writing. While lines are clearly drawn between who the viewer is supposed to view as good and evil, gray areas are emphasized. For instance, how should viewers feel about Anna? While she is the object of Omar's affection, and an innocent young girl, she comes from a wealthy family that serves as a threat to Omar's neighborhood. There are also many examples of both systemic racism and microaggressions -- These aren't overt displays of hatred, but the characters are harmed by their effects. These characters make choices based on the fact that they, too, feel invisible to the world in the face of the everyday hardships they face. This point is evident and delivered in a cohesive way that builds the story piece by piece. Overall, while there's a lot of violence, language, and drinking in Zero, there are also powerful lessons about community, identity, and duty.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about gentrification. What does the term mean? Who does it hurt? Who does it help? What are potential solutions?
Families can talk about activism and community organizing. Why do you think Omar, Sharif, and their friends chose to fight Sirenetta Real Estate using illegal means instead of legal ones?
- Premiere date: April 21, 2021
- Cast: Giuseppe Dave Seke, Haroun Fall, Beatrice Grannò, Dylan Magon, Daniela Scattolin
- Network: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Superheroes
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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