The teenage experience is chronicled time and time again in television and film, but often in a way that undermines the depth and complexities of these formative years. Audiences are far too familiar with stereotypes like the misogynistic jock, or the promiscuous cheerleader, the lonely stoner, and the nerdy valedictorian. And sure, you can most likely identify each of these characters within your own high school yearbook, but what do you know about them beyond their class picture and social media? Portrayals of high school students in the media have never dug past surface level, so neither do we IRL. It’s easier to judge someone based on the image you have of them, rather than digging deeper to understand their story.
In the Amazon series The Wilds, audiences are engulfed in a suspenseful storyline that weaves through the lives of eight teenage girls as we meet them in their most desperate circumstances. Each young woman boards a plane destined to take them for a female empowerment retreat in Hawaii, but soon discover that fate has other plans. A nonlinear timeline transports you throughout their childhood, adolescent years, and the suspicious events leading to a devastating plane crash. The same crash that lands them on a remote deserted island fighting for survival. However, was the crash due to fate, or was it all a fabricated lie?
Writers did a phenomenal job creating worlds around each of these characters, detailing personal trauma, questionable coping habits and individual motivations for wanting a taste of a different life. No one cast member is perfect, and that is what makes each of their stories so beautiful. They are human. These women are not photoshopped, Facetuned beings bending over backwards to create the perfect #FYP TikTok. They show up in their most authentic form, with no other real choice being that they are stranded on an island with no cell phones or mirrors. No fake eyelashes. Natural freckles shining through. Baby hairs flying freely in the wind. And maybe since there are no boys on the island, these young girls finally get a chance to experience life without the influence of toxic masculinity. They are forced to push their own boundaries and expectations of what they are capable of, without the opinions of those looking to silence or judge their power.
If you can’t relate to the whole being stranded on an island thing, there are additional stories that will definitely tug at your heart and keep your eyes glued to the screen. This series is an intimate portrait of the teenage experience against a gritty survivalist backdrop. We are teased with small doses of each character’s reality back at home, which help us understand why they behave the way they do. You will find yourself relating to one character, while seeing a loved one in another. The beauty of the character development in this show is that it touches a sense of familiarity, while also opening your eyes to empathize with experiences and behaviors outside of your own.
Everything is addressed in this series, from race to eating disorders, sexuality, substance abuse, sibling relationships and classism. As a teenager, so much of your world can seem out of your control. In this series, one girl cannot compete with her twin sister’s intelligence, so she cultivates her identity in being an intense student-athlete. With dreams of the Olympics and her future being out of her hands, she relinquishes control by over-exercising and undereating. Another character is an outsider at school who comes home to care for her sick bedridden father. In order to support her family and create her own social role amongst her classmates, she sells her father’s prescription pills to loyal adolescent customers. The girls find themselves trapped in harsh environment conditions that force them to confront their own reasons for boarding the plane in the first place. They were in need of an escape, and end up running across a resilience and strength they may not have known they possessed otherwise.
The Wilds is a much needed escape from reality that takes you on a dystopian journey with a group of very different young women. It is also an important reminder for young people to know that they are not alone in what they may be going through. As you watch the series, you will find yourself identifying with certain characters as their deepest secrets and struggles are revealed. However, as you root for their survival and see them overcome the forces of nature together, you may also find it easier to recognize strength within yourself that you also possess. Strength that can inspire you to create a world around you that you deserve.
This show is great for audiences of any age to enjoy, because adults and young people alike can relate to the universal experience of navigating the world as a teenager. The teenagers in this series are not portrayed as lazy Gen-Z’s, who are self-obsessed and glued to their phones. Instead, it sparks an honest conversation around the impact that social media and societal pressures have on the youth’s mental health, especially young women. By learning more about the world that the younger generation is navigating, we can show up better for them in a more authentic way. Best to learn lessons from these badass women through a screen, rather than waiting for a day that we find ourselves stranded on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere with no other choice than to listen and learn from each other.
Watch the first episode of ‘The Wilds’ for free for a limited time on Prime Video’s YouTube.