- Written by Lupe R Haas
Netflix’s THE KISSING BOOTH movies and “On My Block” series center on teenage friends navigating life and love, but the setting for each is a vastly different socioeconomic area in Los Angeles. It's a tale of two cities - white privilege and the underrepresented in the hood. "The Kissing Booth" has become a pop culture sensation while the other is popular with the YA crowd and critics but it's not getting the attention it deserves. Why the disparity?
"The Kissing Booth" stars Joey King in a romantic comedy about two best friends whose friendship is challenged when Elle starts dating her BF's (Joel Courtney) brother (Jacob Elordi). The setting is an affluent coastal area. Most teens have their own rides, and money is not an issue. The rom-com and its sequel scream white privilege.
On its third season, "On My Block" at its core is also about friendship, but these four friends (Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco) live in the inner city as they struggle with the same issues but they've got bigger worries like not getting shot by gangs and staying clear of the criminal life. The group of South Central LA friends in this dramedy are black, Latino and Afro-Latino. These kids get around in Lyfts, Ubers or abuelita, a non-stereotypical granny with big dreams of her own. This Netflix show exemplifies the realities disadvantaged young people face, and their uphill battle to succeed. It sounds dire on paper, but this show is actually hilarious with funny characters and a plot that reminds you of the GOONIES but in the hood.
THE KISSING BOOTH while popular among a young demographic got slammed by critics with a score of 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score is mediocre as well with a 57%. "On My Block," on the other hand, fared well with both groups, a 95% with critics and a 92% audience score.
Joey King, Joel Courtney and Jacob Elordi have become teen sensations with their images splashed across advertisements and tons of press. Every casting person is scrambling to book these actors for the next big Hollywood project. To be fair, King was already a regular working Hollywood actor and her costars have more credits to their name.
On the other hand, the newcomers on "On My Block" with millions of social media followers to their names, do not have many upcoming projects listed on their IMDB profiles (may not be updated) in comparison. Diego Tinoco did recently book a role in R#J, a modern day adaptation of Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" playing Tybalt for producer Timur Bekmambetov (NIGHT WATCH, WANTED). Other cast members like Jason Genao and Julio Macias who plays "Spooky" have high profile roles in upcoming projects, but are they leads? THE KISSING BOOTH stars are booking starring roles.
"On My Block" creators, however, have fared better. Co-creator/executive producer Lauren Iungerich (also created MTV's Awkward) inked a multi-year series overall deal with Netflix while co-creators/EP's Eddie Gonzales and Jeremy Haft are producing with LeBron James’ The SpringHill Company and ABC Signature, a half-hour dramedy titled "Golden Boy" for Freeform.
As someone outside the targeted demographic for these two Netflix properties, why did I hear of one and not the other. The media has something to do with it as well, but why isn't Netflix putting the marketing dollars behind "On My Block" like they did with THE KISSING BOOTH? A simple Google search of the series and THE KISSING BOOTH movies show a drastic difference.
Netflix has taken the lead with diverse casting, but this gem of a show isn't getting the attention it deserves in the wake of the Black Lives Matter conversation. A fourth season of "On My Block" has not been announced, but the third season's sad finale may have been the end of this story. Fans would've preferred a happy ending but like in real-life, some people make it out of the hood, or other get stuck repeating the sins of their fathers.
Recently during the Hollywood Critic's Association's "Watcha Watching" podcast, I discussed why "On My Block" impacted me so much. Watch below.