Its official. If you are not watching When They See Us, they you clearly are lost in the outer space and world. According to Netflix in a tweet shared on social media, When They See Us has been the most watched show on the platform since the series' release on May 31st.
The show dramatizes the wrongful conviction of five black teenagers, known as the Central Park Five, for the rape of a jogger in New York in 1989. The story takes place over 25 years, from the initially incorrect media coverage that damned the boys to the settlement they eventually received in 2014.
The four-part Netflix series was created by Ava DuVernay, who also co-wrote and directed. The series stars an ensemble cast including Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Blair Underwood, Christopher Jackson, Joshua Jackson, Omar J. Dorsey, Adepero Oduye, Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, William Sadler, Jharrel Jerome, Jovan Adepo, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Storm Reid, Dascha Polanco, Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Justin Cunningham, Ethan Herisse, Caleel Harris, Marquis Rodriguez, and Asante Blackk.
Need convincing to watch the show? Here are 5 reasons this series is a must watch on Netflix
1. It should be mandatory viewing for all White people who have been blinded by the privilege and protection of Whiteness, who refuse to see the way in which the U.S. injustice system is partial to them--to the White boys who receive slaps on the wrist (e.g. probation with no jail time) for the most despicable deeds, including rape. Whose acts are dismissed as benign "boys will be boys" behavior. A privilege not afforded to Black and Brown boys and teens (review by Zenobia Jeffries Warfield).
2. "When They See Us" is as clear a display of the how Black people get trapped in a carceral system that ruins our lives without us even having to come close to committing a crime. The show is as passionate a plea for prison reform - even prison abolishment - as any we've seen in fiction. Even if abolishment is a bridge too far for some, at least having more of an understanding of the circumstances leading to someone being labeled a convicted felon and the toll it takes on his or her life can open some minds up to understanding (review by David Dennis, Jr.).
3. What could easily become agitprop resists the temptation. It is a dense, fast-moving series that examines not just the effects of systemic racism but the effects of all sorts of disenfranchisement (though you could argue they all have that same root cause) on people with the boys' background. The lack of money that leads to inadequate lawyers and mothers unable to visit their sons incarcerated in distant places. The lifetime of fear and vulnerability that causes one parent to encourage his son to sign the confession so they can leave the station and sort things out later. The powerlessness in the face of an authority that doesn't look like you or care about you. The performances, from the young actors and the veterans alike, are uniformly astonishing - especially from the central five, Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Marquis Rodriguez and Jharrel Jerome, most of whom are just a few years older than the teens they are playing. They capture the innocence, in all senses, of children, and the permanence of its loss. It feels like a great privilege to see them (review by Susan Mangan).
4. It's excruciating to watch as the lives of these men -- and their families -- are destroyed by a legal system interested not in justice but in convictions. There are times when you want to throw the television through the wall. There are other times where you want to violently berate Linda Fairstein and the detectives. But there are also other moments where all you want to do is hug these men and whisper to your televisions, "Just hang in there. One day your convictions will be vacated." It's hard not to feel completely helpless in the face of so much deliberately egregious injustice. It's hard to come away from When They See Us with any thought other than the justice system is irretrievably broken and that the fight against systemic racism is a fruitless one. And yet, inherent in that thread of hope that DuVernay so successfully weaves through the miniseries is an inspired call to action, a plea to keep fighting the good fight because every great once in a while, you get a glimpse of the sun while struggling to climb out of the neverending avalanche of sh*t (review by Dustin Rowles).
5. Oprah Winfrey interviewed the five men for an emotional conversation that left viewers heartbroken and angry over the injustice that was done. Oprah Winfrey called it out almost immediately. "This is a moment we're having right here," she said. "A beautiful moment."