Élite Review: Representation in Netflix's New Series
If you are a Gossip Girl fan to the core or have spent the last couple weeks anticipating the third season of Riverdale, you will be thrilled about Netflix's newest series.
Élite is the second all-Spanish production by Netflix and is the perfect combination of Gossip Girl and Riverdale drama. The first season was released on the 5th October 2018 and has eight episodes. The story is about three young students, who are offered a scholarship for the elite Las Encinas school after their previous school collapsed. Drama ensues and eventually leads to a student's death. The story is told in two timelines, one set in the present, after the murder; the other in the past, detailing what happened leading up to the murder.
Honestly, the story does not offer anything new. The series is far from groundbreaking, the new students feel like underdogs and are excluded/bullied by the wealthy students; sprinkled in is the cliché of a wealthy misfit who seeks companionship with a new student.
The three new students are Samuel, Cristian and Nadia, however, Popular student Lucrecia, who is in a relationship with Guzmán, soon develops a personal problem with Nadia; as it turns out, both girls are competing for a prestigious trophy to receive a scholarship for an elite university in Florida.
Guzmán’s sister Marina embodies the role of the misunderstood soul, who befriends newcomer Samuel.
Further drama ensues when Lucrecia bets that Guzmán cannot seduce Nadia, who is devoutly religious, to destroy her credibility. He, of course, accepts the bet and after getting to know Nadia~ unexpectedly~ falls for her.
While the show does not break new ground, it is unique in other ways- namely representation. Not only does this Spanish production have an all-Spanish cast, but the show also represents different religious and social groups. Not only does Nadia and her family in the series represent Muslim culture, but she also demonstrates the difficulties a Muslim young woman faces every day in a Western society. She is torn between her religious beliefs and Western demands of her; the school forces her to remove the hijab or be expelled. Nadia's character also illustrates the daily racism and oppression of Muslim people; her response to Samuel when he asks why she has read the school rules is 'when your name is Nadia Shana you’d better be informed of what can get you expelled. Just in case.' Demonstrating the struggles facing a Muslim pupil in an oppressive academic environment.
In addition to the presentation of different religions and cultures, is the different forms of sexuality represented. The couple Carla and Polo, for example, are criticised by their friends about their open sexual life, which after a while includes new student Cristian. Although they are happy, and content is their love triangle, it is frowned upon by the others. Homosexuality plays an important role in the show too, as Polo is raised by two women, while Nadia’s brother Omar and Cristian’s friend Ander start to fall for each other. Omar's homosexuality is groundbreaking in its own right as it represents the journey of understanding one's sexuality in the context of a Muslim home.
Alongside this, the show should be praised for its presentation of Marina, who contracted HIV after being drugged and sexually assaulted. The show conveys the difficulties she has to deal with, but also that a normal social life and meaningful relationships are possible too.
In a nutshell, Élite does not offer a trailblazing storyline, but it does give an outstanding example of how to represent different religious, ethnic and social groups.
Personal tip: Watch the series in its original language Spanish with English subtitles (if you are not a Spanish speaker) – the atmosphere will become even more intense. You won’t be disappointed!
[Photo Credits: Netflix]