This post contains minor spoilers for Why Are You Like This, a new series on Netflix
Let’s get this straight- “why are you like this” is probably one of the phrases I’ve heard the most in my life from people who care about me. I have a tendency to be just a little too dramatic and a little too stressed out in most situations, meaning that if there’s anyone who needs to take step back and stop being “like this”, it’s me. Me, and all three of the main characters on Why Are You Like This.
Mia (Olivia Junkeer), Austin (Wil King), and Penny (Naomi Higgins) are three best friends who don’t appear to have a lot in common other than the fact that they have each other in common. Their personalities and friendships resemble the lives of many of us who are in our early 20s today. We become friends not because we have a deeper bond, but because we started out being friends and found that these were the only people who truly understood us for who we are.
Penny, arguably the main character in the film, is a straight cis white woman who is obsessed with political correctness. She fears that her coworker is homophobic because of a comment he made about Mardi Gras, and launches a campaign to get him fired. She sees workplace discrimination, and leads a misguided attempt to right the problem. Whenever she interferes, things go wrong. Her help is not only unwanted, but it ends up putting everyone else in a worse position than when they started. She’s a fuckup, but she’s unabashedly all of the things which older people proclaim about the gen-Z/millennial cusp generation. Penny is the girl who never waivers in her desire to do the right thing, but in doing so she makes herself a parody of “right”, and endears herself to all of us.
Mia, the bisexual Indian woman, could have been on a path to discovering her culture and coming to peace with it. Instead, she stays true to the parts of her that sort of suck. Although I obviously cannot speak for other Indian people watching this, it was refreshing to see someone who picked and chose parts of their culture without either fully upholding it or disavowing it, as that’s something that I’ve found myself doing with my own religion as well as general upbringing. Mia was also undoubtedly my favorite character, bringing her sardonic sense of humor to every encounter.
The show would not be complete without Penny’s roommate, Austin. He rounds out the trio as a flamboyant gay man with a passion for drag. Midway through the series, he falls into a deep depression, declaring one episode later that his single therapy session “cured” him. At first I was worried where the mental health representation on this show would go, but I was pleased to see that it was one of the best representations of mental health that I’d ever seen on television. Austin thought he was cured, and told everyone else that he was cured, but meanwhile his friends were walking on eggshells for fear of not upsetting him. He laid in bed until 3pm watching TikTok, and when he did get up he didn’t do much with his day. When his friends tried to force him out of the house, he had a brief spurt of energy where he put on makeup and walked outside, before immediately returning back to his bed.
Austin was still hilarious and socially clumsy in the way that all of the other characters were, but he also provided representation for people who really aren’t doing okay.
All of these actors were so talented, and their chemistry together is undeniable. Since this is a Netflix show, I don’t have much faith, but I’m holding out hope for a renewal and a season 2.