What do we mean when we talk about youth fiction? Say the term YA, and chances are you’ll envision something along the lines of lockwood and company Netflix’s #1 new series has all the makings of a teen hit. A mixed group of teenage leads. A healthy slice of the supernatural. Lots of wisdom. Adapted from novels by Jonathan Stroud and created by attack the blockJoe Cornish’s Joe Cornish, the series follows a trio of young ghost hunters, played by Ruby Stokes, Cameron Chapman and Ali Hadji-Heshmati. It’s a CGI-laden fantasy melodrama, big on jokes and even bigger on action. And yet, lockwood and company it also follows another one of Netflix’s ALREADY time-tested rules: it’s actually not very good.
Look back at the last five years of original programming and you’ll see that the ALREADY market is a well that Netflix has returned to many times over. But the results have been mixed, to say the least. The streaming service’s back catalog is chock full of forgotten and indistinct YA series. Some of these ran for multiple seasons before facing cancellation: shows like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Locke and Key, Firefly Lane, or Ryan Murphy’s The politician. Others were scrapped after just a few episodes: vapid teen dramas like Society, one of us is lying either raising dion. Given the lockwood and company has remained at the top of the Netflix TV chart for over a week now, it seems more than possible that it will return, at least for a second series. But make no mistake lockwood and company it’s hackneyed and unedifying filler, despite what some of his fans say.
The problem isn’t that Netflix is incapable of making good teen programming. In fact, it could reasonably be assumed that many of the streaming platform’s most successful series fall under the YA umbrella, from Strange things to Wednesday to 13 reasons why. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. What happens with series like Strange things either Wednesday is that while their subject may scream YA, they are not marketed to teenagers but to everyone. They are, to some degree, embarrassed to be bracketed under the “teenager” banner, or at least careful to avoid any embarrassment among adult viewers.
Of course, this isn’t purely a Netflix problem. The biggest blockbusters of any given year are all what would traditionally be considered teen food. The rise of superhero movies as the dominant force at the box office speaks to a growing merger of the teen and adult markets.
The problem with this, or rather one of the problems, is that it has effectively cannibalized the market for teen-specific programming. There are clear advantages to having stories that specifically cater to the YA market; teens need programming that is meant for them and them alone, stories that can explore the embarrassing and thorny melodramas of adolescence without needing to sanitize it for the older and wiser masses.
It is very good that series like Strange things either Wednesday may succeed with a general adult audience. They were designed to do it. But it means that teen-specific programming is left with just the scrap pile: shows that aren’t glitzy or “prestigious” enough to merit the all-ages big push. At some point, this must change. “YA” is not some kind of pejorative word. It is a genre that needs excellence and investment as much as any other.