Warning: Major spoilers ahead
Teenage Bounty Hunters is a pretty deceiving title considering how little “bounty hunting” the teens actually end up doing in the new Netflix show.
Rather, Teenage Bounty Hunters focuses on a pair of Christian fraternal twins dealing with the same things most teenagers face — finding themselves, exploring their sexuality, and, oh yeah, the fact that their mother may secretly be living a double life as a wanted criminal.
While the show is wildly entertaining and has some really great plotlines (particularly the lesbian storyline), it’s not immune to the same problematic issues that plague most TV shows these days. So let’s get into it: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Sterling and April’s Relationship
Let’s start off with the good, perhaps even the of the best, part of the show: Sterling’s romance with April.
After breaking up with her near-perfect Christian boyfriend Luke (who she pressured into having pre-marital sex), she discovers an electric spark she feels with April, her school nemesis.
Sterling tries testing out the waters with April, even bringing up potential queer storylines in the bible. But at a certain point, she just can’t hold back anymore. She kisses April — and April kisses her back!
And so begins a beautiful but precarious relationship.
There are so many great things about this storyline. Perhaps the best is that, despite being devout Christians (April is even the leader of their Fellowship group), neither ever questions if what they’re doing is wrong. As April tells Sterling on their first date,
“In case you’re wondering, no, I do not believe God is going to smite me for being a lesbian. He made me, along with narwals and those tiny blue poison frogs. So clearly he has a master plan.”
It’s refreshing to see a side of Christianity not typically portrayed on television. Yes, there are certainly many Christians who believe in conversion therapy and that gay people will go to hell. But there are also those who are incredibly accepting.
On top of that, it was great to see a young lesbian character so confident in her sexuality. April knew she was a lesbian since she was a kid and she’s not ashamed of it.
That said, she’s not naive. She lives in an ultra-conservative community and her dad “hates the gays.” She waffles back and forth over her decision to come out but ultimately decides she’s not quite ready. And that’s 100% ok!
As for Sterling, she’s not ready to label herself yet. But she knows she likes both guys and girls and wants to live her truth.
Faux White Wokeness
Next on the list is the way the show cheekily pokes fun at Blair’s so-called “wokeness.”
It’s clear that Blair considers herself to be the politically aware one in her family. She’s quick to drop a line about the NRA or climate change. She’s also proud to support the activist who’s been cutting off the heads of confederate statues in Atlanta.
Blair is representative of many (often privileged) white girls who think that they’re educated on the issues because they’ve grown up during a time when they have access to information at their fingertips and cultural lines are constantly blurring on social media. They think they understand the complexities of racial injustice and inequality.
But, in reality, they know nothing. They know the bare minimum that the white feminist articles of Refinery29 and Cosmo tell them and not much more.
Make no mistake, this certainly doesn’t apply to every white girl. But it definitely applies to a certain population who readily show performative allyship but don’t know how to actually do the work.
Blair thinks she knows it all. But as her boyfriend Miles, who’s Black, tells her: it’s not all black and white. He’s also quick to correct her when she assumes that all Black people must be in favor of the vandalism of the confederate statues (hint: he’s not).
Additionally, Blair is certainly not immune to her own racial biases, despite what she may think. Blair assumes that Miles is lower class because he works as a valet, his mother works two jobs, and, of course, because he’s Black. Turns out the two jobs Miles’ mom works are as a lawyer and a senator. And he lives in a huge mansion.
Watching Blair constantly put her foot in her mouth and realize her mistakes was a pleasure. And, hopefully, it will serve as a great reminder to those watching that they don’t actually know it all.
So this is where things take a dive. With the exception of a few characters, the majority of the characters you see onscreen are white. Very white.
Pretty much everyone who goes to their ultra-conservative school is white and cisgender. This is probably an accurate depiction of a private Christian school in Atlanta, so it’s understandable why they made this choice. But it’s still a lot of whiteness populating our screens.
On top of that, the majority of the BIPOC characters are total stereotypes (with the exception of Miles, who they at least attempt to make more well-rounded).
We have Bowser, the big Black bounty hunter, who may as well be Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon saying, “I’m too old for this shit.” Even his name is a cliché, for God’s sake!
Then we have Yolanda, Bowser’s boss, who’s only character description seems to be “sassy Latina.” Creative.
They could have done so much more with these characters. They didn’t have to go with the obvious. And although both actors do a great job with the material they’re given, it’s still glaringly apparent that the writers didn’t give much thought to either character.
Ok, now on to the ugly.
It starts right from the beginning of the season. Blair and Sterling apprehend their first skip (unbeknownst to them) and Sterling brandishes a shotgun. When Bowser mocks her for having “her daddy’s gun”, she promptly pulls out a handgun from her purse and shows off her firearm knowledge. (She apparently got the handgun for Christmas).
It’s two skinny little white girls holding guns as if they were a cute accessory; carrying around murder weapons in their designer bags as if it were no big deal.
The show tries to make the girls look as cool as possible, to make them look like these two tiny badasses taking down criminals. But the glorification of guns is not cute. And it’s definitely not badass.
This narrative of using guns at a young age and going hunting with your family will probably ring true for some viewers. But, in this context, it just feels tone-deaf.
Overall, the series is definitely worth watching — albeit with a critical eye. The show seems to have done well on Netflix, even breaking the top ten, so hopefully, a second season will see the writers address some of these issues.