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Netflix comedy puts dark twist on rom-com tropes

Alex+Lawther+and+Jessica+Barden+in+%22End+of+the+F%2A%2A%2Aing+World%2C%22+currently+streaming.+++%28Photo+courtesy+of+IMDB%29
Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden in

Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden in "End of the F***ing World," currently streaming. (Photo courtesy of IMDB)

Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden in "End of the F***ing World," currently streaming. (Photo courtesy of IMDB)

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“End of the F***ing World” is a British dark-comedy television series based on the book “End of the Fucking World” by Charles S. Forsman. It originally aired in the United Kingdom in 2017 but recently aired internationally on Netflix this month. The plot follows two discontented teenagers, James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden). There’s no two ways about it- James is a psychopath. At just nine years old, he stuck his hand into a deep fryer, so he could, as he claimed, “feel something” and ever since he was fifteen, he’s killed random animals for fun. By the time he meets his rebellious classmate Alyssa, he is ready to move on to people. Alyssa seems to be the perfect victim: she’s loudmouthed, crude, and not well liked at school or home. She takes his sudden interest as romantic, when in reality, he is plotting her murder. They end up running away together, after James punches his father in the face and steals his car.

From there, everything that can go wrong, seems to; from a simple car crash to the murdering of a serial killer. If any are sensitive to things like sexual harassment or abuse, rape, or graphic gore, I wouldn’t recommend it. Yes, this series is comedic, but more than anything, it’s a commentary on foolish young love stories are. Make no mistake, this series is incredibly dark, the humor coming mostly from shock or how incredibly dense the two main characters can be. There is an ongoing theme of Alyssa being sexually harassed by her step father while her mother turns a blind eye. In just the second episode, James is forced to touch an older man’s penis but is quickly interrupted by Alyssa. Instead of first asking him if he was okay, she asked him if he was gay.

Alex Lawther in The End of the F***ing World  (Photo courtesy of IMDB)

This series was a truly a ride from start to finish. To start off, the aesthetic is absolutely gorgeous. I would not go as far as to say it’s unique, but the lack of originality is why it works. It was like a mixture between “Heathers,” “(500) Days of Summer” and “Bonnie & Clyde;” it really gives off that “demented summer of love” vibe that I believe it was trying to achieve. Not only that, but one could tell the team put a lot of effort into the set design, the clothing, and the casting. Alex Lawther, for “Black Mirror” fans, you might recognize him as the main character in the episode of “Shut up and Dance.” For those that don’t know, he was a character who, at first glance, looked to be an innocent young man. The audience member was supposed to pity him because of all the heinous crimes he was forced to commit. By the episode, however, you learn that he’s a pedophile and that possibly he might have deserved everything that happened to him. At times, you are inclined to feel that same pity for James, particularly when Alyssa treats him badly, even though two episodes prior he was intent on killing her.

The story, however, I found lacking. I personally really enjoy dark comedies,and have watched a lot of British television when I was younger. I usually love the kind of dry humor that UK creators have seemed to perfect. I don’t know if the show is at all different from Charles S. Forsman’s comics, but the self-suffering, angry-at-the-world teenage trope is a horse that has been beaten to death many times before. The characters were overly angsty, which I know was mostly the point of the series, to make fun of teenage love and obsession. There’s something just so uninspired about a room full of adults making fun of teenagers using stereotypes that I don’t believe have ever been accurate to how teens actually act. When you’re thirty-something and your young adult life is decades behind you, I think it’s common for you to lose sight of what being a teenager is actually like. At the same time, they did deal with a lot of uncomfortable but very real traumas that young adults have had to live through, like sexual assault. Alyssa’s unjustified anger was clearly from her rough childhood, i.e. her deadbeat father, her creepy step father and her neglectful mother. James believed he was a sociopath because he watched his mother die and suppressed his emotions to cope with that reality.

Despite all the good qualities this show had, I would still give it a six out of 10. I think it’s worth watching, but being able to laugh over the unnecessary dramatics is a must. If you go into watching this, looking for something life-changing and deep, you will not find it here. I don’t think the creators even would want you to. It’s a story about two teenagers that go from hating themselves, to loving each other to the point of sacrificing themselves. Though it is just an overzealous summer romance, it was an enjoyable watch.

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Netflix comedy puts dark twist on rom-com tropes