I briefly mentioned Netflix’s new release – Tiny Pretty Things in Netflix Recommendations: Hits and Misses, but the word count prevented me from going into depth on just how many issues there were within this adaptation of Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton’s novel. It’s set in the Archer School of Ballet and revolves around the scandalous and stressful lives of the students who go there. While the visuals are sleek and the actors are pretty, for a series with almost 500 pages of source material it’s remarkably shallow and slapdash in terms of how it all came together. In fact, it veers so wildly away from the contents of the book that almost all of what the two share are the title and a few character’s names. The show revolves around the fall of Cassie Shore and the mystery of who pushed her, an event that never took place in the books and based on that alone, it’s no surprise the rest of the series went careening off the rails.
The trailer for the show features a young black woman, Neveah Stroyer as the main character – only to essentially relegate her to supporting cast from the second episode on. In the books Stroyer doesn’t exist, she replaces Giselle Stewart, and her happy family from the novel is removed in favor of a mother in prison and a wheelchair bound brother. It’s a racist trope and when paired with the lack of exploration of the police brutality angle they were clearly going for, it becomes even more insensitive. The trailer should have been honest from the start: Tiny Pretty Things is an ensemble piece – focusing on three girls Giselle (Neveah), Bette and June.
Madame Dubois – head of the Archer School of Ballet does some truly reprehensible things, I mean not to give it all away but she has no problem with the exploitation of her students, in any form. In episode nine a confrontation between her and June suggests a character arc is imminent and hints at Dubois’ own tragic past but by the next episode she’s back to her old tricks with worse behavior than ever. It’s only in the final minutes of the season finale that her past is revisited with a throwaway remark during a speech – but it’s too little too late to even begin atoning for everything she’s done. You can’t spend an entire season setting a character up as unforgivable only to try and do a U-turn in the last ten minutes.
This is one specific example of a general problem within the series; plots are picked up and put down at a moment’s notice. Relationships start and end at the drop of the hat, conflicts are started and resolved seemingly at the whim of the writers. We never root for the characters because they’re simply cardboard cutouts within the world of the plot. The hiring of dancers instead of actors pays off in the required scenes but it also means there’s no saving grace for the poor writing and execution throughout the show. It’s unrealistic and jarring and perhaps if the unnecessarily drawn out, explicit sex scenes that occur throughout each episode were cut we’d have a series that makes more sense. Whether you were a fan of the book hoping to see it done justice or just looking for a new show on Netflix to watch, this mess of a series is one to miss.
Lucy Mackarel, Film Contributor