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Published on August 3rd, 2018 | by Aya de Leon

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Ask Aya: Latest Mom Fave – Harvey Street Kids on Netflix

People often ask me “How did you find that amazing feminist [book/movie/tv show]?” I am always looking for new media, because if I don’t offer good alternatives, my kid will beg me to watch sexist shows from hell. Recently, we had a minor rebellion where my eight-year-old insisted that she needed me to greenlight new shows. When I actually put some attention on it, I discovered a “Girls Take the Lead” category on Netflix. And through that category, I found “Harvey Street Kids,” a new animated kid’s show that dropped on June 29th. Before I even showed it to her, I checked it out on Common Sense Media, and the review was encouraging.

Of course, in Netflix’s “Girls Take the Lead,” you’ll also find Barbie and princesses, so I’m not excited about all the places girls are leading. But “Harvey Street Kids” is outstanding. Inspired by the classic Harvey Comics, it’s about three girls who live in an all-kids world on Harvey Street. The classic Harvey characters are updated (and racially diversified) to create an animated battle-of-the-sexes neighborhood dramedy that had me laughing out loud more than my kid (but she loved it too).

As a young adult, I used to watch the show “Recess,” which was another quirky crew of kids show, but when I went to show it to my daughter, I caught a number of subtle gender and racial stereotypes that I wasn’t excited about passing on to the next generation.

On Harvey Street, Audrey is the tomboy. Lotta is the sweetheart. And Dot is the brain. The show is created by a team that has strong female leadership. Created by Emily Brundige, Aliki Theofilopoulos, and Brendan Hay, the content is not only unabashedly feminist, but also intersectionally-minded. The series had me at the first episode when Audrey literally sniffs out an injustice, and later says “capitalism has failed us.” There’s also great slapstick as well as snot and spit humor for the elementary school crowd.

Another show I discovered in this same search is The Worst Witch, also on Netflix. It’s basically an all-girls version of Harry Potter, but more comedic and much less dark. I would prefer a stronger brand of feminism, and better roles for girls and women of color, but overall, I think it’s worth watching. Other longstanding favorite shows are Odd Squad on PBS (a hilarious math version of Dragnet that reminds me of 3-2-1- Contact’s Mathnet from the 90s!) We also love Doozers on Hulu, a Jim Henson family show that follows a mixed gender group of animated green maker/engineers. They solve problems by working as a team, trying, failing, then trying again. Another beloved show from Netflix is Puffin Rock, a beautifully animated adventure about a bird and her family.

Here at Mutha, and in other outlets, I’ve written about the many toxic shows out there for girls. Not only the Disney Princesses, but also shows that appear progressive at first glance, like Zootopia and Doc McStuffins. Also here at Mutha, I’ve written about the negative impact from inclusion of romance in shows for children.

Harvey Street Kids has funny romantic moments, but they’re over the top, with people’s eyes getting all googly, and they are as likely to happen between a kid and a potential pet, or same gender kids as any boy/girl drama. Thank you, “Girls Take the Lead” category! I’m only a couple episodes in, but I’m hooked. I hope the quality holds up and that we get many more seasons.

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About the Author

Aya de Leon

Aya de Leon teaches creative writing in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Kensington Books publishes her award-winning feminist heist series, Justice Hustlers: UPTOWN THIEF (2016), THE BOSS (2017), THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS (2018) and SIDE CHICK NATION in 2019 about the hurricane in Puerto Rico.  She also authored the children’s picture book puffy: people whose hair defies gravity. She has received acclaim in the Washington Post, Village Voice, SF Chronicle, and The Establishment. Her work has also appeared in Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Huffington Post, The Toast, The Root, Catapult, VICE, Quartz, Essence, Bitch Magazine and on Def Poetry. She is also at work on a children’s picture book to help talk to children about racism, a black girl spy YA novel called Going Dark, and an adult spy novel about FBI infiltration of an African American political organization. She blogs and tweets about race, gender, and culture at @AyadeLeon and ayadeleon.com.

 



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