Cover art by @sam_artworksza on Instagram
By Alena Nguyen
In honor of the Black Lives Movement, Netflix has released a collection of shows and movies on their platform that feature strong Black leads, with “Blood and Water” being one of them. This teen drama is about a 16-year-old girl named Puleng Khumalo (played by Ama Qamata) who, after hearing of her sister’s abduction when they were very young, transfers to an elite private school to get closer to her possible sister, swimming star Fikile (Khosi Ngema).
With all teen dramas that revolve around an elite school (“Gossip Girl”, “All American”, etc.), the dramatic tropes are right around the corner- “teens” played by young adults, make-out sessions in the hall, shortened uniform skirts, and of course, secrets and lies.
The show takes place in South Africa with a mainly Black cast and strong leads, which is a refreshing take on Netflix’s usual trope where the one Black character in shows fitting some kind of stereotype. I enjoyed how multi-layered and developed the characters were throughout the series and their individualism was inspiring. While the main character constantly got caught up in parties and drama, she still kept her eye on the end goal which becomes more complex as the show progressed.
Even though not everyone can relate to the hectic family drama that the main characters go through, the determination that each character has to pursue their overall goal or keep the chaos under wraps is amazing. Most teen dramas would let everything unravel in a big fight at the end of each episode, but “Blood and Water” let the characters develop with pacing that is easy to follow while still keeps the viewer engaged.
The opening scene was very attention-capturing. The protagonist is laying on her bed, her hair falling to the ground, but the camera is upside-down so that it looks like she is falling. Then, the camera turns right side up. Not to get too in-depth and analytical, but it could stand for how her life will be turned upside-down when she starts at the new school.
The various family and inter-personal relationships are also very notable. The way Puleng’s mom and family supports her in her quest to find her lost sister is very strong, but also without all that support at the new school, Puleng has to form her own relationships with new people who come from a different socioeconomic world than she does. This idea of having no money but being happy versus the other way around is very prominent in this show, as the students that Puleng interacts with at the new school are snobby and have little-to-no-personality besides their money. In contrast, Puleng’s family at home is supportive, warm, and caring.
“Blood and Water” is a great show to check out if you’re into “Euphoria”‘s dramatics and “All American”‘s setting of “student goes to school for rich people and has to find themself in this new environment”.