Netflix’s ‘On My Block’ follows the story of four teenagers who live in a rough LA neighbourhood. The show received critical acclaim for not just the diversity its cast exhibits, but also for portraying their stories realistically, not pigeonholing them into the same old routine that has been used before.
While the show is another teen drama, with more comedy than most, it also has the moments that feel all too real. Be it Ruby’s efforts to get a room for himself, Jamal’s obsession with a treasure hunt, the lack of a mother-figure in Monse’s life, and the dangers of being a gangster’s brother for Cesar- there are times when it feels more than just a made-up story. Where does ‘On My Block’ get this genuineness from? Let’s find out.
Is On My Block a True Story?
No, ‘On My Block’ is not based on a true story. However, the inspiration for it comes from the real experiences of the writers behind it. Created by Lauren Iungerich, Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft, the show comprises of a writing team predominantly constituting of people of colour, each of whom contributes to the trials and tribulations of Ruby, Jamal, Cesar and Monse in their own way.
The idea to create such a series came to Iungerich when she realised that most YA shows were presented “through a white prism”. Non-white characters were either a side character in these stories, and even if their stories received a greater angle, it would mostly be stuck in the same stereotype that has been used in Hollywood for so many years. She teamed up with Gonzalez, through Haft, and he decided to craft a version of how he had lived in inner-city neighbourhoods in LA to create a new series for Netflix.
Inwood-raised Gonzalez wanted to portray the story of a group of teenagers who live in a dangerous neighbourhood where they have made a game out of guessing the calibre of the gun by hearing a shot, but he did not want the story to succumb to preconceived notions about such places. Drawing inspiration from his own childhood worries and frets, he created the fictional neighbourhood of Freeridge and the everyday struggles of teenagers living there.
The main characters of the show are also rooted in reality. Eddie identifies himself with Ruby, somewhat of a control freak but a certified genius. A lot of Monse came from Lauren, and Jeremy shares the love for conspiracy theories and Yeti with Jamal. In creating Cesar, Gonzalez wanted to portray the life of a kid who is torn between his loyalty to the two gangs that he belongs to. Rather than focusing on the blood and gore that gang violence leads to, the show is more interested in the dilemma of a teenager who wants to hang out with his friends but has accepted his fate as the member of a street gang.
The show also aims to balance the risky environment that the teenagers are living in with the general innocence of their age. For instance, when Cesar has a target on his back after falling out with a member of the rival gang, he is asked to stay in hiding. Still, he shows up at school because he is worried about his math test!
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