ASK AYA

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 León teaches creative writing at U.C. Berkeley. Kensington Books publishes her adult novels, her award-winning “Justice Hustlers” feminist heist series (which includes SIDE CHICK NATION, the first novel published about Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico), A SPY IN THE STRUGGLE, about a young Black woman FBI agent who infiltrates an African American political organization fighting for climate justice and Black Lives (out now), and QUEEN OF URBAN PROPHECY about women in hip hop, police violence and the climate crisis (out now). In October 2021, Aya published a young adult thriller about a pair of undocumented Dominican teen girls who uncover a kidnapping plot to stop the Green New Deal called THE MYSTERY WOMAN IN ROOM THREE. Given the climate emergency, this novel was too politically urgent for traditional publishing, so it was serialized in in six installments on Orion Magazine, and is available free of charge. In October 2022, her next young adult novel comes out from Candlewick Books, UNDERCOVER LATINA—about a 14-year-old spy who passes for white to stop a white nationalist terrorist—the first in a Black/Latina spy girl series. In spring 2022, Aya is producing a free online conference called Black Literature vs. The Climate Emergency at UC Berkeley African American Studies. Aya is also working on a memoir of her body that explores the intersection of food, body image, race, and the environment. Finally, her Justice Hustlers series has been optioned for television, and she is currently working on the pilot. Find her at ayadeleon.com



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