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‘The Wilds’ is ~Wildly~ Diverse

The badass ensemble cast of The Wilds

This past week I binge-watched The Wilds on Amazon Prime and the characters, themes, and overall tone pretty much consumed my life. The general premise of this character-based show is simple: a group of young women are stranded on a deserted island. Each woman believes they are on an excursion they call “Dawn of Eve” to grow and better themselves in different ways whether they chose to be there or not. Little do they know, they are participating in a completely unethical social experiment. After ending up in the water after a crash landing on their way to Hawaii, Leah Rilke (Sarah Pidgeon) helps Jeanette Dao (Chi Nguyen), who is extremely hurt, to shore. None of the women know how they either got into the water or ended up on the island. Things are overall…quite mysterious to say the least. Sound interesting to you? Okay, go start the show then, because there will almost definitely be SPOILERS going forward!

Leah and a shattered phone

Every member of the ensemble cast of The Wilds is A) Diverse, B) Talented, and C) SO Beautiful. What more could anyone ask for from a completely female-led and produced show? This island pretty much defeats the need for the Bechdel test by simply eliminating men from the situation. While the women on the island are each carrying complex traumas that in most cases, involve men, there is something that the character Leah recognizes sometime in the beginning of the series; their traumas certainly did not come from the island. Each woman is a representation of the ways in which young people, specifically women, are oppressed in modern American culture. We see a wide and accurate representation of body types, races, sexualities, religions, and family dynamics through these eight women. As audience members to their near-death experience, we feel as though we are almost partaking in the analysis of the social experiment that is taking place. The power dynamics shift, the priorities change, and the will to survive becomes depleted. Watching the ways in which the women cope with these very real dangers gives us a look into the serious mental health processes that range drastically. Dot, played by Shannon Berry, spent her time before coming to the island caring for her terminally ill father. The ways in which she has confronted death in the past certainly has an effect on how she copes on the island, she becomes a natural leader. Each of their prior experiences helps and holds them back on the island, and the way that this show reveals each nugget of information is clever and captivating.

Dot looking snarky

Another thing that I loved about The Wilds was its awareness of current culture. It consistently felt so relevant to our millennial generation to the extent where I am not sure how well it will age with time — including countless pop culture references, insecurities due to the intensity of social media, and more. The show also reflected a lot of the “wokeness” of our current era as well. When Shelby (Mia Healey) shows discomfort because of the island’s token lesbian Toni (Erana James) expressing her queerness outwardly, the rest of the women defend Toni and let Shelby know how unacceptable her homophobia is. This normalization of call-out culture is GOOD! (I think) There is a lot of toxicity in cancel culture and these women don’t completely shun Shelby for her learned homophobia. They call her out and give her the chance to grow. I think this example of the progressive nature of this show is really telling of how young women who have/ will watch this series will be able to not only relate to but also learn from these characters.

Toni and Martha

While moments of this show are pretty intense and hard to watch, it lives up to the shock-factor that most audiences crave. The series ends on a pretty hefty cliff-hanger that left me yearning for a second season, which we will probably get before the end of 2021. I hope they can find ways to keep this show relevant and give these excellent characters and actresses a worthy second-season plot. Overall, The Wilds makes the deserted island trope trendy, woke, and pretty damn feminist. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you doing?!

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