I’m going to start off by remarking that watching this episode–in which Archie becomes the ringleader of an almost-all-white juvenile detention center with a gang problem and teaches his fellow inmates to reclaim their humanity with football–and then almost immediately going out to watch KJ Apa in The Hate U Give, a sensitive and honest drama about blackness and racism and police brutality–was a surreal experience.
I have to wonder what KJ Apa thought of this episode himself. There is just such a difference between his work in The Hate U Give — playing a white boy with a black girlfriend who is slow to, but willing to, learn about the racism she experiences — and this episode, which creates a fantasy blithely oblivious to the realities of mass incarceration, a world in which it’s all white kids in the jail and the key to their spiritual liberation is for a white boy to tell them not to act like animals. I mean, at least they didn’t cast a bunch of black kids to play the other boys at the center, right? Because that would be an overtly offensive white-savior narrative, whereas what they ended up with is “just” a bizarrely out-of-touch dreamworld–still, I think, a creation of white privilege, but just more subtly so.