Teenagers are known to have a knack for firsts, especially first dates and first kisses. It gives them a rush of excitement and glee because they think their lives will undergo a monumental change. Most times, they are usually disappointed by the lack of transformation, but that’s besides the point. Genevieve (Mave Press) and Oscar’s (Christian Valderrama) first date was an awkward fest at the art centre. As they travel through the various rooms, they find themselves in an interactive space. For sixty seconds, the participant must stand in front of three mirrors, espousing the truth. Oscar comes with a whole speech prepared about authenticity to impress Genevieve but he quickly realises “the inherent irony in that.” Rightfully so, he says that “ you cannot prepare to be authentic. I was giving this rehearsed speech, just pretending that it was coming to me on the fly like about authenticity. Can you think of anything less authentic than that?” Oscar goes on numerating why he feels embarrassed about his actions twenty seconds ago while Genevieve is there cringing, waiting for her turn. Though it seems like an inconsequential moment in the series Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, (a two season Freeform show) it encapsulates a journey various characters are embarking on which is a search for authenticity and honesty and to be free from the constant performance.
In the last season, Matilda (Kayla Cromer) was looking to make the transition from her southern California high school to Juillard in New York City. Instead of Matilda adapting to this new environment, she found herself frazzled, wanting to go home. The sudden insecurity paired with a pandemic made it impossible for Matilda to ignore facets of her personal life, such as her relationship with Drea (Lillian Carter). The prospect of Matilda not actually being queer pulls her into a frenzy and for a time, she masks her feelings. Matilda’s incapability to tell Drea the truth eats her alive, causing Matilda to isolate herself. Matilda’s fear of disappointing Drea overshadows one of the most important aspects of a relationship, which is the ability to tell the truth. Eventually, through the motivation of her half brother and quasi guardian Nicholas (Josh Thomas) and Genevive, she finally is honest with Drea. At first, Matilda’s admission lingers like pang in Drea’s side. But in the end, they discover that they are not like most couples and they never will be.
Nicholas, on the other hand, has become Matilda and Genevieve’s guardian after their father has passed away. At times it seems like he’s withdrawn, especially with his boyfriend Alex (Adam Faison). However in his conversation with Suze (Maria Bamford) he tells her “that was the hardest I have ever worked to try and show someone I love them.” When Suze replies by saying Nicholas may be autistic, he’s offended. When he decides to take a screening test with Genevieve, Suze’s stipulations are proven right but he’s not comfortable with his diagnosis. During Nicholas’ rant to Genevieve he tells her that “I don’t want to be autistic, okay? Because everyone’s going to look at me and they’re going to think ‘Oh that’s Nicholas. He’s autistic.’ When I used to be just Nicholas.” Society is a cruel spectacle where people ostracise others for non conformity. Yet Nicholas belongs to a family where being autistic is not a burden. For instance, there is no othering of his sister Matilda; she’s treated with the love and respect that is bestowed on everyone in the family. Nevertheless, he views the extra adjective as an opportunity for others to ‘other’ him and relegate him to the back seat. However, his craving for approval hides his exhaustion with performing normalcy. But it takes him confiding in Matilda to admit that “I appear fine but that’s because I put an embarrassing amount of work into how confused I am and how twitchy I am and just generally stopping myself from the way I want to behave.” Talking to Matilda, provides him with a moment of clarity where he is finally able to free himself from the fear of standing out. While it may seem like a simple conversation between Nicholas and his sister, he finds a sense of community, something he has been in search of all long.
Lots of times, family sitcoms are too keen on holding on to a structured format and the chaos which is seen in family life is removed from various shows. This causes these sitcoms to lack humour, fun, but most importantly vulnerability. Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, manages to display the messiness and unpredictability of relationships between partners and families in a loveable way. Even when the goal is to make the audience laugh, we are presented with characters embarking on a quest to know more about themselves and their capabilities which a much needed addition to television at this time.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is available to stream exclusively on Freeform now
by Elizabeth ‘Ro’ Ajiduah
Since she was in middle School, Elizabeth “Ro” Ajiduah (she/her) has been quite interested in everything regarding culture. Last summer, she finally mustered the courage to write and has been doing it ever since. When she isn’t typing frantically on her laptop, she’s baking chocolate cake and talking to her friends.