Hello lil fireballs,
If you’ve been following us since the beginning, you might remember our first ever Youtube video where we talked about the Netflix original series, The OA. To this day, it is our most watched Youtube video and also our weirdest. We talked about theories and we interspersed our ranting with footage of us doing a spiritual dance of sorts from the show. Let me tell you, we thought it was absolutely hilarious. What compelled us to learn a five part choreographed dance in the middle of the night and then film, edit and post it on Youtube for all the world to see? It was this show, you sweet innocent little cabbage. And if you’ve seen it, you might understand why.
My first year of college I started a list of every piece of art, music, television etc. that impacted me or spoke to me intensely. Some examples on this list include a street mural in Istanbul, a painting from Pablo Picasso’s youth in his Barcelona museum, and Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. More recently I’ve added The OA. The caliber of the art was never meant to be a consideration, but at first I felt like The OA was an outlier on my list. As if my obsession with a television show made me less cultured than an art collector or film critic. The more I think about my connection with The OA, the more I’ve realized art can impact people in many forms.
From the moment the introductory credits started rolling, 45 minutes in I might add, I knew this show was different. For the first time, probably ever, I felt like I was watching a book. Each episode was a different length and centered on different characters, much like chapters. The plot unwound slowly and always kept me guessing. After I finished the last episode, I had the worst TV hangover I’ve experienced in a long time. I needed more of Prairie’s stories before I even processed what they were about.
I’ve watched the show twice through now, and I’ve seen the first episode and the finale about four times each. One moment that haunts me every time is when Prairie dies as a child. We see her interact with Katun and watch her decide to go back to Earth, even though she knows it will be difficult. The room is starry and ethereal, and it looks like something from a dream. The moment was haunting. It combined death and innocence in a way I haven’t witnessed in a television show. Creators typically rely on exaggerated Earthly images to convey death or the afterlife. In The OA, a new space was imagined and executed so wondrously I never once doubted the situation.
Aside from the topic of near death experiences, the show combines so many themes I search for in life: the importance of friendship, surviving abuse, strong women, science fiction, magical realism and more. I typically read books containing two or three of these themes at once; but The OA was able to include each them seamlessly, without letting any idea fall through the cracks.
What makes the entire experience more memorable is that Netflix released the show with zero promotional material. Some of the best books I’ve read in my life have been selected from the bottom shelf at the back of a bookstore on a whim. My selection process in starting The OA was entirely random. I’ve never found anything like it, and I doubt I ever will. When advertisements for shows, movies and clothing are shoved down my throat on seemingly every platform, this organic discovery feels more meaningful.
If I had to pinpoint the main reason why I connect with the show so much, I would say it’s the depth of the storytelling. From the production to the character development, the entire show was extremely well thought out. Despite having a million and one questions for the creators, I feel like each one is purposeful. It’s like Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij premeditated every fan theory, idea or question, and are waiting to reveal them one by one. This might be a reach, but I imagine this is how fans of Lord of the Rings felt after learning that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote an entire language for his series.
I’m well aware that The OA received mixed reviews from critics and viewers alike. People aren’t convinced by the plot, or they find the five movements over the top or something else put them off from the show. Each person I’ve recommended it too has had almost entirely bland reactions. My brother finished the first episode, looked at me and said, “so what?”
I don’t expect everyone to connect with this show in the way that I do. The OA inspired me, and it pushed me to dig deeper into storytelling. It doesn’t matter if I’m the only person I know who loved it–people are welcome connect with art in whatever way they want. Brit Marling sums it up best by saying, “The definition of faith is that you believe in spite of doubt, and those two camps and also the people in between are beautifully revealing about human nature and the places that we are willing to let our guard down and where we put it up.”
P.S. If you liked this post and want to hear about a different but still impactful television show, read this on Broad City.