The Amazon adaptation of the Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang comic series is a story about mortality. Sure, the time travel story of the paper Girls is about many more things, including: generational conflict and trauma, as well as a time war. What struck me was that a lot of its uniformly brilliant cast play characters who learn of their own ends long before it comes, leaving them to confront head-on the one thing nobody of us can escape: dying.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for the first season of Paper Girls.]
Mac Coyle is portrayed beautifully by Sofia Rosinsky, who has to deal with some of the show's darkest themes. She is the most cynical of the four titular paper girls who has experienced disgrace and violence. She is also unable to recognize the trauma she has suffered at the age of 16. Its horrifying and unfair. And the program doesnt pretend to be different.
The addition of an older brother for Mac to the series is a significant change, which he acknowledges when she sees a ghost (which I guess he does). He quickly takes on the role of guardian, eager to protect Mac from her terrible childhood.
He is a surrogate for adult viewers eager to protect Mac. He intends to catch the cancer early, pretend she is a niece, and include her into his now-affluent family. In his own words, giving you the life you deserve
Mac struggles to open up to him and the other girls about her struggle, which she mostly tries to conceal. She isn't the only one who tries to manage herself. But while the other characters have to deal with death, including poor Larry, who bites the dust twice, its the kids who remain the focus.
Erin is the first person to face a possible catastrophe, the demise of her mother, which preys on her previous fears, caring for a parent who doesn't speak much English or struggles in the small town of Stony Stream. It's that loneliness that makes it difficult for her to open up to the other paper girls, whether it's her future self's unwillingness to connect with her sister or her past selfs unwillingness to accept her fate.
Tiff, as a kid, has an obligation to manage herself, even if it isnt with her own death. In a scene in episode four delivered by Camryn Jones, she is trying to keep her distance among adults, while simultaneously overcoming her inexperience.
Fina Strazza's performance allows her quiet demeanor to masterfully misdirect from her strength, allowing her to share in her pain with the others, an act that finally strengthens the group's bond and allows them to confront their dark futures together.
Not that Paper Girls is the only show that has put youngsters in serious danger. Stranger Things and The Wilds have put teens in significant danger even before they were introduced. They are big moments, built up to with fanfare (and probably too much signposting) that provide a sense of sadness for their deaths. There is no end, only an acknowledgment that it is brutally unfair.
Paper Girls is a film that you can enquire about whether or not it is suitable for kids. I would agree that it is appropriate for adults and youngsters alike, but with its central cast, teenagers are always kept in mind. Thats a valuable thing. Even as an adult, I believe kids need autonomy and space to deal with the difficult situations that are thrust upon them.
Paper Girls is one of the few books that captures that feeling in a youngster. We instinct, after all, is to protect children from these harsh realities. It's not a time travel program, it's a cold piece of reality.
Season 1 of Paper Girls is now available on Amazon Prime Video.