For the past few months, Netflix kept recommending I watch a program called Rita. I didn’t know anything about the show, except it had high ratings and starred a blonde woman who reminds me of a Danish Linda Hamilton. I kept watching other shows until one night, after binge-watching all of Broad City (yet another show you need in your life, especially if you have a sense of humor), I felt the urge for something completely different. And with Rita, I was definitely right on the nose.
For those who haven’t heard of it, Rita is a Danish television series starring Mille Dinesen as a hyper-crude, single mother and rebellious teacher who could not give less of a damn about anything and everyone. The show follows her adventures as she fucks and falls for all the wrong people, while simultaneously being a champion for all of her students, and occasionally embarrassing her three kids.
**Note: Vague spoilers ahead.**
There are so many feminist aspects to this program that I feel like it’s completely spoiled TV for me…at least for the next few hours. First there’s just the fact that Rita is a woman who insists on doing everything on her own. You know that “Strong Female Lead” category Netflix likes to throw our way sometimes? She’s all that and then some.
All the other female characters on the show are also well written, including the pain-in-your-ass Helle, the awkwardly charming Hjordis (who has her own Netflix show as well), and Molly, Rita’s daughter, who harbours a blend of insecurities and optimism behind a pretty smile. This show certainly passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.
Some of the program follows along Rita’s sexual (and emotional) escapades with various men, but while Hjordis does tease her about her “many men”, Rita is never called a slut or whore or made to feel as though only men should be allowed to have sex. And I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, but it seems like folks are much more open to discussing sex, even with their students, than we would be here in the States. Granted, Rita does have a big mouth in general and has no qualms about talking about her son having anal sex or bringing up porn to her daughter, but in general there’s a feeling of sex as being just this natural part of life that most kids probably don’t have with their own parents.
There are discussions of sexuality (there’s an episode where someone is outed to their parents and the way it’s all handled is just perfect), teen pregnancy, single parenthood, and divorce. I especially appreciate the way they’ve handled abortion on the show (this may be the only program I’ve ever seen more than one character consider and actually go through with an abortion). Rather than made to seem as a frightening procedure to be avoided at all costs, abortion is completely normalized, even encouraged at times on the show. The program also tackles topics like child neglect, mental illness, behavioural issues, the immigrant experience and xenophobia, drug use, and bullying, and does so with incredible ease.
Other things that make Rita worth watching? Denmark looks like a freaking awesome place to live and watching the show makes you want to look into moving there pronto. Also, the music is always phenomenal, always a bit ethereal, and perfect for setting each scene. Check out some of these tracks below and you’ll see what I mean.
And while I do tend to get mostly absorbed in the drama, the show is still a comedy and still has many scenes that will make you smile if not chuckle. Plus Denmark is a pretty place with pretty people and these aspects make the show easy on the eyes.
If you haven’t given this program a chance yet and were looking for a sign, look no further. Park yourself in your most comfortable chair and prepare to dive into the life of Denmark’s raddest (and possibly most fucked up) teacher.
Images via Netflix