Mental Health Representation in “Ginny and Georgia”

Mental Health Representation in Ginny and Georgia

Kami Huff, Staff Writer

On February 24, 2021, Netflix released a brand-new teenage television series titled,  Ginny and Georgia. While the show immediately became popular amongst viewers likely due to its complex plot schemes, the show touches on something that many show nowadays fail to: mental health, especially in teenagers. The series revolves around a thirty-one-year-old single mother, Georgia Miller, and her teenage daughter, Virginia “Ginny.” While the series intrigues audiences with a murder mystery, high school drama, family bonds, and of course romance, the Netflix series also touches on modern-day topics and struggles such as single parenthood, peer pressure, friendship, and even racism. 

When the second season of the popular Netflix drama was released on January 5, 2023, it nearly instantaneously became one of the top ten most-watched movies and shows on Netflix. While it was clear in the first season that the show was representing real-life problems more than most, the second season truly allowed for this to come to light when the main character Ginny’s mental health became a major topic in the show. In the first few episodes, viewers were introduced to Ginny Miller’s struggle with anxiety and depression when there were scenes with her burning herself with a cigarette lighter behind locked doors. While this in itself was enough to bring tears to viewers’ eyes, season two showed Ginny coming clean to her father for the first time and introducing watchers to her therapist. 

Though the scenes are unimaginably emotional for someone to watch and comprehend, the television show does an incredible job of fighting common stereotypes around mental health problems and incorrect vision of those who self-harm. When Ginny is seen being remorseful and breaking down in tears after telling her father, it is exemplified that those who self-harm are not selfish people and oftentimes want to get out of their own trap. In addition, as the source Teen Magazine also notes in an article surrounding the topic, the show including scenes of Ginny making progress with her therapist can have an influence on viewers by helping to “destigmatize” therapy and the true benefits it can have. 

In addition to creating a plotline surrounding Ginny’s troubles, the writers of Ginny and Georgia write about two supporting characters, Marcus and Abby, who both prove to be struggling with their own turmoils regarding their mental health. Shortly after another supporting character, Matt Press, who seems to be the friendship bully, teasingly insults Abby and calls her “whale legs,” viewers see Abby-a beautiful and thin teenage girl-wrapping duct tape around her legs in an attempt to make them look smaller in her jeans, despite it clearly being painful for her. After her secret is revealed, fans of the show can see the common disease of body dysmorphia come to light through a fictional television character. It was extremely beneficial for the show to include this detail about Abby to prove and teach a lesson that hurtful comments, even those meant jokingly, can deeply affect another person. No one can truly know what is going on in someone else’s mind. 

Later on in the series, the love interest of the main character Ginny, Marcus Baker, puts a big-screen face on the realistic dilemma of teenage depression. Throughout season two, viewers receive subtle hints of Marcus’s progressing depressive state when he becomes more and more MIA for several of Ginny’s events, but the show ultimately bursts the bubble in the episode told through Marcus’s point of view when he breaks up with Ginny in order to focus on himself. Though the breakup is heartbreaking for fans of the romance, it once again is an excellent display by screenwriters in the real-life sense of addressing depression. It was important for viewers to recognize that it is perfectly reasonable and honestly brave to step away for a bit to focus on themselves when the world becomes too overwhelming. 

It is very sad that until recent years, Hollywood has not put much effort into addressing mental health or displaying many plot lines that revolve around a character’s mental health struggles. Many teenagers are heavily impacted by the actors on television and their favorite characters (according to Young Explorations), so the importance of showing teenagers that struggling with mental health is normal is higher now than ever. Pediatric nurse practitioner and mental health specialist Stacie Huff had this to say about teenage mental health and the way that Netflix’s Ginny and Georgia discuss it: “I believe the show Ginny and Georgia helps to raise awareness of teen mental health issues by portraying and describing what teens can go through. The struggles can feel like mountains and self-defeating. Seeking professional help and advice should not be taboo as Georgia displayed, but then later found she even benefited from it. The show also shows that adverse childhood experiences can lead to anxiety and depression and should be considered. Mental health can affect all aspects of your overall health and that is why it’s important to take care of your mind as well as your body. Teen suicide is on the rise and is the second leading cause of death among youth! So addressing and discussing these issues, even if it starts as a conversation about a TV show, is important!” Ginny and Georgia has done an excellent job of normalizing mental health, and the writers were brave enough to do what many screenwriters have failed to do.