As a twenty-something-year-old who resides in a city near Austin, Netflix’s newest reality television series Twentysomethings: Austin seemed as though it was made just for me. Thus, it begged to be watched.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this kind of show initially. Conceptually, the show mirrors that of the Real World wherein young (more often than not) single adults live in a house together and, naturally, inevitably, drama ensues. However, Twentysomething subverts the expectation that suggests these contestants simply came on the show for petty drama.
I have to say when the first season concluded, I was pleasantly surprised. The series not only has solid production quality, likable characters with intriguing narratives, and is a great portrayal of Austin; more importantly, Twentysomethings is an honest exploration of young adulthood through the lens of diverse identities.
Over the course of 12 episodes, the Netflix series features nine people. However, our starting cast consists of four men and four women who have moved to Austin, Texas in hopes of achieving varying life opportunities not accessible to them in their hometowns.
And who are these characters you ask? Well, there’s a boutique owner and California native Isha Punja; aspiring comedian from Los Angeles Michael Fractor; aspiring model from North Carolina Kamari Bonds; Keauno (Keke) Perez from Stephenville, Texas; Florida native Raquel (Roxy) Daniels; Abbey Humphreys from Houston, Texas; Miami native Natalie Cabo; and Bruce Stephenson from South Carolina.
As mentioned, each cast member moved to Austin for their own purpose, whether it revolved around their career, their romantic or sexual life, finding one’s passion, or self-discovery. One aspect, in particular, worth appreciating about Twentysomethings is each housemate’s journey towards their respective goals is different and often nonlinear. Additionally, their achievements and failures throughout the show are unique to their lives and experiences thus far.
For example, in some cases, the housemates’ journeys depend upon how the world has perceived them and therefore stifled them because of certain marginalizations surrounding their identity. All of which has naturally affected how these castmates perceive themselves and where they acknowledge and seek room for themselves to grow independent of society’s expectations.
This is where the show truly shines and offers a feat its reality TV peers don’t: the storylines on Twentysomething succeed in mirroring real life.
For me, the series’ stand-out narratives were Keauno, Natalie, Abbey, and Isha. Keauno is a young gay man from a town in Texas where being an openly gay man isn’t a viable option. This has not only stifled Keauno’s dating life but has had a negative impact on his overall sense of self.
In his move to Austin, Keauno wishes to rectify the romance department of his life (or lack thereof) and finally, openly embrace his queerness. Over the course of the season, we witness him begin dating and exploring the queer community in Austin as well as experience loss and gain sincere friendships with his housemates.
By the series’ end, Keauno may not have found the kind of relationship he was looking for in Austin but he found himself. Similarly, Abbey is a bisexual woman, recently divorced, and has come to Austin seeking to explore her sexuality, personhood, and independence with a decided detachment from men’s attention and approval.
However, her progress toward this goal is slow to begin as she initially has job opportunities fall through and even found herself falling back into toxic patterns with male contestants on the show. It’s not until a friendship she’s made in the house is risked by Abbey’s need for male attention that she realizes how important it is for her to change this behavior going forward.
Ultimately, it’s stories like Abbey’s and Keauno’s, Natalie’s—a young woman who’s moved to Austin to release herself from the molds of her traditional Latinx family and Isha’s—a South Asian woman who wants her small business to finally succeed that make Twentysomethings meaningful and well-rounded.
And though watching Keauno endure rejection for the first time or Abbey almost lose her initial purpose on the show was upsetting, it was admittedly refreshing to see these young adults struggling with or in different aspects of their lives. Because that’s reality. Taking two losses for every win is life for so many people, especially when you’re young.
Ebony Purks is a graduate student at the University of Incarnate Word working toward getting her Master’s degree in communications. She is also a freelance writer, interested in writing about pop culture, social justice, and health; especially examining the many intersections between those subjects.