Money is a Choice: The Lessons from Ozark

Netflix has recently come through with yet another exciting, thought-provoking, enticing original series. Ozark, which was released on July 21, 2017, is a shocking drama about a well-to-do Chicago family that finds themselves caught in the middle of a Mexican drug cartel and a hillbilly heroin producer.

Sure, Ozark is chock full of drama and action, but it is instead the diverse array of character development and plot line that make this such an important series to watch. The series opens up by introducing the Byrde family. The Byrde’s are intentionally casted as the typical upper-middle class American family: a boy, a teenage girl, a homemaker mother, and a father who works as a financial advisor downtown.

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We quickly learn that the Byrde’s merely appear happy on the surface. In reality, Marty (the father) is consumed in a money laundering scheme, facing death threats from the cartel; Wendy (the mother) has been having an extramarital affair with a billionaire sugar daddy for years; and now, the family is being forced to uproot their lives and move to the middle of Missouri.

While Ozark follows the general narrative of a family on-the-run attempting to “stick together” through difficult times, we learn much more about our own society and humanity in general. The show features characters from contrasting walks of life: rich, urban “know-it-alls” and white trash, John Wayne country folk. While these factions clash at first, differences are set aside as the season progresses, offering hope for a more understanding and peaceful world.

Additionally, the show features four different gay characters (a closeted “redneck,” two FBI agents, and a Chicago boyfriend), a mother with a severe drug addiction, a dock worker who has a disability, and a character inflicted with depression.

The complexity behind each character, and the variety of the collective cast in general, makes Ozark a truly interesting series. The fact that these “differences” are cloaked in the shadow of the more exciting plot line—illicit activity, violence, and survival—works to normalize the complex and diverse world the Byrdes (and we) now live in.

-Jim Walton

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