Stuff You Should Be Watching: Project MC²

We’re always on the hunt for awesome TV shows we should be watching. This guest Stuff You Should Be Watching is brought to us by Rhoda Baxter.

Rhoda writes contemporary romance with a hint of British cynicism. She likes to write about smart women and nice men. She lives in East Yorkshire, England. Her latest book is Girl In Trouble ( A | BN | K | iB ). Rhoda can be found wittering on about science, comedy and cake on her website or on Twitter (@rhodabaxter).

My 9 year old likes to watch shows on Netflix at the weekend. I usually sit with her and crochet something while we watch. Project MC2 is a Netflix original series aimed a preteen and early teen girls. Partway through series 1, I put down my crochet and started watching properly. The thing that caught my interest was the heavy (and it is heavy) ‘Girls can do science; Science is cool’ message. As a microbiologist with two daughters, I’m all for that.

The premise of Project MC2 is that there is a top secret all female elite government organisation called Nov8, headed up by a woman called The Quail. The main character is teenage Agent McKeyla McAllister, who is also The Quail’s daughter, so there’s a little bit of mother/daughter dynamic from time to time.

McKeyla is working undercover as the new girl in a high school. A couple of other girls at the school get suspicious of McKeyla’s behaviour. Camryn Coyle (specialist area – engineering) and Bryden Bandweth (specialist area – computer programming/hacking) and Adrienne Attoms (specialist area … you guessed it, chemistry) manage to crack McKeyla’s secret. McKeyla is annoyed and is sure she’s going to get into trouble, but The Quail has been watching these girls and wants to recruit them to Nov8. So all four get assigned to protect an idiot prince who is supposed to be going on a tourist mission to the Space Station.

The young women of Project MC2

The girls are very different from each other and have their own enthusiasms and backstories. None of them has been ostracized for appearance, nor are they particularly picked on by their peers or sidelined for being nerds. There is one boy who keeps teasing Camryn (more on that later), but even then it’s more ‘my science project is better than yours’ rather than ‘give me your lunch money, nerd.’

Each girl has their own style too. Camryn skateboards everywhere and dresses in combats and shirts, Bryden has wild hair and bright t-shirts, Adrienne is festooned with pink and always wears heels (“Next time we go on a super secret spy mission, we should wear flat shoes” “No. I will NEVER give up my heels!”). Adrienne is my favourite, not least because she spends a lot of the time on ‘culinary chemistry.’

The racial diversity is impressive and non-patronising (if you’ve seen the Bratz movie, you’ll know what I mean). Everything about Project MC2 is unashamedly full of girl power. From Nov8, which is full of strong, capable women (again, lots of different races), to the evil genius super villain in series 3, Carson Lazarus, who has to put up with people assuming the nearest man is ‘Mr Lazarus’ (“I’m Carson Lazarus!” “I’m sorry lady, but I’m pretty sure Carson Lazarus is a dude”). As someone who was once asked to take a message for myself because the man I was talking to refused to believe I was the Doctor that he wanted to speak to, I can sympathise.

In later series, more girl geniuses are added to the team in the form of Devon DeMarco (Art and Design) and Ember Evergreen (plant biology). The parents also get a bit more airtime – Ember has two mothers, McKeyla’s parents have separated, Camryn’s dad is a widower struggling to raise two daughters by himself, and Adrienne was raised by her grandmother.

Basically, it doesn’t matter what sort of girl you are or what race(s) you have in your background, or how rich or poor you are: you can be clever, you can be into science and you can be awesome. I can see my girl – a mixed race child growing up in an overwhelmingly white neighbourhood – soaking up the message.

The adventures are interesting and plausible (a bit predictable at the start, but they get more complicated in later series). The girls use their smarts and STEM knowledge to solve problems. At no point does a girl need to be rescued by a boy. There is a romance storyline with workaholic McKeyla and adorable beta male Kyle. And remember that guy who was always teasing Camryn? At one point he shyly says “I tease you, because I like you”.

Camryn’s response was “That’s supposed to make it all better? Well, next time you like someone, try showing them some respect.” I nearly cheered out loud.

When one series ended, my daughter said “So, was all that science real?”

I said, “Yes. Things take longer to make than they suggest, but the science is real”. There was a pause and she said “Can you teach me some chemistry?”

We now have a chart of the periodic table hanging on the wall in the kitchen.

I call that a result. Well played, Netflix.

Is Project MC² a favorite in your house? Have you added it to your Netflix queue?

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