Little Fires Everywhere puts race to the forefront in its story, juxtaposing the lives of white Americans compared to people of colour.
Little Fires Everywhere gives us an in-depth look into the realities of passive racism in America as the series follows the lives of a white upper-class family, the Richardsons, and a black lower-income and single-parent family, the Warrens. Though a psychodrama, the series is an amazing way to learn about the casual racism which is still incredibly prevalent within society, proven through the clear parallels between the experiences of the white characters compared to the characters of colour.
We are first introduced to these parallels in the third episode which explores Bebe Chow’s backstory. The episode opens with Bebe, an improvised immigrant mother going to the grocery store to buy her crying child some formula to calm the starving baby. She is 70 cents short, and the cashier refuses to serve her and threatens to call the police. At the end of the episode we are met with a similar scenario, but instead with Izzy Richardson. She is 70 cents short for the bus and instead of being thrown off, the driver lets her on anyway. This clear depiction of racism is extremely subtle but gives the audience a greater insight into the true realities of being non-white in America.
Not only are we given clear parallels, we are also directly told by Mia Warren about the racial inequalities. Mia tells Elena Richardson: “You didn’t make good choices, you had good choices. Options that being rich and white and entitled gave you”, but it wasn’t this quote that really stood out, instead it was Elena’s response “I would never make this about race”. Elena’s ability not to “make this about race” shows white privilege and as we have clearly seen the oppression and hardships faced about the characters of colour within the show it only further highlights the inequalities within society.
The theme of subtle racism also plays a huge role within the series as we are shown the blind racist comments by the white family. For example, Elena tells two black teenagers that they must “have so much in common” at a party, clearly a racially motivated comment, and remarks to Mia that her grandmother was on the local board that voted for desegregation. Both instances make the audiences cringe and feel uncomfortable but can also help see the discomfort from the characters the comments were aimed at. We are also greeted with society’s unconscious racism when Lexie Richardson uses Pearl Warren’s discrimination story for her college essay as she has “never been discriminated” which she believes hinders her from getting into her dream Ivy League college. This is subtle racism as not only does she dismiss her white privilege but uses the oppression of a young black girl to get where she wants in education.
Little Fires Everywhere puts race to the forefront of the plot which enables viewers to see the experiences and perspectives of a woman of colour within western society. It is a powerful show that can call out even the casual racism that you may see or even perpetrate in this current time.
You can stream Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu (US) or Amazon Prime (UK) now.