turn up for charlie

In Netflix's "Turn Up for Charlie," Elba (above) plays Charlie, a DJ trying to make a comeback.

In the newest Netflix comedy “Turn Up Charlie,” released Friday, Idris Elba plays Charlie Ayo, a one-hit wonder with a strong passion for his music. The series co-created by Elba and Gary Reich has two key components that make the story’s conflict: DJ-ing and parenting. As Charlie struggles to get back on top in his career, he reunites with an old friend David, played by JJ Feild, who recently decided to move back to their hometown with his wife Sara, played by Piper Perabo and 11 year-old daughter Gabrielle (Frankie Hervey).

Elba is similar to his character Charlie, as Elba is a rising DJ himself. He’s currently set up to play day two of Coachella, and often tweets about new mixes he produces. Elba also has a Spotify page with over 130,000 monthly listeners.

During Charlie’s efforts to become successful again, he accepts a job David offers him as a male nanny for his daughter. Gabrielle isn’t an easy child to handle, as she acts out on her temper and carries a heavy attitude. Although Charlie presumes this attitude as “bratty” because her parents are both successful in their careers, Gabrielle considers it nothing more than precocious.

The relationship that grows between Gabrielle and Charlie is one that impacts both of them. Gabrielle learns a lot from Charlie, as he exposes her to the lifestyle he lives in that differs greatly from the luxury she’s used to. He shows her where he lives, which is his aunt’s small house, where she cooks meals for them. He takes her to places downtown different from the glamorous lifestyle Gabriella was accustomed to. Charlie’s influence on Gabrielle gradually impacts her maturity throughout the show, and even begins to limit her impoliteness.

Charlie is also a great mentor for Gabrielle since her parents tend to neglect her due to their busy schedules. He takes on an important role for her, because he’s the first adult outside of her parents that Gabrielle is able to build a genuine and strong connection with. Gabrielle begins to put a lot of trust in him, and having Gabrielle in Charlie’s life also seems to make him care more about his work.

Charlie is a great role model for Gabrielle, but David only selected Charlie to be Gabrielle’s new nanny when he realized he didn’t have any other options. He not only put his success before his daughter, but before his friendship with Charlie, as he perceives him as just a nanny instead of long-term friends.

Charlie and Sara’s relationship with each other even ended up raising some speculation – though it was only because Charlie’s presence made Sara understand how much she was missing out on. As this forced them to spend time together, the two of them formed a very tight bond that Gabrielle seemed to find happiness in.

The fault with the adults in “Turn Up Charlie” is that they prioritize their own needs before their children. They use the excuse that Gabrielle is mature for her age, but she only grew up so quickly because her parents were gone. David and Sara are mostly to blame because they don't make their parental role their primary job. This leads to Gabrielle becoming an arrogant and sassy 11-year-old that didn’t care to change until Charlie came into her life.

Although there are two central themes between raising Gabrielle and the lifestyle of being famous, there isn’t much of a plot behind the series without Charlie becoming a nanny, even though the series is also supposed to reflect Charlie’s journey back to success.

If Charlie’s nanny title and Gabrielle were removed from the story, it would be a consistent cycle of raves, drugs and half-naked dancing girls on a screen. Gabrielle’s character provides a youthful essence as the audience watches her grow just from meeting Charlie, and her journey to adulthood is essential to the plotline.

Contact Joanna Sommer at sommerjj@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.